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High school is the name used in some parts of the world, particularly in Scotland, Northern America, and Oceania to describe an institution that provides all or part of secondary education. The actual term "high school" originated in Scotland with the world's oldest being the Royal High School (Edinburgh) in 1505,[1][2] and spread to the New World owing to the high prestige enjoyed by the Scottish educational system. (In the eighteenth century, Scotland had the world's most literate population.) A number of countries engaged Scottish educators to develop their state education systems.

The Royal High School was used as a model for the first public high school in the United States, the English High School founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1821. The precise stage of schooling provided by a high school differs from country to country, and may vary within the same jurisdiction. In all of New Zealand and Malaysia along with parts of Australia and Canada, high school is synonymous with secondary school, and encompasses the entire secondary stage of education.


Usage by country


In Australia, the term "high school" refers to secondary school from Years 7 to 12. Although this can vary from state to state, some secondary schools begin at year 8 instead. Unlike most of the other countries, such as Asian and American education systems, there is no concept of a separate institution between elementary and high school. Therefore, a Year 7 Australian high school student is sometimes as young as 11. High schools are split into the "junior" years (7-10) or (7-9) and the "senior" years (11-12) or (10-12).

Students may choose to leave school at Year 10, or at ages 15 to 17, depending on the state, or continue through Year 12. In urban areas, almost all students finish Years 11 and 12 in order to align with university requirements. The school certificate takes place at Year 10, followed by the Higher School Certificate (HSC) in Year 12.


In Brazil the term "high school" (also referred to as "Secondary school" and "Ensino Médio") refers generally to schools in grades ten through twelve.

The most common subjects taught in Brazilian high schools are: Physics (theoretical and experimental), Chemistry(theoretical and experimental), Biology(theoretical and experimental), Math, History, Geography, Portuguese, English, Spanish, Literature, Sociology, Philosophy, Physical Education, Writing, Environment preservation, Plastic Arts and Music education.

High school in Brazil is aimed to prepare students for the entrance process to college or university (private or public) called "Vestibular." Every year, students are evaluated by ENEM - Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio (National High School Exam), the grade obtained in this exam is often used as a part of Vestibular process. The Federal Government of Brazil offers full (100%) or partial (50%) scholarship in private Universities for students well graded in ENEM egressed from public high school in the program called PROUNI - Programa Universidade para Todos (University for Everyone Program).


Western Tech a high school in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

In Canada the term "High School" (also referred to as "Secondary school" or "Collegiate Institute") refers generally to schools comprising grades ten through twelve. Although each Provinces and territory have their own system, some provinces have Junior High, while others have post-eleventh grade, public schools, also known as Senior High. Almost all high schools schedule classes running from early September to late May or early June with a summer break during July and August.

Most Canadian students are required to continue their education until at least age eighteen. After graduating from high school, students can continue their education at College, University, or join the workforce.

Canadian high schools offer many extracurricular activities, mainly sports. The most popular sports in Canadian high schools are hockey, football, baseball, soccer, basketball, track and field athletics, and cheerleading. Senior prom is a very popular activity amongst graduating students.


Wetherby High School, a former secondary modern school in Wetherby, West Yorkshire that adopted the term 'High School'.
Medina High School, one of the five state-maintained high schools on the Isle of Wight.

Despite the term "high school" being created in Scotland, in neighbouring England or Wales its usage varies:


Germany has a tripartite school system consisting of Hauptschule, Realschule and Gymnasium but with many variants, the most prominent of which is the Gesamtschule, which is a comprehensive school. Hauptschule and Realschule end with the grades 9 or 10 and are often followed by vocational education or the attendance of a technical college. Most primary schools already end with grade 4 but some have grades 5 and 6; the change between different school types, and thus tracks, remains possible throughout the school years. Nevertheless Germany has been criticized by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Vernor Muñoz, in 2007 because the selection process in grade 4 was exclusive instead of inclusive.

The German equivalent of the high school are the grades 10 to 12 of Gymnasium and the grades 9 - 12 at the Gymnasium Querfurt High School, which are called "Oberstufe", and the offers of technical colleges, which can qualify for the attendance of universities of applied sciences. To a lesser degree the vocational education in the dual education system could also be seen as an equivalent of high school. The high school grades were traditionally the grades 11 to 13 but have been shortened or are about to be shortened in all federal states to either 10 to 12 or 11 to 12.


