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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An academic term is a division of an academic year, the time during which a school, college or university holds classes. These divisions may be called "terms", "semesters", "quarters", or "trimesters", depending on the institution and the country.

In most northern hemisphere countries an academic year begins with the start of autumn and ends the following summer.

Contents

Australia

In most of Australia, the school year lasts from late January to early December, and is split into four terms.

  • Term 1: Starts late January or early February and ends one or two weeks before Easter
  • Term 2: Starts one or two weeks after Easter and ends in late June.
  • Term 3: Starts mid-July and ends mid September.
  • Term 4: Starts early October and ends mid December.

The exact dates vary from year to year, as well as between states, and for public and private school. In Tasmania, the school year is split in to three terms, the first one being the longest and including an extended Easter holiday. The following is a link with details on Australian term dates for 2008.

Australian universities have two semesters a year, between February and November. Many universities offer an optional short summer semester. One recent innovation in Australian higher education has been the establishment of the fully distance / online Open Universities Australia (formerly Open Learning Australia) that offers continuous study opportunities of individual units of study (what are called courses in North America) that can lead to full degree qualifications. Open Universities Australia operates four 13-week study periods each year. Since students study only part-time and off campus these study periods mesh reasonably easily with existing university offerings based on semesters. In some cases a "Semester" is referred to as a "Study Period", for example, by Centerlink.[citation needed]

Austria

The Austrian school year for primary and secondary schools is split into two terms, the first one starts on the first Monday in September in the states of Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland and on the second Monday of September in Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Tyrol and Vorarlberg. Most schools have holidays between the national holiday on October 26 and All Souls Day on November 2, but those are unofficial holidays not observed by all schools in Austria. Christmas holidays start on December 24 and end on the first weekday after January 6. The first term ends in Vienna and Lower Austria on the first Friday of February, in Burgenland, Carinthia, Salzburg, Tyrol and Vorarlberg on the second Friday of February and in Upper Austria and Styria on the third Friday of February.

There is a one-week break between the two terms. In the second term there are the Easter holidays, the Mayday Holiday on May 1 and the long weekends of Pentecost, Ascension and Corpus Christi. The school year ends in Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland on the last Friday of June, in Upper Austria, Styria, Carinthia, Salzburg, Tyrol and Vorarlberg on the first Friday in July.

Barbados

The Barbadian school year is fashioned after the British system, and as such, it follows a scheduling with three terms per school year. The first term begins the second week of September, adjourning in mid-December. The second term begins in the second week of January, adjourning in the first week of April. The final third term begins at the end of April and concludes in the first week of July.

Brazil

In Brazil, due to the Law of Directives and Bases of Brazilian Education, the academic year must have 200 days, both at schools and at universities. The school year usually begins during the first week of February. There is a 3-week long winter break in July. The Brazilian school year ends in December, summer in Brazil.

In Brazilian universities academic terms are defined as periods or semesters (período, semestre). The majority of academic degrees courses are 8 semesters (four-year) long or 10 semesters (five-year) long.

Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, the kindergarten, elementary, middle schools and universities follow yearly, bi-semester or tri-semester system. Most of the public universities follow a yearly system except universities that teach Applied Sciences. Most engineering and agricultural universities follow a bi-semester system with each semester being six months long. Engineering universities describe the academic year system as LEVEL-X(1-4), TERM-X(1-4).This system is followed by universities like BUET, and SUST. Most of the private universities (e.g. East West University) follow a tri-semester system though there are few exceptions that follow a bi-semester system (e.g. Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology).

Some of the universities and their semester titles are as follows:

Belgium

In Belgium, kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools begins on 1 September and ends on June 30.

Schools also take breaks/holidays:

  • Autumn break: One week at start of November
  • Christmas break Two weeks around Christmas and New Year
  • Spring break One week of end of February.
  • Easter break Two weeks around Easter.
  • Summer break is the break from July 1 to August 31

Canada

Generally in Canada, high schools run on a two-semester arrangement (often with a between-semester school holiday including Christmas and New Year's Day), also known as fall and spring semester, the first semester starting from September to late-December and the second running from January until June. The semesters are often divided into two terms each. Some schools in Canada run on a three-trimester system, the first running from September to January, the second from January to March, and the third from March until June. The trimester is more common in elementary and middle schools (K-8) than in high schools (9-12). In Canada the school year for elementary and high school consists of 190 days. There are a few school boards in Canada experimenting with a year schooling.

