school, term commonly referring to institutions of pre-college formal education. It also properly includes colleges, universities, and many types of special training establishments (see adult education; colleges and universities; community college; vocational education).

Public Schools

In the United States, the standard school system developed from an uncoordinated conglomeration of dame schools, reading and writing schools, private academies, Latin grammar schools, and colleges into a well-organized system in which a child may progress from kindergarten to college in a continuous and efficient free public system. By 1890 there had evolved the now common twelve-grade system whereby the child enters kindergarten at the age of five, goes to grammar or elementary school for grades one through eight, high or secondary school for grades nine through twelve, and then enters college. Compulsory attendance at school has been legislated in all states, although standards of age and length of the school year vary considerably.

To meet the psychological and social stresses of early adolescence, the junior high school was introduced (1890-1920) in many systems for grades seven through nine. This organization, sometimes called the six-three-three plan, was designed to ease the transition period by having the junior high school introduce its students to many aspects of the high school, such as student government and separate classes for different subjects. Critics of the junior high school, however, contended that it merely copied the program of the high school, which they believed to be inappropriate for the age group that attends the junior high. In response, many districts have established intermediate, or middle, schools, usually encompassing grades five through eight.

To provide opportunity for advanced training beyond high school without a full college course, the junior or community college, which generally includes the first two years of college, has gained wide popularity. Not only does it prepare students for technical careers, it allows states and municipalities to fulfill their commitment to open enrollment, whereby any high-school graduate may enter a specified institution of higher education. More recently, a few high schools have combined a community college curriculum with the last two years of high school. Such a program is designed to encourage bright or disadvantaged students to remain in high school by enabling them to earn an associate degree in conjunction with a high school diploma.

Although in the United States schools are primarily the responsibility of state and local authorities, the federal government has passed a number of measures intended to assist schools and their students. The National Defense Education Act (1958) and the Higher Education Act (1965) were designed to provide financial assistance to college and university students. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965, amended 1966, 1967) was the first national general-aid education program in the United States. It provided funds for school library and textbook services, the education of poor and handicapped children, and educational innovations and construction by local school districts.

Public school services have been extended, in some communities, into the sponsorship of community centers, adult education, summer schools, and recreation programs. In addition, with the increase in the number of households where both parents work and in the number of single-parent households, programs such as Head Start have been established to care for preschool children. Special programs have been established for the deaf, the blind, and the mentally and physically handicapped and in some instances for the gifted. In large cities special high schools are sometimes set up to serve special student needs; e.g., there may be separate schools for artistic, industrial, scientific, and classical subjects. In the latter part of the 20th cent. public schools, particularly in economically depressed urban areas, suffered from economic cutbacks, an increase in student crime, and an inability to find qualified administrators and teachers. Efforts to revitalize public school systems have included such varied approaches as decentralized community control in large urban areas, privatization of public school administration, school vouchers, and charter schools.

Parochial Schools and the English System

The free public school system is paralleled in many areas by private and parochial schools. Preparatory schools are private schools operated primarily to prepare students for college. They correspond to English public schools, which are in fact private, endowed institutions. The English system, which is roughly organized according to a six-six model, has been used as the basis for many school systems in developing countries. These educational systems usually provide primary education for children up to ages 11 or 12 and a secondary program for students up to age 18.


See E. P. Cubberley, Public Education in the United States (1919, repr. 1962); G. Graham, The Public School in the New Society (1969); A. Garr, The School in the Social Setting (1974); G. L. Gutek, A History of the Western Educational Experience (1984); J. R. Rinehart and J. F. Lee, American Education and the Dynamics of Choice (1991).

or independent school

In the United Kingdom, any of a small group of tuition-charging secondary schools that specialize in preparing students for university and for public service. The name public school dates from the 18th century, when the schools began attracting students from beyond their immediate environs and thus became “public” as opposed to local. Such schools are thus in fact private schools independent of the state system. Although many schools have become coeducational, only boys attend the historically important schools Winchester (1394), Eton (1440–41), Westminster (1560), and Harrow (1571); well-known girls' schools include Cheltenham (1853), Roedean (1885), and Wycomb Abbey (1896). Public schools cultivated a class-conscious code of behaviour, speech, and appearance that set the standard for British officialdom from the early 19th century. Seealso secondary education.