In India, high school is a grade of education which includes Standards IX to XII. Standards XI and XII are also called Senior Secondary School or Junior college. Some states refer to Standards IX and X as High School, while XI and XII are termed as Intermediate. Other states refer to VI, VII, VIII, IX and X (grades 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10) as Secondary school and XI and XII (grades 11 and 12) as Senior Secondary School. Usually, students from ages 14 to 18 study in this section. These schools may be affiliated to national boards like Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) or National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) or various state boards.


Menengah Pertama or abbreviated by SMP, and the other part which is senior high school, known locally as Sekolah Menengah Atas and in other terms, Sekolah Menengah Umum which abbreviated as SMA and SMU. There is also one institution similar to SMA, but they were focusing on one specific career major which is known as Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan or SMK. Unfortunately, citizens of Indonesia currently looking down of SMK graduates and they were not preferable to be attended by students. Junior high is a must for all citizens of Indonesia while Senior high is not a must as Indonesia currently applying nine years of study to all citizens. It is managed by the Department of Education in Indonesia and stated in the Indonesia constitution where every citizens have the right to study. Graduate students from SMP and SMA or SMU and also SMK are achieving different educational certificate. All students of Indonesian high school must passed in the National Examination held by BSNP (Badan Standarisasi Nasional Pendidikan), an organization under the Department of Education of Indonesia.


In Iran, "High school" which is known in Persian as "Dabirestan". It takes 3 years, after the Secondary school (Rahnamai) and before the University-preparatory school (Pishdaneshgahi). After the first year of high school, students should choose their general branch (Mathematics and Physics, Experimental sciences, Social sciences, Arts, etc.).


Bagrut certificate from an Israeli high school

In Israel, high school or Tichon (intermediary school, in Hebrew) is a three-year school period, from the 10th to the 12th grade, yet most pupils in Israel attend high school. High school prepares the pupil for the Bagrut examination, which is required to continue to higher education institution and to be accepted for most jobs.


Japanese high school students wearing the seifuku

The Japanese word for a high school is kōtōgakkō (高等学校; literally high school), or kōkō (高校) in short. High school in Japan covers grades 10 through 12. Although it is not mandatory, some 99% of Japanese people attend high school. The third year of high school in Japan is allotted for students to prepare for college exams known as "juken" (受験). Others may wish to settle for a job instead. High schools in Japan are referred to by MEXT as "upper secondary schools." However most English-language newspapers and sources use the term "high school". Many school boards also use "high school"; for instance the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Board of Education uses "senior high school".


In Lithuanian education system, aukštoji mokykla, which a is literary translation of "high school", actually refers to a college or a university, but not an institution that provides secondary education. Thus, universitetas (university) and kolegija (college) are both covered by the umbrella term aukštoji mokykla.

Secondary education is provided by institutions that are approved by the government for this type of education. There are three types of these institutions:

  • pagrindinė mokykla (the general school) - covers ages 7 to 16 (grades 1 to 10)
  • gimnazija, licėjus (gymnasium, lyceum) - covers ages 15 to 18 (grades 9 to 12)
  • vidurinė mokykla (secondary school) - covers ages 7 to 18 (grades 1 to 12)

Pagrindinė mokykla provides only an incomplete secondary education as it is not sufficient if one wants to start studies at a university. People who want to continue their education to obtain the full secondary education diploma, which would allow them to join a university upon completing the pagrindinė mokykla, must either enter a gymnasium, lyceum, or a vidurinė mokykla.

A vidurinė mokykla is the most universal type of these institutions as it offers all levels of pre-college education, starting from elementary level up to the secondary level.


In Malaysia, the term "secondary school" is almost always used in the place of "high school". Secondary education is compulsory and it begins at the age of 13 in Form One (Tingkatan Satu) and goes on until Form Five (Tingkatan Lima). After completing Form Five, the students have a choice of entering Form Six (Tingkatan Enam) before proceeding to further their studies elsewhere.

A number of standardised tests are taken by students throughout their schooling years. To continue onto secondary schools, primary school students must undergo the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (Primary School Evaluation Exam) in their sixth and final year of primary education. At the age of 15 in Form Three (Tingkatan Tiga), the pupils sit for the Penilaian Menengah Rendah exam (Lower Secondary Assessment). Depending on their results in that exam, students can choose to enroll in one of several specific streams available upon entering Form Four (Tingkatan Empat). At the end of secondary education, the pupils sit for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia exam (Malaysian Certificate of Education). If they choose to continue to Form Six, they are required to sit for the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia examination (Malaysian Higher School Certificate). Once the pupils have completed Form Five (or Form Six for certain students), they have officially completed secondary school.