Most Universities usually run from early September until the end of April or early May. Often this winter session is split into two terms running September to December and January to April. Various forms of summer studies may be offered May to August. Some, such as Simon Fraser University, run a full tri-semester system, providing full courses during summer.

Ontario Ministry of Education Academic School Year Information

Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

China

In China, all schools including elementary, middle and high schools, colleges and universities have two semesters, the first from September to January, and the other from February or March, depending on the date of Chinese New Year of that year, to July.

Czech Republic

In the elementary and high schools in the Czech Republic, the school year usually runs from 1 September to 30 June of the following year. The start and end for every day is usually 8:00 am to 3:00 pm in most schools.

Denmark

In schools in Denmark, the school year runs from August to June. In universities, the academic year runs from around September 1 to July 1, and is often divided into an autumn semester (with January set aside for exams) and a spring semester (with June set aside for exams). Since 2004, some Danish universities and faculties divide the academic year into four quarters, each of which may consist of eight weeks and an exam week, and being separated from the next quarter by a one-week break.

Estonia

In Estonia, elementary and high school begin at 1 September and end in the beginning of June. Universities start on the first Monday of September and usually end in the middle of May or in the beginning of June though in reality exam periods may continue until the end of June (e.g. University of Tartu).

Estonian Ministry of Education and Research

Germany

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Schools

The school year in Germany runs from September to next September and includes four to six breaks/holidays:

  • Christmas Break: Two weeks around Christmas and New Year
  • Winter Break or Carnival Break: One week or two weeks of February or the beginning of March. (not in all states)
  • Easter Break: Two weeks of March / April
  • Whitsun Break: One week or two weeks around Whitsun (not in all states)
  • Summer Break: Six weeks from July to September
  • Autumn Break: One week or two weeks in October/November[1]

Due to the Germany's federal structure, all breaks may differ depending on the state. The exact dates for the beginning and the end of school breaks are kept different state by state and changed every year. This is meant to keep holiday traffic as low as possible.

Universities

German universities run two semesters. They are from April to July (Sommersemester) and from October to February (Wintersemester). In addition to the two breaks between the semesters, there is typically a two-week break for Christmas as well. The semester is divided into blocks with and without lectures. The lectures usually start two to four weeks after the beginning of the semester and run for three months. The lecture free period is for taking exams, doing internships, lab courses and employment.

The University of Mannheim changed their schedule to conform with international standards in Fall of 2006. The semesters there are now from August 1 to January 31 (Herbst-/Wintersemester) and from February 1 to July 31 (Frühjahrs-/Sommersemester).[2]

Guyana

The school year in Guyana usually begins in September and ends in July of the following year. It has three terms: Christmas (First), Easter (Second) and August (Third), with two to three weeks break for Christmas and Easter and six-seven weeks during the August term.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong the academic year runs from September to July for most primary and secondary schools. Some secondary schools have a three-term academic calendar, but the majority have two. For universities and other tertiary institutions the academic year usually runs from September or October to April or May. With an extra summer term roughly from May to July.

Hungary

In the elementary and high schools in Hungary, the school year usually runs from 1 September to 15 June of the next year. These dates may vary if the ones mentioned previously are either Saturday or Sunday. The school year (tanév) is usually split into two semesters (félév). These semesters are also divided but this division doesn't normally mean exams, however some schools hold exams this time too. The first semester runs from September 1 till the middle of January and is divided by the fall vacation which is around All Saints' Day and lasts for a week. The second semester is closed at the end of the school year. Its division is the Easter holidays, which is just a long weekend. Apart from these vacations and national celebrations schools often make 'skiing holidays' (síszünet), the date of which varies from the middly of January till February, but some schools hold it in December. Its length also varies from one school to another. The workdays of this vacation are usually held on Saturdays. It is made so that the students of the school who partake in the skiing camp of the school need no verification of absence. In the last school year of secondary education the examinations of abitur (similar to A-level exams in the UK or high school diplomas in the US) end in July.