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School that prepares students for entrance to a higher school. In Europe, where secondary education has been selective, preparatory schools have been those that catered to pupils wishing to enter the academic secondary schools. In North America, where access to secondary education has been less competitive, the term usually refers to private secondary schools that prepare students for college.

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School or class intended for children age four to six as a prominent part of preschool education. The kindergarten originated in the early 19th century as an outgrowth of the ideas and practices of Robert Owen in Britain, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi in Switzerland and his pupil Friedrich Froebel (who coined the term) in Germany, and Maria Montessori in Italy. Kindergartens generally stress the social and emotional growth of the child, encouraging self-understanding through play activities and creative expression.

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In the U.S., any three- to six-year secondary school serving students about 14–18 years of age. Four-year schools are by far the most common; their grade levels are designated freshman (9th grade), sophomore (10th), junior (11th), and senior (12th). Comprehensive high schools offer both general academic courses and specialized commercial, trade, and technical subjects. Most U.S. high schools are tuition-free, supported by state funds. Private high schools are usually classed as either parochial or preparatory schools.

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Religious movement founded in 1889 by Charles Fillmore (1854–1948) and his wife, Myrtle Fillmore (1845–1931), in Kansas City, Mo., U.S. Believing that spiritual healing had cured Myrtle of tuberculosis, the couple began to endorse spiritual healing. Until 1922, Unity was a member of the International New Thought Alliance. Unlike some New Thought groups, Unity embraces practical Christianity and modern medicine. It has no definite creed and is interdenominational. Its Silent Unity service helps people through counseling and prayer, responding to 2.5 million requests for aid a year via mail, telephone, and Internet. Unity publishes magazines and books, and it conducts classes for prospective Unity ministers.

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formerly New School for Social Research

Private university in New York City. It was established in 1919 as an informal centre for adult education and soon became the first American university to specialize in continuing education. In 1934 it established a graduate faculty of political and social sciences, staffed mainly by refugee academics from Nazi Germany. It also includes a liberal arts college, a graduate school of management and urban policy, the Mannes College of Music, and the Parsons School of Design.

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or Megarics

School of philosophy founded in Greece in the early 4th century BC by Eucleides of Megara (died circa 380 BC). It is noted more for its criticism of Aristotle and its influence on Stoic logic (see Stoicism) than for its doctrines. Among Eucleides' successors was Eubulides of Miletus, who criticized Aristotle's doctrines of categories, movement, and potentiality. Other Megarians were Diodorus Cronus (fl. 4th century BC) and Stilpo (fl.circa 380–300 BC); Stilpo taught Zeno of Citium, and Menedemus (339?–c. 265 BC). The school died out at the beginning of the 3rd century BC.

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School of Greek philosophers of the 6th–5th century BC, including Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heracleitus, Anaxagoras, Diogenes of Apollonia, Archelaus, and Hippon. Though Ionia was the original center of their activity, they differed so greatly from one another in their conclusions that they cannot truly be said to represent a specific school of philosophy, but their common concern to explain phenomena in terms of matter or physical forces distinguished them from later thinkers.

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U.S. landscape painters of several generations, active circa 1825–70. The first of them were inspired by the natural beauty of New York's Hudson River valley and Catskill Mountains. The leading figures were Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, and Thomas Doughty (1793–1856). Others, such as Frederic Edwin Church and George Inness, had studied in Europe and found inspiration in the grandiose landscapes of J.M.W. Turner. By mid century they were widely admired for their depictions of a common theme, the splendour of the untamed U.S. landscape. The name Hudson River school, applied retrospectively, is extended to artists of the same vision who painted imposing scenes of the Rocky Mountains, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite Valley. The first native school of painting in the U.S., it remained the dominant school of landscape painting throughout the 19th century.