It is mandatory for students in secondary schools to wear the school uniforms as allotted by the government. Boys are required to wear white shirts and olive green short trousers; or olive green long trousers; or white trousers (generally for Form Six students alone). Girls are told to wear turquoise pinafores over white shirts (Form One to Form Five); or turquoise skirts with white blouses (generally only for Form Six students); or white baju kurung (a long tunic that covers the arms) over long turquoise skirts (Form One to Form Six).


The term "high school" is commonly used as a term for "prep school", it is mostly used in the northern states, such as Chihuahua and Nuevo León. It refers generally to schools in grades ten through twelve. High school in Mexico requires only three years of study, all three for preparing to enter college (called Universidad).

New Zealand

The term "high school" is commonly used as a term for secondary school in New Zealand. "College" is another term often used in the North Island and for private schools and, unlike the United States, does not refer to a university.

High school in New Zealand usually begins at Year 9 or 3rd form, which is for ages 12–14, up to Year 13 or 7th form, which is 17–18 years, though students can leave at the age of 16 (15 with an exemption). Pupils usually stay at 'High School' for 5 years before going into a university or the workforce.

The current and most common qualification system implemented throughout New Zealand's secondary schools is the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). NCEA 'standards' or tests/assignments begin usually in 5th form (NCEA Level 1) and continue through to NCEA Level 2 at 6th form and NCEA Level 3 at 7th form. Some assignments/tests are completed as early as 4th form, depending on the school and individual students.

High school students in New Zealand are taught a range of subjects relevant to both education in general and NCEA specific requirements. In year 9, the compulsory subjects are Mathematics, English, Physical Education, Social Studies and Science, as well as optional classes, such as Woodworking, Music, and a choice of languages, being mostly Māori, Spanish, French, or Japanese, depending on the geographic location of the school and availability of teachers able to teach the respective subjects.

It is common for students in New Zealand to wear uniforms. Uniform styles vary widely between schools and are generally more casual compared to the more 'formal' uniforms worn in Australia's equivalent schools. It is common for Year 13 students of public schools to be allowed to wear 'Mufti' or everyday clothing of their choice. Although many schools require students of all year levels to wear a uniform with upper years often having a different uniform from the rest of the school.


High school, (Norwegian: "Videregående Skole", English: "Continuational School"), in Norway is education and training that lead to general university admissions certification or vocational competence. High school is normally provided with 3 years in school or with 2 years in school and 2 years in an enterprise. General studies primarily emphasize theoretical knowledge and lead to general university admissions certification. If you choose general studies courses, you can enter university after 3 years. Vocational education and training leads to an occupation and to vocational competence with or without a craft- or journeyman’s certificate. Choosing vocational education/training allows you to enter working life within 3–5 years. You also have an opportunity to take the supplementary programme for general university admissions certification.

High School in Norway is the most common education level as it provides the theoretical and practical education to work as a skilled worker e.g. a carpenter or chef. There are multiple basic programs to choose from and gives a complete understanding of the craft or profession obtained.

List of programs: 3 general studies

  • Sports and physical education
  • Music, dance and drama with programme areas
    • Music
    • Dance
    • Drama
  • Specialization in general studies with programme areas
    • Arts, crafts and design studies
    • Natural science and mathematics studies
    • Languages, social science and economics studies

9 vocational

  • Building and construction
  • Design, arts and crafts
  • Electricity and electronics
  • Health and social care
  • Media and communication (with the option of general studies Vg3)
  • Agriculture, fishing and forestry (with the option of general studies Vg3)
  • Restaurant and food processing
  • Service and transport
  • Technical and industrial production

A craftman or journeyman’s certificate is normally the only qualification needed to work in ones chosen profession. Further education is provided through "fagskole", which gives a more technical education at an advanced level, but is not college.


In Pakistan, the term "high school" isn't often used to describe schools; nevertheless, the term encompasses grades 9 to 11. There are two high school systems prevalent there. First is the local matriculation system which is administered by both Federal[3] and Provincial Boards of Education and includes grades 9 and 10 after which pupils may be admitted into college. The second major education board there is the Cambridge International Exams GCE Ordinary Level conducted by the British Council.


High school in the Philippines refers to education after grade school. It normally spans four years of schooling. Children normally enter high school from age 12 or 13 and completes it when they reach age 15 or 16. Everyone who finishes high school normally receives a high school diploma and a transcript of records (DECS Form 137-A) and oftentimes participates in a graduation ceremony. Except for a few exceptions granted by law, a high school diploma is a requirement in entering college/university.