India

In elementary and high school, the school year is usually from June to April, while in Universities it is from August to April. There is a mid year break during summer, usually from mid of May to end of July. There is also a winter vacation of 2 weeks at the end of the year. However, in the southern states like Kerala there will be two breaks, one for Onam in August and another for Christmas in December which ranges from 10–15 days. Semester system is being implemented in most of the Universities in India as directed by the University Grants Commission. Kerala University, MG University and Sri Sankara University have reached into a consensus and the other universities are also likely to introduce credit based semester system in Kerala. Delhi University also introduced this system.

Iran

In Iran the academic year runs from September to June. Some universities, however, offer a limited number of courses in summer. Students have a three month summer vacation. Moreover, all schools are closed during Nowruz to celebrate Iranian new year from the middle of March till the beginning of April. The first (fall) semester begins in September and ends in January. The second (spring) semester begins in February and ends in June. No mid-term break exists in the academic calendar.

Ireland

The primary school year generally runs from the beginning of September till the end of June. There are breaks for Christmas and Easter and two mid-term breaks usually in late October and mid-February. Secondary schools run a similar schedule but break at the end of May for summer holidays (the Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate examinations take place in June). Third level institutions run a much shorter calendar, generally from mid to late September, sometimes early October, through to December for their first semester. The second semester usually runs from January through to mid to late May with a break for Easter of up to a month.

It usually lasts for a minimum of 183 days in primary schools, and about 168 days in secondary schools.

Israel

The school year in Israel starts in elementary and high schools on September 1, and ends on June 20 (middle and high schools) or June 30 (elementary schools). There are no fixed holidays of equal length, with breaks occurring on national holidays, usually two or three days. On Hannukah (December) there is a seven day break, on Sukkot (autumn) there is a nine day break, and on Passover (spring) the break is 2–3 weeks long.

The university academic year starts after Sukkot (typically mid- to late October) and ends in June.

The short breaks:

  • Rosh Hashanah: three day break, the break in mid-September or late September.
  • Yom Kippur: two days break, the break in late September or early October.
  • Sukkot: 9 day break in October/ November
  • Purim: three day break, the break in late February or early March.
  • Yom Ha'atzmaut: one day break, the break in late April or early May. before day, in Yom Hazikaron studying only half day.
  • Lag BaOmer: one day break, the break in early May or mid-May.
  • Shavuot: three day break, the break in late May or early June.

The school year in Israel is divided into two semesters:

  • Semester 1: Start in 1 September to late January or early February.
  • Semester 2: Start in late January or early February to late June.

The summer break in Israel begin in June 21 (middle and high schools) or July 1 (elementary schools) and end in August 31.

Japan

In Japan, almost all schools run a three-term school year (trimester system), and most universities and colleges have a semester system. Most schools with a trimester system have a first term from April 1 to mid-July. The exact date of the beginning of the summer break and its duration vary across regions, but commonly the break lasts for about one or two months. The break originated to avoid the heat in summer, so elementary, middle, and high schools in Hokkaidō and Nagano Prefecture tend to have a shorter summer break than the rest of schools in Japan. A second term lasts from early September to late December with a winter break at the end of the year. The term is followed by a third term from early January to early March and a brief spring break lasting several weeks. The graduation ceremony occurs in March, and the enrollment ceremony in early April.

Some universities and colleges accept students in September or October in order to let those students from other semester systems enroll. In recent years a few colleges have begun experimenting with having two semesters instead of the traditional three with the break between two semesters in summer.

Korea, South

In South Korea, the school year is divided into two terms. The first term runs from early March to late August with the summer vacation from mid-July to mid-August (elementary and secondary schools) and from mid-June to late August (higher education institutions). The second term usually resumes in late August and runs until mid-February. In the second term, there is a long winter break from mid-December to early February.

Lithuania

In Lithuania, elementary and high school begin at 1 September and end in the middle of June.

Schools also take breaks/holidays:

  • Autumn break: One week at start of November
  • Christmas break: Two weeks around Christmas and New Year
  • Additional break: One week of end of February. Only in primary school and primary classes in elementary schools
  • Easter break: One week around the Easter.
  • Summer break: From June to September 1

Malaysia

There are two semesters in each primary and secondary school year in Malaysia. The first semester begins in the first week of January and ends in late May the same year. After the mid-term holidays, which lasts for two weeks, the final semester will commence in June and ends in early November. The following school year will start after a two-month long school holiday in November to early January.