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Group of thinkers associated with the Institut für Sozialforschung (Institute for Social Research), founded in Frankfurt in 1923 by Felix J. Weil, Carl Grünberg, Max Horkheimer, and Friedrich Pollock. Other important members of the school are Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, and Jürgen Habermas. After the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Horkheimer moved the institute to Columbia University in New York City, where it functioned until 1941; it was reestablished in Frankfurt in 1950. Though the institute was originally conceived as a centre for neo-Marxian social research, there is no doctrine common to all members of the Frankfurt school. Intellectually, the school is most indebted to the writings of G.W.F. Hegel and the Young Hegelians (see Hegelianism), Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx, Wilhelm Dilthey, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud. Seealso critical theory.

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Diana the Huntress, oil on canvas by an anonymous artist of the school elipsis

French and foreign artists associated with the court at Fontainebleau in the 16th century. In 1528 Francis I began to rebuild the palace and hired Rosso Fiorentino and Francesco Primaticcio to produce the mural decoration, stuccowork, and sculptural reliefs; also among the Italian artists was Benvenuto Cellini. Many engravings were made of the work being done, and much of the most decorative painting and sculpture can still be seen there. The Italian masters successfully adapted their own styles to the French taste and were assisted by French and Flemish artists; together they produced a distinctive style of Mannerism. The innovation of stucco ornament in combination with mural painting had great influence on French art of the time.

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Group of 19th-century French landscape painters. They were part of a larger European movement toward naturalism that made a significant contribution to realism in French landscape painting. Led by Theodore Rousseau and Jean-François Millet, they attracted a large following of painters who came to live at Barbizon, a village near Paris; most notable of this group were Charles-François Daubigny, Narcisse-Virgile Díaz de la Peña, Jules Dupré, Charles-Émile Jacque, and Constant Troyon. Each had his own style, but all emphasized painting out-of-doors directly from nature, using a limited palette, and creating atmosphere or mood in their landscapes.

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A school (from Greek σχολεῖον - scholeion) is an institution designed to allow and encourage students (or "pupils") to learn, under the supervision of teachers. Most countries have systems of formal education, which is commonly compulsory. In these systems, students progress through a series of schools. The names for these schools vary by country (discussed in the Regional section below), but generally include primary school for young children and secondary school for teenagers who have completed primary education.

In addition to these core schools, students in a given country may also have access to and attend schools both before and after primary and secondary education. Kindergarten or pre-school provide some schooling to very young children (typically ages 3-5). University, vocational school, college or seminary may be available after (or in lieu of) secondary school. A school may also be dedicated to one particular field, such as a school of economics or a school of dance. Alternative schools may provide nontraditional curriculum and methods.

There are also non-government schools, called private schools. Private schools may be for children with special needs when the government does not supply for them; religious, such as Christian Schools, Khalsa Schools, Torah Schools and others; or schools that have a higher standard of education or seek to foster other personal achievements.

In homeschooling and online schools, teaching and learning take place outside of a traditional school building.

Regional Terms

The use of the term school varies by country, as do the names of the various levels of education within the country.

United Kingdom and Commonwealth of Nations

In the United Kingdom, the term school refers primarily to pre-university institutions, and these can, for the most part, be divided into pre-schools or nursery schools, primary schools (sometimes further divided into infant school and junior school), and secondary schools. There are various types of secondary schools which include grammar schools, comprehensives, secondary moderns and city academies. In Scotland school performance is monitored by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education. Ofsted reports on performance in England and Wales.

In the United Kingdom, most schools are publicly funded and known as state schools or maintained schools in which tuition is provided free. There are also private schools or independent schools that charge fees. Some of the most selective and expensive private schools are known as public schools, a usage that can be confusing to speakers of North American English. In North American usage, a public school is one that is publicly funded or run.