Balwearie High School in Kirkcaldy - an example of a High School in Scotland

Secondary institutions are usually called high schools or academies in Scotland. School names are often officially abbreviated to H.S. (e.g. St. Modan's H.S.). Unofficially, school names are abbreviated in one of two ways: generally the school is dropped from the full name (Stirling High School->Stirling High, Wallace High School->Wallace High) but where the school name consists of two words, high school may be dropped in its entirety (St. Modan's High School->St. Modan's). Other high schools drop the "high school" entirely, and replace it with "academy" (Prestwick Academy was formerly called "Prestwick High School").


In Singapore, schooling for those in the age range of 13 to 16 takes place in a secondary school, in accordance with the British system in England and Wales. Certain schools are known as high schools such as the Dunman High School and Singapore American School. This suggests that the school follows a U.S. curriculum and syllabus in addition to British "O"-levels or incorporate core elements of U.S. education system, such as equal emphases in both the sciences and the arts, offering a variety of subject options. Due to the intensely competitive nature of the education system, graduates of top high schools, excluding the other public schools known as "secondary schools", students would have attained all the elements required for U.S. college admission as their counterparts in the States, as early as 16. To be admitted to a U.K. university, however, the students need to matriculate in a "junior college" for preparation for the university entrance exams known as "A-levels" and "S-levels" (for advanced placement in first year of university, applicable for Oxbridge entrants). These studies are extremely specialized and typically last 2 intense years, some completing it in three years, and is equivalent to academic work of a standard freshman or sophomore in a U.S. college.

South Africa

In South Africa, high school begins in grade 8. Students study for five years, at the end of which they write what is known as "matric". The system used to be based on Higher or Standard grade. As of 2008, students must attain a pass in their Home Language, Additional Language, Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy and Life Orientation to progress on to university.

Officially the Senior Certificate is to be changed to the National Senior Certificate in 2008 and the system of higher and standard grade has been dropped. An alternative examination is possible in the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) exams. They are set up by a board, representing many private schools.

South Korea

In South Korea, students from grades 10 through 12 attend high schools. Students may choose, however, the class they wishe to take for liberal arts. High schools in South Korea may also have subject specialty tracks. For example, students who have a talent for science, foreign language, physical activity, art, etc.. may choose to go to an academic science or foreign language and other specialty high school (Hangul:특수목적고등학교, Revised:Teuksu-Mokjeok Godeung Hakgyo)These high schools are often hard to get into, especially Science and foreign language, which creates competition to go to a good high school.

Unlike most developed countries, high schools in South Korea are neither free nor compulsory. However, 97 percent of Korean students do complete high school, according to a 2005 OECD study.

Most Korean students may choose to go to common high school (Hangul:인문계 고등학교; Revised:Inmungye godeung hakgyo) ; and other students may choose a vocational track high school which emphasizes agriculture, commerce, or technical trade curricula (hangul:전문계 고등학교; Revised:'Jeonmungye godeung hakgyo)

High schools are called 고등학교 (Revised: Godeung Hakgyo, McCune–Reischauer: Kodŭng Hakkyo).


The secondary education in Taiwan includes junior high school, senior high school, vocational high school, military school and complete high school. The traditional secondary education institutions were established during the Japanese colonial era (1895–1945)." Today, they include many features from the United States.

After six years in elementary school, the rules typically state that children must enter junior high school, or their parents may be fined. There are three grades in junior high. Children who achieve the third grade can choose to enter senior high school, vocational high school or complete high school. If children want to continue their formal education, they must sit for an exam. Generally speaking, the grade to enter high school and complete high school is highest, while it is lower to go on to vocational high school and military school.

Senior high school has three grades. Graduates from senior high school often continue on to university. Vocational high school has three grades as well. Children who complete vocational high school can then enter a technological university. Complete high school is like that of American high schools, in that it has grades seven to grade twelve.

There are also international schools such as Taipei American School (TAS), Taipei Adventist Prepatory Academy (TAPA), Taipei Adventist American School (TAAS), National Experimental High School (NEHS), Taipei European School (TES), Hshinchu International School (HIS), and Morrison Academy (MCA). These schools offer grades from Kindergarten to grade 12. English is instructed for all courses. Since the curriculum concurs with the corresponding country's curriculum, graduates from these international schools generally do not stay in Taiwan for their undergraduate degree.

