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The term public school has two distinct meanings:
- A school funded from tax revenue and most commonly administered to some degree by government or local government agencies. This usage is most common in the United States and Canada and is synonymous with its British equivalent, state school.
- A traditional private secondary school which commonly requires the payment of fees for its pupils, and is usually a boarding school. This usage is common in the United Kingdom (although can be ambiguous in Scotland) and other English-speaking Commonwealth countries. These schools, wherever located, often follow a British educational tradition and are committed in principle to public accessibility. Originally, many were single-sex boarding schools, but most independent schools are now co-educational with both boarders and day-pupils. (See: Independent school (UK)).
- Main article: Education in the United States
Public-school education in the United States is provided mainly by local governments, with control and funding coming from three levels: federal, state, and local. Curricula, funding, teaching, and other policies are set through locally elected school boards by jurisdiction over school districts. The school districts are special-purpose districts authorized by provisions of state law. Generally, state governments can and most, if not all, do set minimum standards relating to almost all activities of primary and secondary schools, as well as funding and authorization to enact local school taxes to support the schools -- primarily through real property taxes. The federal government funds aid to states and school districts that meet minimum federal standards. School accreditation decisions are made by voluntary regional associations. The first tax-supported public school in America was in Dedham, Massachusetts.
Public school is normally split up into three stages: primary (elementary) school (kindergarten to 4th or 5th or 6th grade), junior high (also "intermediate", or "middle") school (5th or 6th or 7th to 8th or 9th) and high school (9th or 10th to 12th, somewhat archaically also called "secondary school"), with some less populated communities incorporating high school as 7th to 12th. Some Junior High Schools (Intermediate Schools) contain 7th to 9th grades or 7th and 8th, in which case the High School is 10th to 12th or 9th to 12th respectively.
The middle school format is increasing in popularity, in which the Elementary School contains kindergarten through 5th grade and the Middle School contains 6th through 8th grade. In addition, some elementary schools are splitting into two levels, sometimes in separate buildings: Primary (usually K-2) and Intermediate (3-4 or 3-5). Some middle schools consist of only 7th and 8th grades.
The K-8th format is also an emerging popular concept, in which students may attend only two schools for all of their K-12 education. Many charter schools feature the K-8 format in which all primary grades are housed in one section of the school while the traditional junior high school aged students are housed in another section of the school.
Some very small school districts, primarily in rural areas, still maintain a K-12 system in which all students are housed in a single school.
In the United States, institutions of higher education that are subsidized by U.S. states are also referred to as "public." However, unlike public secondary schools, public universities charge tuition, though these fees are subsidized, particularly for "in-state" students, and are usually lower than those charged by private universities. Community colleges are examples of public institutions of higher education, although there are many highly-regarded universities that are deemed 'public', both due to their subsidized tuition for "in-state" students, and because the administrations of many of these universities are elected via the general electoral ballot.
Some believe that public schools are an essential part of the infrastructure of the United States. They are available to all citizens regardless of income level. These schools meet a fundamental societal need by creating an informed electorate, and promote the general welfare by creating a more skilled workforce. Others believe that most, if not all, public-school users benefit from government subsidies in attending public schools, thus their parents incur a lower cost (if any) to attend public schools than do their tuition-paying private-school counterparts to attend private schools, and given the existence, support for, and proliferation of private schools, at present it remains indeterminate whether public schools are a government entitlement program, or a feature of the welfare state.
Public-school education in Canada is a provincial responsibility and, as such, there are many variations between the provinces. Junior Kindergarten (or equivalent) exists as an official program in some, but not most, places. Kindergarten (or equivalent) is available in every province, but provincial funding and the level of hours provided varies widely. Starting at grade one, at about age five, there is universal publicly-funded access up to grade twelve (or equivalent). Schools are generally divided into Elementary or Primary school (Kindergarten to Grade 7), and Secondary, or High School (Grade 8 to 12). In some schools, particularly in rural areas, the elementary and middle levels can be combined into one school. Commencing in 2003, Grade 13, or OAC, was eliminated in Ontario. It had previously been required only for students who intended to go on to university. Children are required to attend school until the age of sixteen.