In much of the Commonwealth of Nations, including Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Tanzania, the term school refers primarily to pre-university institutions.


In much of continental Europe, the term school usually applies to primary education, with primary schools that last between six and nine years, depending on the country. It also applies to secondary education, with secondary schools often divided between Gymnasiums and vocational schools, which again depending on country and type of school take between three and six years. The term school is rarely used for tertiary education, except for some upper or high schools (German: Hochschule) which are used to describe colleges and universities.

North America and the United States

In North America, the term school can refer to any educational institution at any level, and covers all of the following: preschool (for toddlers), kindergarten, elementary school, middle school (also called intermediate school or junior high school, depending on specific age groups and geographic region), senior high school, college, university, and graduate school.

In the US, school performance through high school is monitored by each state's Department of Education. Charter schools are publicly funded elementary or secondary schools that have been freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools. The terms grammar school and grade school are sometimes used to refer to a primary school.

Universal Terms

In many countries, Business Schools are colleges providing instruction in business, business administration, and management.

Boarding schools are schools where students live full-time amongst their peers in dormitories. Some boarding schools are separated by gender.

School ownership and operation

Many schools are owned or funded by states. Private schools are those which are operated independently from the government. Private schools usually rely on fees from families whose children attend the school for funding; however, sometimes such schools also receive government support (for example, through School vouchers). Many private schools are affiliated with a particular religion; these are known as parochial schools.

Components of most schools

Schools are organized spaces purposed for teaching and learning. The classrooms, where teachers teach and students learn, are of central importance, but typical schools have many other areas which may include:

  • Cafeteria (Commons), dining hall or canteen where students eat lunch.
  • athletic field, playground, gym, and/or track place where students participating in sports or physical education practice
  • auditorium or hall where student theatrical or musical productions can be staged and where all-school events such as assemblies are held.
  • office where the administrative work of the school is done.
  • library where students consult and check out books.
  • Specialized classrooms including laboratories for science education.
  • A Computer lab where computer-based work is done

History and development of schools

The concept of grouping students together in a centralized location for learning has existed since Classical antiquity. Formal schools have existed at least since ancient Greece (see Academy), ancient India (see Gurukul) and ancient China (see History of education in China). The Byzantine Empire had an established schooling system beginning at the primary level. According to Traditions and Encounters, the founding of the primary education system began in 425 A.D. and "… military personnel usually had at least a primary education …". The Byzantine education system continued until the empire's collapse in 1453 AD.

Islam was another culture to develop a schooling system in the modern sense of the word. Emphasis was put on knowledge and therefore a systematic way of teaching and spreading knowledge was developed in purpose built structures. At first, mosques combined both religious performance and learning activities, but by the ninth century, the Madrassa was introduced, a proper school built independently from the mosque. They were also the first to make the Madrassa system a public domain under the control of the Caliph. The Nizamiyya madrasa is considered by consensus of scholars to be the earliest surviving school, built towards 1066 CE by Emir Nizam Al-Mulk.

Under the Ottomans, the towns of Bursa and Edirne became the main centers of learning. The Ottoman system of Kulliye, a building complex containing a mosque, a hospital, madrassa, and public kitchen and dining areas, revolutionized the education system, making learning accessible to a wider public through its free meals, health care and sometimes free accommodation.

The nineteenth century historian, Scott holds that a remarkable correspondence exists between the procedure established by those institutions and the methods of the present day. They had their collegiate courses, their prizes for proficiency in scholarship, their oratorical and poetical contests, their commencements and their degrees. In the department of medicine, a severe and prolonged examination, conducted by the most eminent physicians of the capital, was exacted of all candidates desirous of practicing their profession, and such as were unable to stand the test were formally pronounced incompetent.