The last day of school is generally Friday, with the first day of a long school holiday being Saturday. School holidays normally begin one day earlier in Kelantan, Kedah and Terengganu compared to the rest of the country. This is due to these states observing a Friday-Saturday weekend, instead of the usual Saturday-Sunday weekend.

Schools in Malaysia also take breaks during most national and certain respective state holidays. Government and special schools can apply for additional holidays during Chinese New Year or Deepavali, but they have to replace every school day which is missed, and normally this is done prior to the additional holidays taken.

Mexico

The school year in Mexico has a duration of nine months: starts in September and finishes in the last weeks of June. The calendar is designed by the Secretariat of Public Education SEP the government department overseeing public education in Mexico with arrangement of the leaders of the National Educational Workers Union SNTE. All public and private elementary schools under the guidance of the dependence observe this year. In the case of universities normally their school years according their educational plans and students population like UNAM the school year starts in last week of July and the school year is divided in semesters, trimesters or semesters according their needs and coverage. Christmas Break is usually 3 weeks.

Official web page of SEP

New Zealand

The New Zealand school year runs from the beginning of February to mid-December, and is divided into four terms. By law, all schools are required to be open for instruction for 380 half-days in a year (388 half-days for schools with only Year 8 students or below), meaning that the start and end of the school year is not nationally fixed to a particular date.

In general, terms run as follows if Easter falls in April:

  • Term 1: Beginning of February to Maundy Thursday (day before Good Friday)
  • Term 2: Second Monday following Easter Monday to beginning of July
  • Term 3: Mid-July to mid-September
  • Term 4: Early October to mid-December

The breaks between terms is fixed at two weeks long.

If Easter falls in March, Term 1 usually ends in mid-April and Term 2 begins at the beginning of May. A 5-day half-term break then exists, with school ending on Maundy Thursday and resuming on the Wednesday.

For senior secondary students (Years 11, 12, and 13) in many state schools, Term 4 ends in mid-November, on the Thursday or Friday before the first NCEA external examinations begin. Officially, however, the term still does not end until mid-December.

Oman

The school year in Oman is divided into two semesters. The first starts in early September and runs to early/mid January depending on the level. The second semester runs from early February to late May Usually there are exams at the end of each semester. Students get a number of breaks throughout the year: National Day on 18 November, New Higri year break, Prophet Mohammed birthday break, Eid Al-Fitr break and Eid Al-Adha break. As most of these breaks depend on the Higri year which is 10 days shorter than the Solar year, there is a gradual change on the date of these events in relation to the school year.

Pakistan

In Pakistan the school year runs from September to June. Students have a 3 month summer vacation and two week winter vacation. In the northern areas, Kashmir, and some areas of Balochistan where heavy snowfall paralyzes life in the winter, the schools close for two months and in such areas there are two weeks of summer vacation.

At the university level, the semester system is followed.

Schools and universities are off on national holidays: Pakistan Day (March 23), Independence Day (August 14), Defence of Pakistan Day (September 6), Pakistan Air Force Day (September 7), the anniversaries of the birth (December 25) and death (September 11) of Quaid-e-Azam, Allama Iqbal (November 9) and the birth (July 30) and death (July 8) of Madar-e-Millat. Labour Day (also known as May Day) is also observed in Pakistan on May 1. Both Eid festivals are also public holidays.

In Lahore the semester system is applied in the well known university named "University of engineering and technology Lahore". Here in this only the holidays are for two and half month during summer.

Philippines

The Philippine school year runs for 10 months, and a school year must be at least 200 days as prescribed by law. The school year begins between the first, second or third weeks of June and lasts until the last week of March.

For primary and secondary schools, an academic year is divided in quarters. Each quarter consists of two and one-half months, and there is a one-week break between the second and third quarters. The one-week break commonly coincides with All Saints Day. For universities and colleges, an academic year is divided into 2 semesters. The first semester is followed by a break consisting of two to four weeks before the second semester. The semester break for all universities and colleges usually happens between the second week of October to the first week of November. Also private schools use the semester system which has one-week semestral break to coincide with All Saints Day.