Some Canadian provinces offer segregated-by-religious-choice, but nonetheless publicly-funded and publicly-regulated, religiously-based education. In Ontario, for example, Roman Catholic schools are known as "Catholic School", not "Public School", although these are, by definition, no less 'public' than their secular counterparts.
The Act of Parliament which brought Alberta into Confederation stipulates that each school district in the province must have both a public school system and a separate school system. (Despite their names, both school systems are considered "public" in the greater scope of the term, as both are funded by taxpayers.) In districts where the majority of taxpayers are Roman Catholics, the public school system is run by the Roman Catholic school board. In districts where the majority of taxpayers are not Roman Catholic, the separate school system is run by the Roman Catholic school board. A certain proportion of property taxes are allocated to schools; each taxpayer chooses which school system he or she wishes to support, and is allowed to vote for school trustees based on their choice. As of 2006 only one school district, St. Albert, has a majority of Roman Catholic taxpayers, but many districts (including St. Paul and Bonnyville) have been majority Roman Catholic at one time or another. In Calgary, Jewish, Sikh, and Hindu public schools are also supported by the separate school system.
In some countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, the term "public schools" (escuelas públicas in Spanish, escolas públicas in Portuguese) is used for educational institutions owned by the federal, state, or city governments which do not charge tuition. Such schools exist in all levels of education, from the very beginning through post-secondary studies. The later years of schooling are comparable to the state university systems in most US states.
- Main article: Education in Denmark
The Danish School system is supported today by tax-based governmental and municipal funding from day care through primary and secondary education to higher education and there are no tuition fees for regular students in public schools and universities.
The Danish public primary schools, covering the entire period of compulsory education, are called folkeskoler (literally 'people's schools' or 'public schools'). The Folkeskole consists of a voluntary pre-school class, the 9-year obligatory course and a voluntary 10th year. It thus caters for pupils aged 6 to 17.
It is also possible for parents to send their children to various kinds of private schools. These schools also receive government funding, although they are not public. In addition to this funding, these schools may charge a fee from the parents.
England, Wales, & Northern Ireland
- Main article: Independent school (UK)
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the term "public school" refers to fee-charging independent secondary schools. The earliest known reference to a "public school" dates from 1364, when the Bishop of Winchester wrote concerning "the public school" at Kingston in his diocese.  The term public then distinguished between education in a school generally provided by a church and open to public applicants, and education in a private household as was then usual in aristocratic families. Typically such schools admit applicants to a small number of free or highly subsidised charitable foundation scholarships, and grew by the headmaster accepting payments for other pupils, who might subsequently win the competitive scholarships.
In the nineteenth century the Clarendon Commission and the Public Schools Act 1868 used the common term to refer to the nine old-established schools whose outdated charitable trusts and governance they reformed. Many similar boarding schools were established for British Empire expatriates to educate their sons at home, and a number of ancient grammar schools later aimed to conform to the ethos of the Public Schools named in successive Acts.
The term public school is generally used now in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and sometimes Scotland to refer to any school that is a member of the Headmasters Conference: see the article Independent school (UK) for that sense of the term. The schools and their representative associations prefer the more inclusive term "independent schools", but common usage and the news media in England often refer to them by the traditional name of "public schools".
These schools were (and are) public in the sense of being open to all students in principle, though at the time of their foundation most older schools were run by the established Church and were only open to boys of the same denomination. In practice however many such schools are highly academically selective and pupils usually need to pass the Common Entrance Examination before being admitted at all, and all but the best scholars must be able to afford the considerable fees for tuition and (for boarders) room and board.
In these countries, the terms state school and county school are used for schools provided at public expense. The term private school means the same as in other English-speaking countries, or formerly and more specifically a privately-owned primary Preparatory ('Prep') School.