In Europe during the Middle Ages and much of the Early Modern period, the main purpose of schools (as opposed to universities) was to teach the Latin language. This led to the term grammar school which in the United States is used informally to refer to a primary school but in the United Kingdom means a school that selects entrants on their ability or aptitude. Following this, the school curriculum has gradually broadened to include literacy in the vernacular language as well as technical, artistic, scientific and practical subjects.

Many of the earlier public schools in the United States were one-room schools where a single teacher taught seven grades of boys and girls in the same classroom. Beginning in the 1920s, one-room schools were consolidated into multiple classroom facilities with transportation increasingly provided by kid hacks and school buses.

School security

The safety of staff and students is increasingly becoming an issue for school communities, an issue most schools are addressing through improved security. After mass shootings such as the Columbine High School massacre and the Virginia Tech incident, many school administrators in the United States have created plans to protect students and staff in the event of a school shooting. Some have also taken measures such as installing metal detectors or video surveillance. Others have even taken measures such as having the children swipe identification cards as they board the school bus. For some schools, these plans have included the use of door numbering to aid public safety response.

Other security concerns faced by schools include bomb threats, gangs, vandalism, and bullying.

School health services

Online schools/classes

Some schools offer remote access to their classes over the Internet. Online schools also can provide support to traditional schools, as in the case of the School Net Namibia. Some online classes provide experience in a class so that when you take it you have already been introduced to the subject and know what to expect, and even more classes provide High School/College credit allowing you to take the class at your own pace. Many online classes cost money to use but some are offered free.

Schools in the Media

Schools and schoolchildren are frequently portrayed in fiction and the media, ranging from Harry Potter and Grange Hill to Battle Royale. See List of fictional schools


As a profession, teaching has very high levels of Work-Related Stress (WRS) which are listed as amongst the highest of any profession in some countries, such as the United Kingdom. The degree of this problem is becoming increasingly recognised and support systems are being put into place. Teacher education is increasingly recognizing the need for new entrants to the profession to be aware of and trained to overcome the challenges that they will face on the 'mental health' front.

Stress effects students sometimes more severly then teachers, up to the point where kids are being prescribed stress medication. Reasons for this stress is claimed to be related to standardized testing, and the pressure on students to score above average.


Schools and their teachers have always been under pressure — for instance, pressure to cover the curriculum, to perform well in comparison to other schools, and to avoid the stigma of being "soft" or "spoiling" toward students. Forms of discipline, such as control over when students will and will not speak, and normalized behaviour, such as raising one's hand to speak, are imposed in the name of greater efficiency. Practitoners of critical pedagogy point out that such disciplinary measures have no positive effect on student learning; indeed, some would argue that disciplinary practices actually detract from learning since they undermine students' individual dignity and sense of self-worth, the latter occupying a more primary role in students' hierarchy of needs.



  • Dodge, B. (1962). ‘Muslim Education in the Medieval Times’, The Middle East Institute, Washington D.C.
  • Education as Enforcement: The Militarization and Corporatization of Schools, edited by Kenneth J. Saltman and David A. Gabbard, RoutledgeFalmer 2003. review
  • Makdisi, G. (1980). ‘On the origin and development of the college in Islam and the West’, in Islam and the Medieval West, ed. Khalil I. Semaan, State University of New York Press
  • Nakosteen, M. (1964). ‘History of Islamic origins of Western Education AD 800-1350’, University of Colorado Press, Boulder, Colorado,
  • Ribera, J. (1928). ‘Disertaciones Y Opusculos’, 2 vols. Madrid
  • Spielhofer, Thomas, Tom Benton, Sandie Schagen. “A study of the effects of school size and single-sex education in English schools.” Research Papers in Education Jun. 2004:133 159, 27.
  • Toppo, Greg. "High-tech school security is on the rise." USA Today 9 Oct 2006.
  • Traditions and Encounters, by Jerry H. Bentley and Herb F. Ziegler

See also

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