The summer break usually lasts for 2 months, from the first week of April to the last week of May. Christmas break usually begins in the third week of December, and class resumes the Monday after New Year's Day. Most schools end their school year before the Holy Week. Commencement ceremonies are often held in late March or early April.

Poland

In Poland the academic year begins on September 1 and ends on the first Friday after June 18. There is a Christmas break in December which lasts until after New Year's Day. There is also a winter holiday break lasting two weeks in January or February but the exact date is different for each province and the dates usually change each year. Winter break is also the dividing line between the two semesters of the school year.

Most universities start their courses on October 1 (at some institutions late September), and ending in January. The first semester of the academic year is commonly referred to as the "winter term". In February or March starts the second term, called also "summer vacation", which finishes in June. Each semester is usually 15 or 16 weeks long. After each of them there is an "examination session", when no courses are taught, which lasts up to one month. Summer break starts after the exams and lasts until the start of the next academic year. In September there is an extra examination session during which students can retake failed exams.

Portugal

The school year in Portugal runs from September to June and it is divided in three Terms (or Períodos, in Portuguese):

  • 1st Term: From middle September until middle December
  • 2nd Term: From the beginning of January until Easter (March–April)
  • 3rd Term: From the week after Easter (April) until the end of June (except for 9th and 12th grades, who finish early due to exams)

During the school year there are several breaks or holidays (interrupções or férias, in Portuguese):

  • Christmas Break: Usually beginning in the 3rd week of December and lasts for two weeks including Christmas and New Year holidays. The 2nd term then begins, often in the first Monday of January.
  • Carnival Break: Three days (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) during Carnival. This break used to be one week long but in recent years it has been reduced.
  • Easter Break: Two weeks including Easter. It varies form year to year, but it is usually around late March or middle April.
  • Summer Break: Usually known as "Férias Grandes" (Big Holidays) it lasts during the summer from late June to middle September and it separates one school year from another.

Universities and colleges follow a different academic year, which consists of two semesters.

Russia

The school year in Russia traditionally starts on 1 September—The Knowledge Day—and lasts until 25 May which is also known as The Last School-Bell day for the graduates. The school year is divided into four terms, or 'quarters', separated by one- or two-week holidays (the first week in November, the first two weeks in January, and the last week of March). School summer holidays last for three months: June, July, and August.

The academic year at universities also starts on 1 September. It consists of two terms (1 September–circa 20 December followed by a five-week winter exams session and 7 February–circa 20 May followed by a five-week summer exams session).

Singapore

Schools

The school year coincides with the calendar year, and the first term begins on 2 January (unless it is a public holiday or the weekend). The school year comprises four terms of approximately 10 weeks each.

  • Term 1: January to March (Term 1 holidays: one week)
  • Term 2: March to May (Term 2 holidays: four weeks)
  • Term 3: June to September (Term 3 holidays: one week)
  • Term 4: September to November (Long holidays: seven weeks)

Terms 1 and 2 are known as Semester 1, and terms 3 and 4 as Semester 2. The first year of Junior College begins in February to accommodate the release of the O level results.

International schools in Singapore operate on a different system, often similar to the system in their home countries.

Polytechnics

Polytechnics and universities operate on a different calendar from schools. There are two semesters in a year in polytechnics.

  • Semester 1: April to August (with a break period in June)
  • Semester 2: October to February (with a break period around Christmas)

Universities

The university calendar was influenced by the academic year in India. It has since evolved to match the northern hemisphere calendar more closely.

  • Semester 1: August to December
  • Semester 2: January to May

Slovenia

The school year in Slovenia for elementary and grammar schools begins on 1 September and formally ends on 31 August, although classes and exams are finished by 25 June. July and August thus constitute summer holidays. There are also four one-week breaks during the school year, occurring around All Saints Day, between Christmas and New Year, at the end of February, and around the May Day.

Universities and colleges follow a different academic year. It consists of two semesters—the winter semester starting on 1 October, which ends around 15 January. It is followed by one-month break, during which students sit the exams for subjects they have read in the semester. The summer semester begins on 15 February and lasts until 31 May, followed by the exam period, which ends on 30 June. Students who have not passed the necessary exams have a chance to do so during the autumn exam period in September. Students and faculty are free during in July and August. New classes are held again in October.