In the United Kingdom the term "school" is not generally used to describe institutions of further or higher education (exceptions include the London School of Economics and the School of Oriental and African Studies), but it is used to denote academic and administrative divisions within a university, such as a medical school or a school of engineering or political science. It is otherwise restricted to primary and secondary schools. See School.
Republic of Ireland
- Main article: Education in the Republic of Ireland
In the Republic of Ireland, a public school (Irish: scoil phoiblí) is a non fee-paying school which is funded by the State, while a private school (Irish: scoil phríobháideach) is a fee-paying school which is not funded by the State.
The French educational system is highly centralized, organized, and ramified. It is divided into three stages:
- primary education (enseignement primaire);
- secondary education (enseignement secondaire);
- tertiary or college education (enseignement supérieur)
Primary Schooling in France is mandatory as of age 6, the first year of primary school. Many parents start sending their children earlier though, around age 3 as kindergarten classes (maternelle) are usually affiliated to a borough's (commune) primary school. Some even start earlier at age 2 in pré-maternelle or garderie class, which is essentially a daycare facility.
- Main article: Secondary education in France
French secondary education is divided into two schools:
- the collège for the first four years directly following primary school;
- the lycée for the next three years.
The completion of secondary studies leads to the baccalauréat.
- For more details on this topic, see Baccalauréat.
The baccalauréat (also known as bac) is the end-of-lycée diploma students sit for in order to enter university, a classe préparatoire, or professional life. The term baccalauréat refers to the diploma and the examinations themselves. It is comparable to British A-Levels, American SATs, the Irish Leaving Certificate and German Abitur.
Most students sit for the baccalauréat général which is divided into 3 streams of study, called séries. The série scientifique (S) is concerned with mathematics and natural sciences, the série économique et sociale (ES) with economics and social sciences, and the série littéraire (L) focuses on French and foreign languages and philosophy.
A striking trait of higher education in France, compared to other countries such as the United States, is the small size and multiplicity of establishments, each specialized in a more or less broad spectrum of disciplines. A middle-sized French city, such as Grenoble or Nancy, may have 2 or 3 universities (for instance: science / humanities), and also a number of engineering and other specialized higher education establishments. For instance, in Paris and suburbs, there are 13 universities, most of which are specialized on one area or the other, and a large number of smaller institutions.
- Grandes écoles & classes préparatoires (CPGE : Classes Préparatoires aux Grandes Ecoles)
The Grandes écoles of France are higher education establishments outside the mainstream framework of the public universities. They are generally focused on a single subject area, such as engineering, have a moderate size, and are often quite selective in their admission of students. They are widely regarded as prestigious, and traditionally have produced most of France's scientists and executives.
- Main article: Education in Germany
Education in Germany is provided to a large extent by the government, with control coming from state level, (Länder) and funding coming from two levels: federal and state. Curricula, funding, teaching, and other policies are set through the respective states ministry of education. Decisions about the acknowledgment of private schools (the German equivalent to accreditation in the US) are also made by these ministries. However, public schools are automatically recognised, since these schools are supervised directly by the ministry of education bureaucracy.
Kindergartens are not part of the German public school system. (Although the first kindergarten in the world was opened in 1840 by Friedrich Wilhelm August Fröbel in the German town of Bad Blankenburg, and the term Kindergarten is even a loanword from the German language). Article 7 Paragraph 6 of the German constitution (the Grundgesetz) abolished pre-school as part of the German school system. However, kindergartens exist all over Germany, particularly in former East Germany, where many of these institutions actually are public, but these kindergartens are controlled by local authorities, charging tuition fees and are likewise not considered to be part of the public school system.
A German public school does not charge tuition fees. The first stage of the German public school system is the Grundschule. (Primary School - 1st to 4th grade or, in Berlin and Brandenburg, 1st to 6th grade) After Grundschule (at 10 or 12 years of age), there are four secondary schooling options:
- Hauptschule (the least academic, much like a modernized Volksschule) until 9th or, in Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia until 10th Grade.
- Realschule (formerly Mittelschule) until 10th grade.
