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Primary education is the first stage of compulsory education. It is preceded by pre-school or nursery education and is followed by secondary education. In North America this stage of education is usually known as elementary education.
In most countries, it is compulsory for children to receive primary education, though in many jurisdictions it is permissible for parents to provide it. The transition to secondary school or high school is somewhat arbitrary, but it generally occurs at about eleven or twelve years of age. Some educational systems have separate middle schools with the transition to the final stage of education taking place at around the age of fourteen.
The major goals of primary education are achieving basic literacy and numeracy amongst all pupils, as well as establishing foundations in science, geography, history and other social sciences. The relative priority of various areas, and the methods used to teach them, are an area of considerable political debate.
Typically, primary education is provided in schools, where the child will stay in steadily advancing classes until they complete it and move on to high school/secondary school. Children are usually placed in classes with one teacher who will be primarily responsible for their education and welfare for that year. This teacher may be assisted to varying degrees by specialist teachers in certain subject areas, often music or physical education. The continuity with a single teacher and the opportunity to build up a close relationship with the class is a notable feature of the primary education system.
Traditionally, various forms of corporal punishment have been an integral part of early education. Recently this practice has come under attack, and in many cases been outlawed, especially in Western countries.
Republic of Ireland
Primary school teaching in Republic of Ireland consists of 8 grades.These are: Junior infants, Senior infants, 1st class, 2nd class, 3rd class, 4th class, 5th class, 6th class
The subjects mainly taught in primary school are: English, Maths, Irish, History, Geography, Science, P.E.(physical education), Art, S.P.H.E(social,personal,health,education), Religion,
- =Vaguely taught,not really a main subject
The content of the Religion course taught depends on the management of the school. Most schools are managed and owned by the Catholic Church, with a lesser number belonging to the Church of Ireland and a handful belonging to other religions such as Muslims, or to a new group called "Educate Together" which advocates a neutral approach to religion. Each school body decides on the emphasis of its religious instruction. In Catholic schools 1st and 6th class prepares children for communion and confirmation. In the Church of Ireland this preparation is done when the pupil is aged about 14 years, and is in secondary school.
Between the ages of four to twelve, children attend basisschool (elementary school; literally, "basis school"). This school has eight grades, called groep 1 (group 1) through groep 8. School attendance is compulsory from group 2 (at age five), but almost all children commence school at four (in group 1). Groups 1 and 2 used to be called kleuterschool (kindergarten). From group 3 on, children will learn how to read, write and do maths. In group 7 and 8 many schools start with teaching English to their students. In group 8 the vast majority of schools administer the Citotoets (Cito test, developed by the Centraal instituut voor toetsontwikkeling) to recommend what type of secondary education should be followed. In recent years this test has gained authority, but the opinion of the group 8 teacher has remained the most crucial factor in this recommendation. (the information about the CITO is outdated, there are different tests nowadays.)
Primary education is provided by state schools run by the government and by independent fee-paying schools. In the state system children are either educated in separate infant and junior schools or in a combined primary school. Schools in the private sector providing primary education are generally known as preparatory schools or prep schools. In the private sector the transfer to the final stage of education often takes place at 14.
Children start school either in the year or the term in which they reach five depending upon the policy of the Local Education Authority. All state schools are obliged to follow a centralised National Curriculum. The primary school years are split into Key Stages:
- Foundation Stage 1 (in a pre-school/childcare environment)
- Nursery, age 3 to 4
- Foundation Stage 2 (in an Infant or Primary school)
- Reception, age 4 to 5
- Key Stage 1 (in an Infant or Primary school)
- Year 1, age 5 to 6
- Year 2, age 6 to 7
- Key Stage 2 (in Junior or Primary school)
- Year 3, age 7 to 8
- Year 4, age 8 to 9
- Year 5, age 9 to 10
- Year 6, age 10 to 11
At the end of Key Stage 2 in Year 6 all children in state primary schools are required to take National Curriculum tests in reading, writing, mathematics and science also called SATs. All state primary schools are under the jurisdiction of the Department for Children, Schools and Families and are required to receive regular inspections by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED). Private schools are inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate.
In the US the first stage of compulsory education is generally known as elementary education. It takes place in elementary schools which incorporate the first six or eight grades and sometimes have a kindergarten. Elementary schools in the US are also known as grade schools or grammar schools. In some schools, teachers utilize a "looping system" where the same teacher teaches the same group of students for two years. For example, a third-grade class may have one teacher who would teach those students for an entire year, then that teacher would teach fourth-grade the next year, and thereby teach the same class again. The teacher would then revert back to the third grade the following year to start the process all over with a different group of students.
Over the past few decades, schools in the USA have been testing various arrangements which break from the one-teacher, one-class mould. Multi-age programmes, where children in different grades (e.g. Kindergarten through to second grade) share the same classroom and teachers, is one increasingly popular alternative to traditional elementary instruction. An alternative is that children might have a main class and go to another teacher's room for one subject, such as science, while the science teacher's main class will go to the other teacher's room for another subject, such as social studies. This could be called a two-teacher, two-class mould, or a rotation, similar to the concept of teams in junior high school. Another method is to have the children have one set of classroom teachers in the first half of the year, and a different set of classroom teachers in the second half of the year.