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An elementary school is an institution where children receive the first stage of compulsory education known as elementary or primary education. Elementary school is the preferred term in some countries, particularly those in North America. Primary school is the preferred term in the United Kingdommarker, Indiamarker, Pakistanmarker, Australia, Latin America, South Africa and New Zealandmarker and in most publications of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCOmarker).

United Kingdom

Elementary school was formerly the name given to publicly funded schools in Great Britainmarker which provided a basic standard of education for working class children aged from five to 14, the then school leaving age. They were also known as industrial schools.

Elementary schools were set up to enable working class children to receive manual training and elementary instruction. They provided a restricted curriculum with the emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic (the three Rs). The schools operated on a 'monitorial' system, whereby one teacher supervised a large class with the assistance of a team of monitors, who were quite often older pupils. Elementary school teachers were paid by results. Their pupils were expected to achieve precise standards in reading, writing and arithmetic such as reading a short paragraph in a newspaper, writing from dictation, and working out sums and fractions.

Before 1944 around 80 per cent of the school population attended elementary schools through to the age of 14. The remainder transferred either to secondary school or junior technical school at age 11. The school system was changed with the introduction of the Education Act 1944. Education was restructured into three progressive stages which were known as primary education, secondary education and further education.

In the UK, schools providing primary education are now known as primary schools. They generally cater for children aged from four to eleven (Reception to Year Six or in Northern Ireland and Scotland P1 to P7). Primary schools are often subdivided into infant schools for children from four to seven and junior schools for ages seven to 11. In the (diminishing) minority of areas where there is a "three-tier" system, children go to "first school" until about 9, then middle school until about 13, then high school; in these places, the term "primary school" is not usually used.

United States

In the United States, elementary schools offer education from the kindergarten level to a grade between 3rd and 6th. These ranges have fluctuated notably over time, and also vary from community to community. The most common grade range today is probably kindergarten through 5th . Elementary schools in the United States are also sometimes called grade schools, especially in the northern states.


In India elementary schools provide education from Class 1 to Class 8. The children in these classes are generally aged between 5 to 15 years. It is the next stage after kindergarten (Pre-Nursery, Nursery, Prep or Lower Kindergarten and Upper Kindergarten). The next stage after primary education is Middle School (Class 6th to 8th). In most schools in North India, children in Classes 1st to 3rd are taught English, Hindi, Mathematics, Environmental Science, and General Knowledge. In class 4th and 5th the environmental science subject is replaced by General Science and Social Studies. However some schools may introduce this concept in Class 3 itself. Some schools may also introduce a third language in Class 5th or even in Class 4th. Sanskrit and French are the most common third languages taught in Indian schools. At some places, primary education is labelled as the education of Class 3rd to Class 5th and up until class 2nd as pre-primary education. This is because many new concepts are introduced in this class. Children are taught painting instead of drawing and colouring, exams are taken, and word sums in maths are introduced along with geometry.

See also


  1. Primary school. In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved on 12 June 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  2. Derek Gillard. Education in England: school supplies A brief history. Chapter 2: 1800-1900 Towards a state system. Retrieved on 15 June 2007.
  3. Peter Anthony Newsam, 'Elementary school', Microsoft Encarta 2004 edition (CD-Rom), 1993-2003.


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