- Gymnasium (high school) until 12th grade or 13th grade (with Abitur as exit exam, qualifying for admission to university).
- Gesamtschule (comprehensive school) with all the options of the three "tracks" above.
A Gesamtschule largely corresponds to an American high school. However, it offers the same school leaving certificates as the other three types of German secondary schools - the Hauptschulabschluss (school leaving certificate of a Hauptschule after 9th Grade or in Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia after 10th Grade), the Realschulabschluss, also called Mittlere Reife, (school leaving certificate of a Realschule after 10th Grade) and Abitur, also called Hochschulreife, after 13th or seldom after 12th Grade. Students who graduate from Hauptschule or Realschule continue their schooling at a vocational school until they have full job qualifications. This type of German school, the Berufsschule, is generally an upper-secondary public vocational school, controlled by the German federal government. It is part of Germany's dual education system. Students who graduate from a vocational school and students who graduate with good GPA from a Realschule can continue their schooling at another type of German public secondary school, the Fachoberschule, a vocational high school. The school leaving exam of this type of school, the Fachhochschulreife, enables the graduate to start studying at a Fachhochschule (polytechnic), and in Hesse also at a university within the state. The Abitur from a Gesamtschule or Gymnasium enables the graduate to start studying at a polytechnic or at a university in all states of Germany.
In Germany, most institutions of higher education are subsidized by German states and are therefore also referred to as staatliche Hochschulen. (public universities) Most German public universities and polytechnics do not charge for tuition, though fees for guest or graduate students are charged by many universities. However, many German states plan to introduce general tuition fees for all students at public institutions of higher education in the near future.
- Main article: Education in Scotland
In Scotland, the term public school may be ambiguous in meaning. Largely due to the earlier introduction of state-administered universal education in Scotland and opposed to the rest of the United Kingdom, the term became associated with state schools. The designation was incorporated into the name of many of many of these older publicly run institutions. In order to avoid confusion, the term 'state school' is commonly used in Scotland.
However at the same time, a number of well-known independent schools are also commonly referred to as public schools, in line with the prevalent practise in the rest of the UK. A number of these schools also offer qualifications more prevalent in the other parts of the UK such as the A-level alongside the more common system offered by the Scottish Qualifications Authority described below.
Children in Scottish state schools typically start primary school, or attend a junior school, aged between four and a half and five and a half depending on when the child's birthday falls. Children born between March and August would start school at five years old and those born between September and February start school at age four-and-a-half. Pupils remain at primary school for seven years completing Primary One to Seven.
Then aged eleven or twelve, they start secondary school for a compulsory four years with the final two years being optional. Pupils sit Standard Grade exams at the age of fifteen/sixteen, sometimes earlier, most often for up to eight subjects including compulsory exams in English, mathematics, a foreign language, a science subject and a social subject; it is now required by the Scottish Parliament to have two hours of physical education a week. Each school may vary these compulsory combinations. The school leaving age is generally sixteen (after completion of standard grade), after which students may choose to remain at school and study for Access, Intermediate or Higher Grade and Advanced Higher exams.
Education in Australia follows a three tier model: primary, secondary and tertiary education. Education is primarily regulated by the individual state governments, not the federal government. Education is compulsory up to an age specified by legislation; this age varies but is generally 15 or 16, that is prior to completing secondary education.
Under the Australian Government’s Schools Assistance (Learning Together – Achievement Through Choice and Opportunity) Act 2004, all education authorities, including non-government schools, have now committed to implement a common school starting age by 1 January 2010 and a common description (nomenclature) for the year before Year 1 and the two years before Year 1.