South Africa

All South African public schools have a four-term school year as determined by the national Department of Education. Each term is between 10 and 11 weeks long. The terms are roughly structured as follows:

First Term

  • Begins mid-January and ends before Good Friday (Usually in March or April).
  • Followed by the Easter Holidays, which usually lasts 10 days.

Second Term

  • Begins mid-April and ends June
  • Followed by the Winter Holidays, which usually lasts 21 days.

Third Term

  • Begins mid-July and ends September
  • Followed by the September Holidays, also sometimes called the Spring Holidays, and usually lasts 10 days.

Fourth Term

  • Begins early October and ends early December
  • Followed by the Christmas Holidays, also sometimes called the December or Summer Holidays, and usually lasts approximately 40 days.

The academic year is approximately 200 school days in duration and runs from January to December. Private schools follow a similar calendar, but slightly alter it according to their academic and religious needs. The dates of the school year for coastal schools is slightly different to that for inland schools.[3]

The National Education Department has proposed a five-week long school break in June-July when South Africa hosts the 2010 Soccer World Cup to avoid pupil and teacher absenteeism and a chaotic transport system.[4]

Thailand

There are two semesters in Thai academic year with an optional summer semester. From kindergarten to high school the first semester opens in mid May and continues until the end of September. The second semester lasts from November until the end of February (or early March). The university academic year is slightly different, lasting from June to October and mid November to mid March.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the school year is generally divided into three terms running from autumn to summer. The school year consists of 195 days of which there are 190 teaching days and 5 INSET teacher training days. The structure of the school year varies between the constituent countries of the United Kingdom with school holiday dates varying between local education authorities.

England and Wales

In England and Wales the school year generally runs from early September to mid July of the following year. Most schools operate a three-term school year, each term divided in half by a week-long break known as ‘half term’, and are structured as:

  • Autumn term: Early September to mid December (half term: late October)
  • Spring Term: Early January to Easter (half term: mid February)
  • Summer Term: Easter to mid July (half term: late May/early June)

The terms are separated by two holidays each consisting of approximately two weeks: the Christmas holidays separating the autumn term and spring term, and the Easter holidays separating the spring term and the summer term. The period between the end of one school year and the start of the next is known as the summer holidays consisting of six weeks.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland the school year generally runs from early September to late June of the following year. Most schools operate a three-term school year similar to England and Wales, however, there is no half term during Summer term due to the province’s longer Summer Holidays. The terms are structured as:

  • Autumn Term: September to December (half term: late October)
  • Spring Term: January to Easter (half term: mid- February)
  • Summer Term: Easter to June

The terms are separated by two holidays each consisting of approximately two weeks: the Christmas Holidays separating Autumn term and Spring term, and the Easter Holidays separating Spring term and Summer term. The Summer Holidays in Northern Ireland last nine weeks, from the start of July until the end of August, due to the Twelfth of July bank holiday.

Scotland

In Scotland the school year generally runs from mid- to late August to late June or early July of the following year (usually in eastern counties from the third Monday in August to the first Friday in July and in western counties from the second Monday in August to the last Friday in June). Most schools operate a three-term school year, each term divided in half by a break known as ‘mid-term’, lasting a week or two in October, a few days to a week in February, and a few days in May. The terms are structured as:

  • Autumn Term: August to December (mid-term: mid- to late October)
  • Spring Term: January to Easter (mid-term: mid- February)
  • Summer Term: Easter to June/ July (mid-term: late May)

The terms are separated by two holidays each consisting of approximately two weeks: the Christmas Holidays separating Autumn term and Spring term, and the Easter Holidays separating Spring term and Summer term. The period between the end of one school year and the start of the next is known as the Summer Holidays consisting of six or seven weeks.

Alternative arrangements for English and Welsh schools

The academic year was originally designed for the pre-industrial era when all able-bodied young people were needed to help with harvesting over the summer. It is thus designed around a long holiday in July and August, placing the rest of the year into three terms arranged around Christmas and Easter, which constrain things still further. The long terms then require a half-term break to give pupils and teachers time to recharge.

The long summer holiday has often been criticised by educationalists who say that the long breaks delays academic progress.[5] Even a House of Commons Education Select Committee recommended in 1999 that schools should switch to a five-term academic year, abolishing the long summer holidays. Each term would be eight weeks long with a two-week break in between, and a minimum four-week summer holiday, with no half terms—the idea being that children can keep up momentum for eight weeks without a break.[6] The proposals were introduced at a small number of schools nationally.

