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Education, Elementary, earliest program of education for children, beginning generally at the age of five or six and lasting from six to eight years. In most countries elementary education is compulsory for all children. In much of the United States a year of kindergarten often precedes the first grade of the 8-year elementary course.
In the larger communities special classes or schools are usually provided for children who are physically or mentally handicapped. The purpose of the elementary school is to introduce children to the skills, information, and attitudes necessary for proper adjustment to their community and to society. Basically, the subjects taught are reading, writing, spelling, mathematics, social studies, science, art, music, physical education, and handicrafts. These are often supplemented with other subjects, such as foreign languages. Over the years new subject matter has made the elementary school curriculum more advanced than heretofore.
Education, Secondary, program of public education immediately following elementary schooling. It begins generally at the age of 12 to 14 and continues from four to six years. Some types of secondary education, such as vocational schooling, are terminal and prepare the student for employment upon graduation.
Others lead to advanced training in colleges, universities, or technical schools. In the U.S., secondary education includes the junior and senior high schools. In many foreign countries, this level of education often embraces the junior or community college as well as the first two years of university training.
The purpose of secondary education is to expand knowledge of subjects already studied, including the systematic study of literature, foreign languages, sciences, mathematics, social studies, and other subjects essential for physical and intellectual development and to prepare students as future citizens. In some countries, military training is also required.
Education, Higher, period of advanced study following the completion of secondary education. The duration of the study may be from four to seven years or more, depending upon the nature and complexity of the programs pursued. The institution providing higher education may be either a college or university or a type of professional school.
A junior or community college, such as those maintained by some state systems of higher education, offers a 2-year program of general education and/or technical training that serves either as terminal schooling or as preparation for more specialized study in a 4-year college or university. When the basic course of study is successfully completed, usually at the end of four years, the graduate receives a bachelor’s degree.
He or she may continue for a master’s degree, generally requiring an additional year or two, and then for a doctorate, which normally requires the candidate to submit a dissertation and to complete a minimum of two or three years of further studies. Higher education, which usually includes some general education, is a time for specialized study to qualify the individual for professional activity or for employment in higher positions in business, industry, and government. In recent years, especially in the U.S., the trend has been toward requiring a greater number of courses common to all students in order to counteract a growing tendency toward overspecialization.