Post-compulsory education is regulated within the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), a unified system of national qualifications in schools, vocational education and training (TAFEs and private providers) and the higher education sector (mainly universities).
|Age in the year
before Year 1
|Compulsory age||Nomenclature year
before Year 1
|NSW||4.5||Turn 5 by 31 July||Year in which
children turn 6
|QLD||4.6||By 2007, turn 5 by
|Year in which
children turn 6.64
|VIC||4.8||Turn 5 by 30 April||Year in which
children turn 6
|WA||4.6||Turn 5 by 30 June||Year in which
children turn 6.6
|SA||4.5||Continuous entry in the
term after 5th birthday
|Year in which
children turn 6
|TAS||4.5||Turn 5 by 1 January||Year after turning 5||Kindergarten||Preparatory|
|ACT||5.0||Turn 5 by 30 April||Year in which
children turn 6
|NT||5.0||By 2006, turn 5 by
|Year in which
children turn 6
Primary and Secondary
Primary and secondary education may be provided by:
- Government schools (also known as State schools, or public schools)
- Independent schools (the older of these institutions are sometimes called Public School)
There has been a strong drift of students to independent schools during the past decade.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Government schools educate the majority of students and do not charge large tuition fees (most do charge a fee as a contribution to costs). The major part of their costs is met by the relevant State or Territory government. Independent schools, both religious or secular (the latter often with specialisations), may charge much higher fees.
Whilst independent schools are sometimes considered 'public' schools like their English counterparts (as in the Associated Public Schools of Victoria), in some states of Australia, the term 'public school' is usually synonymous with a government school.
Government schools can be divided into two types: open and selective. The open schools accept all students from their government defined catchment areas, while selective schools have high entrance requirements and cater to a much larger area. Entrance to selective schools is often highly competitive. In Victoria, for example, more than 3000 applicants sit the entrance exam each year competing for the 600 available places at Mac.Robertson Girls' High School and Melbourne High School.
In Hong Kong the term government schools is used for free schools funded by the government.
There are also subsidized schools (which are the majority in Hong Kong and many of which are run by Religious organizations), "Direct Subsidy Scheme" schools, private schools and international schools in Hong Kong.
India and Sri Lanka
In India and Sri Lanka, due to the British influence, the term "public schools" implied non-governmental, historically elite educational institutions, often modeled on British public schools. However, more recently the term 'public' has been used much more loosely and can refer to any type of school. The terms 'private' and 'government' school are commonly used to denote the type of funding. Well known private schools in India include Bishop Cotton School,The Lawrence School-Sanawar,St.Pauls School-Darjeeling,Birla Vidya Mandir , Sherwood College , Montfort School Yercaud and The Doon School. Schools like the Delhi "Public" School or National Public School are actually private in nature with very little government control/ownership. However, in consideration of government control /ownership, the central government administered Kendriya Vidyalayas (or Central Schools), Navodaya Vidyalaya system of schools qualify as per the American definition of "public" school. The most well known public school in Sri Lanka is Royal College. Although it is a governmental school it has much autonomy.
In Pakistan, the term "public school" has historically been used for British-styled boarding schools such as Abbottabad Public School and Sadiq Public School Bahawalpur. This has established a strong branding for the term "public school", and most of these schools are private, non-governmental boarding schools.
Schooling system consists primarily of three stages. Primary school from kindergarten to 5th year, intermediate from 6th to 8th year and secondary from year 9th to 10th. After passing the 10th year of school through a competitive board examination, they compete for a position in college, also known as higher secondary. After 2 years in college (as pre-medical, pre-engineering or humanities), they either go into professional colleges or universities for a bachelors and then masters degree.
Like in many other countries, there are both government and private schools, colleges and universities accredited by their respective local and provincial governments. There are more than 125 government and private universities (excluding medical schools and other professional colleges) in Pakistan.
- Main article: Education in South Africa
In South Africa, the South African Schools Act of 1996 recognised two categories of schools: public and independent. Independent schools include all private schools and schools that are privately governed. Independent schools with low tuition fees are state-aided and receive a subsidy on a sliding-scale. Traditional private schools that charge high fees receive no state subsidy.
Public schools are all state-owned schools, including section 21 schools (formerly referred to as Model C or semi-private schools) that have a governing body and a degree of budget autonomy, as these are still fully-owned and accountable to the state.
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