In 1999, the Local Government Association set up a commission to look at alternative proposals for a more balanced school year. In partnership with Local Authorities and teachers unions, they were unable to agree a suitable alternative arrangement for terms, but by 2004 came to an agreement with the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers for a standardised arrangement of school terms. Since 2004 around one third of English local authorities have signed up to the proposals which see a standard academic year agreed between the authorities, and includes slight variations on the traditional schemes, based on the following principles:

  • start the school year on a September date as near as possible to 1 September;
  • equalise teaching and learning blocks (roughly 2×7 and 4×6 weeks);
  • establish a two-week spring break in early April irrespective of the incidence of the Easter bank holiday. (Where the break does not coincide with the bank holiday the date should be, as far as practicable, nationally agreed and as consistent as possible across all local authorities);
  • allow for the possibility of a summer holiday of at least six weeks for those schools which want this length of break.
  • identify and agree annually designated periods of holiday, including the summer holiday, where head teachers are recommended not to arrange teacher days.[7]

Universities

As with many aspects of UK universities, there are a lot of differing practices that use confusingly similar terminology. Many universities run 10-week Autumn, Spring and Summer terms, though some use different names or a semester system, with the new semester beginning halfway through the second term. Many other universities run unevenly lengthened terms, with the autumn term usually the longest. Even within individual institutions practice can vary from year to year to accommodate factors such as the changing date of Easter. Some universities also have a "reading week" in which no teaching takes place at all, the equivalent of a school half term. At other universities "reading weeks" are not uniform and may be in different weeks in different faculties, departments, modules or even seminar groups. Some reading weeks only cover seminars whilst lectures continue; others suspend both for the week.

Exceptions include the Open University and the University of Buckingham where undergraduate courses do not coincide with the academic year used by universities in Britain and elsewhere. Instead, they largely coincide with the calendar year—they typically start in January or February, with examinations in autumn

In England, academic and judicial institutions traditionally organised their year into four terms:

In Scotland, academic and judicial institutions traditionally organised their year into four terms:

  • Candlemas: 2 February, Candlemas, which fell forty days after Christmas, marked the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple and the purification of the Virgin Mary.
  • Whitsunday: originally a moveable term day, coming the seventh Sunday after Easter, was fixed in Scotland at 15 May in 1693. Whitsunday was originally the feast of Pentecost, around which a great many christenings would occur, so it became associated with the color white.
  • Lammas Day: 1 August, feast of St. Peter ad Vincula was a corruption of loaf-mass, the Sunday on which the first fruits of harvest were offered, first corn ground, and first loaf made. In Scotland it was associated with hand-fasting and some fairs on this day were called handfasting fairs. (Originally synonymous with betrothal, handfasting became a contract binding a man and woman to live together for a year and a day before they decided on permanent marriage.)
  • Martinmas: 11 November, was known as St. Martin in Winter or St. Martin of Tours to distinguish this from another feast of St. Martin in July.

(Specific dates varied between institutions, and all except Michaelmas were determined by the date of Easter).

Over time, Cambridge dropped Trinity term and renamed Hilary to Lent, then Oxford also dropped Trinity term, and renamed Easter term as 'Trinity' thus establishing the three-term academic year.

United States of America

Primary and secondary schools

In the United States, the academic year for most K–12 institutions typically consists of two 18-week semesters, each divided into two nine-week marking periods (or quarters) or three six-week marking periods, and typically constituting 180 instructional days. An instructional week is five instructional days, measured Monday–Friday at most public and private schools; Sunday–Thursday at some Jewish private schools; Saturday–Wednesday or Sunday–Thursday at Muslim private schools; and so on. Grades are usually reported per marking period, but major examinations are given per semester or per year.

The traditional start date for the school year has been the day after Labor Day (the first Tuesday after the first Monday in September), but many schools now start in the last two weeks of August and some schools (especially private ones) may start as late as the end of September or the first week in October. There are also some schools, especially in the southern tier of the United States, that begin at the end of July and early August. The school year ends 31 instructional weeks after it begins. Also, some schools are now moving to the first Wednesday in September (usually two days after Labor Day, unless it falls on September 1 or 2) to allow a short week as people adjust to being in school again.