United States of America

In the United States a high school is an upper secondary school which educates children from grade nine or ten through grade twelve[4], in other words, from the age of 14 or 15 to 17 or 18 (in some states, such as California, many students begin the ninth grade at age 13). Prior to attending high school, many children in the United States attend a middle school or a junior high school (usually grades 5-6, 5-8, 5-9, 6-8, 6-9, 7-8, 7-9 or 8-9).[5][6]

Individual states, counties, and school districts have considerable leeway in how they choose to divide their school levels. Students will generally graduate from high school in the year of their 18th birthday if they were born between January 1 and August 31, but this varies by state depending on the kindergarten cut-off date, which ranges from August 1 in Missouri to January 1 in Connecticut and December 1 in California[7] A few American schools still incorporate grades 7 through 12, but it is usually either grades 9-12 or grades 10-12 although some states split grades 9-10 and 11-12 into a high school and senior high school. For purposes of the Grade Point Average (GPA) and subject requirements used for college admission, grade 9 is usually considered the first year of high school regardless of whether the student is in the last year of a 7-9 junior high program, or the first year of a 9-12 high school program. While high school is generally defined as being grades 9-12, there are some senior high schools that cover only grades 10-12, and typically accept students from a junior high school that includes grades 7-9. Some states consider grades 7-12 to be secondary education, while others consider grades 6-12 to be secondary education.

As a practical matter, while laws in most states mandate school attendance at least until graduation or age 16, many require attendance until age 17 or 18 (unless the student earns a diploma earlier, usually around age 16). Conversely, students who have failed a grade may remain in high school past the age of 18. In general, students over 19 attend remedial classes to receive a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate. State laws vary on the cut-off age for students to receive free public education services. Many states have adult high schools for people generally 18 and over. Students can stay in high school past the age of 18 if it is deemed appropriate. They cannot stay past a certain age depending on the state. On average 71% of American students graduate from high school.[8][9][10][11] A high school diploma or GED certificate is usually required for entrance into a two or four-year college or university and to other post-secondary education programs.

High schools can usually be sub-classed as general high schools, vocational schools (VoTech schools), and college preparatory high schools (prep schools) and special high schools or alternative high schools. Most high schools are general high schools. These schools offer a wide range of educational opportunities intended for the widest range of students possible. These general population schools offer college preparatory classes for advanced students, general education classes for average students and remedial courses for those who are struggling. Students can "mix and match" course levels according to their own abilities or interests.

In some school districts exceptionally high-performing students are offered enrollment at a district college preparatory high school. Traditionally "prep schools" in North America were usually private institutions, though most medium or large public (state) school districts now offer university-preparatory schools for advanced students. Public prep schools draw the top students from their district and have strict entrance requirements. All academic classes offered in these schools are classified as honors, International Baccalaureate, or Advanced Placement.

Vocational high schools offer hands-on training to students that prepares them for careers in fields such as information technology, marketing, business, engineering and the medical professions. While some graduates of vocational or career and technical education high schools will go directly into a trade, others will pursue post-secondary education. The Association for Career and Technical Education is the largest national education association dedicated to career and technical education.

Special high schools are catered for students who have special educational needs, e.g. because of learning difficulties or physical disabilities. Some special high schools are offered for students who have major disciplinary or mental health difficulties that make it problematic to educate them in traditional high school settings. Some special high schools are assigned as security risks, where the school houses students who are not yet old enough to legally leave school and are considered a danger to other students or teachers, but have not been convicted of a crime. Some special high schools are dedicated to students with drug or mental health difficulties and have medical and psychological staff on site. A few of these schools include a nursery and a child care staff so that teen parents can finish their education without having to find child care during the school day. Special high schools have their own campus, but sometimes are located in a section or wing of a general high school.

Another recent form of high school that has emerged is the online high school. Stanford University's own Education Program for Gifted Youth recently received a generous donation and used it to create the first truly complete online high school, with an interactive and advanced program for advanced learners.

Middle school in the United States usually begins in late August or early September of each year and ends in late May or early June. During the excess two and a half months, the students are given summer vacation to rest from the school year. In some cases schools use a year round schedule.

See also


  1. ^ James J. Trotter, The Royal High School, Edinburgh (London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1911), p. 186.
  2. ^ J. B. Barclay, The Tounis Scule: The Royal High School of Edinburgh (Edinburgh: Royal High School Club, 1974), p. 137.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "MSN Encarta Dictionary definition of high school". Archived from the original on 2009-11-01. 
  5. ^ Definition of junior high school accessed August 17, 2007. Archived 2009-10-31.
  6. ^ Definition of intermediate school accessed August 17, 2007
  7. ^ Kindergarten cut-off dates
  8. ^ Government Education Dept. article on High school dropout rates
  9. ^ Manhattan Institute article on High school dropout rates
  10. ^ Manhattan Institute article on High school dropout rates / Value of GED certificate
  11. ^ United Health Foundation article on High school dropout rates

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