School holidays, which are not counted as instructional days, typically include Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Friday (two days although many systems take the Wednesday and/or the following Monday off as well), a winter break beginning on or before Christmas Eve through the day after New Year's Day (about 10 days), Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, Presidents' Day, spring break during the Western Christian Holy Week and sometimes the day after Easter (five or six days), and Memorial Day. Some schools also observe one or more of Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, Lincoln's Birthday, Washington's Birthday, and other state or local holidays. Some schools have additional holidays for students that are workdays for the staff, such as parent–teacher conference days. The aggregate of school holidays typically amounts to 20 days, so an academic year that starts the last week of August or first week of September will typically finish the second or third week of June. Schools that start in July or early August end in middle to late May.

Community colleges

Many community colleges originated as extensions of the primary and secondary school system. These colleges often continue to follow the K-12 schedule.

Collegiate calendars

Three calendar systems are used by most American colleges and universities: quarter system, semester system, and trimester system. These are ways the calendar year, measured September–August or August–August, are organized into a formal academic year. Some schools, particularly some business schools and community colleges, use the minimester or mini-semester system.

The quarter system divides the calendar year into four quarters, three of which constitute a complete academic year. Quarters are typically 10 weeks long so that three quarters amount to 30 weeks of instruction. Approximately 20% of universities are on the quarter system.[8] Most colleges that use the quarter system have a fall quarter from late September to mid-December, a winter quarter from early January to mid-March, a spring quarter from late March or early April to mid-June, and an optional summer session.

The semester system divides the calendar year into two semesters of 15 weeks each, plus optional summer sessions of varying lengths. The two semesters together constitute 30 weeks of instruction, so that three academic quarters equal two academic semesters. Thus, academic credit earned in quarter hours converts to semester hours at 2/3 of its value, while credit earned in semester hours converts to quarter hours at 3/2 of its value. Or, to put it another way, 3 quarter hours = 2 semester hours. Most universities on the semester system have a fall semester from late August to mid-December, a spring semester from early or mid-January to early or mid-May, and an optional summer session.

In practice, the average quarter course is four or five units and the average semester course is three units, so a full time student graduating in four years would take five courses per semester and three or four courses per quarter.

Some colleges and universities, such as Bethany College in West Virginia, Berea College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Calvin College, Gustavus Adolphus College, Williams College, Linfield College, Luther College, Oberlin College, Middlebury College, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Eckerd College, Wofford College, Austin College, Saint Olaf College, Samford University, University of Delaware, Saint Mary's College of California and Colby College, have a 4-1-4 system, which divides the year into two four-month terms (September to December and February to May) as well as a single one-month term in January in which students can do independent study, study abroad, internships, activities or focus on one or two classes. The one-month term is sometimes called a mini-mester or a winter session. Some schools, such as Transylvania University and Purdue University have a similar format, but ordered as 4-4-1, with the short term in May after the conclusion of the spring semester. The term is sometimes called either "Maymester", a portmanteau of "May" and "semester", or "May term".

In February 2010, the faculty at Berea College voted to end the 4-1-4 system and will be going to the trimester system starting in the 2010-2011 academic year.

The trimester system evolved out of the semester system. It divides the academic year into three equal portions of 10–11 weeks each. Institutions that use the trimester system include California Institute of Technology the United States Merchant Marine Academy, the University of Michigan, Lawrence University, Carleton College and Knox College (Illinois). The fall and winter and spring trimesters constitute an academic year of 30–32 weeks.[9] The reduced maximum course load that accompanies the shortening from the traditional semester makes the trimester system compatible with the semester system. Academic credit is thus measured on the trimester system in semester hours; there is no such thing as a "trimester hour" of credit.

A number of colleges have adopted the "One Course At A Time" or "block schedule" calendar. Academic years consist of a number of terms lasting roughly four weeks each, during which a full semester's worth of work is completed in one, and only one, class. Colorado College first began their "Block Plan" in 1970 [10], followed by Cornell College in 1978 [11]. Quest University in Squamish, British Columbia; Tusculum College in Tusculum, Tennessee; and The University of Montana - Western are the only other colleges operating under this academic calendar.

See also

References


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