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A school is an institution where pupils/students learn from teachers; the word school can also refer to a In most systems of formal education, students progress through a series of schools: primary school, secondary school, and possibly University or vocational school. A school may be also dedicated to one particular field, such as a school of economics or a school of dance. In home schooling and online schools, teaching and learning take place outside of a traditional school building.


Regional varieties

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. School performance is monitored by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education.

In Australia, the term school also refers primarily to pre-university institutions.

In North America, the term school can refer to any institute of education, 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. 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.

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 more accurately translated as colleges.

School sizes and structures

The size and scope of schools varies depending on the resources and goals of the communities that provide for them. A school might be simply an outdoor meeting spot where one teacher comes to instruct a few students, or, alternatively, a large campus consisting of hundreds of buildings and tens of thousands of students and educators.

The basic unit of a school building is generally the classroom, where the act of instruction takes place. Other places typically found in schools include:

  • a cafeteria (Commons) or canteen where students eat lunch.
  • an athletic field, playground, gym, and track for students participating in sports or physical education.
  • an auditorium where student theatrical or musical productions can be staged and where all-school events such as assemblies are held.
  • an office where the administrative work of the school is done.
  • a library where students check out books.
  • specialist classrooms including laboratories for science education.

Boarding schools, where students live full-time amongst their peers, will also include dormitories.

School ownership and operation

Most modern states consider it a duty of the government to provide at least a basic education to the children of its citizens. For this reason, 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 (see charter schools). Many private schools are affiliated with a particular religion; these are known as parochial schools.

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.

History and development of schools

The neutrality of this article is disputed.
Please see the discussion on the talk page.

The concept of grouping students together in a centralized location runs parallel to the development of unified, modern cultural identity.

Schools existed as far as back as Roman times if not earlier (see roman school).

As part of its religious indoctrination campaign, Islam was one of the earliest cultures to develop a schooling system in the modern sense of the word.[citation needed] Islam put a lot of emphasis on knowledge and therefore had to develop a systematic way of teaching and spreading knowledge in purpose built structures. At first the mosque combined both religious performance and learning activities, by the tenth century, however, the Seljuks introduced the first school, or Madrassa as it was called in Arabic, a proper school built independently from the mosque. They were also the first to make the school or 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. [citation needed]

Under the Ottomans, learning was given a new dimension as towns of Bursa and Edirne took over as the main centres of learning respectively. The Ottoman system of Kulliye, a building complex containing a mosque, a hospital, madrassa, and public kitchen and dining areas, was indeed revolutionary making the leaning accessible to a wider public though 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 practising their profession, and such as were unable to stand the test were formally pronounced incompetent. [citation needed]

The law student was interested in an authorization, called ijaza; covering a field of knowledge, that of law, as well as in a license to teach it and issue legal opinions, called ijazat al-tadris wa 'l-fatwa, which he obtained from one master-juris consult.[citation needed]

The word Baccalaurea in French or International Baccalaureate in English was derived from Arabic Bihaqqi Al-Riwayah, the first known written warrant to be given from a teacher to his student.[citation needed]

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.

The one-room schoolhouse is an icon of 19th century rural life in the United States.

Many secondary and college level schools have have different classes for each course. These may be called a class period. A period may vary in time, but is usually 60 minutes long.

School security

The safety of staff and students is increasingly becoming an issue for school communities. In the wake of the Columbine High School massacre, many school administrators in the United States have created plans to protect students and staff in the event of a school shooting (Some also taking measures such as installing metal detectors). Other security concerns faced by schools include bomb threats and the presence of gangs.

Bullying is also an issue of concern in many schools.

Online schools

For more details on this topic, see Cyberschool.

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.

Schools in popular culture

Schools in the new age are becoming a larger and larger driving force in popular culture. It is not unheard of to hear of schools coming together to perform large tasks for current world events. 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


  • Nakosteen, M. (1964). ‘History of Islamic origins of Western Education A.D 800-1350’, University of Colorado Press, Boulder, Colorado,
  • Dodge, B. (1962). ‘Muslim Education in the Medieval Times’, The Middle East Institute, Washington D.C.
  • 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
  • Ribera, J. (1928). ‘Disertaciones Y Opusculos’, 2 vols. Madrid

See also

By age group: Primary school / Elementary schoolJunior high school / Middle schoolSecondary school / High school

By funding: Free educationPrivate schoolPublic schoolIndependent schoolIndependent school (UK)Grammar schoolCharter school

By style of education: Day schoolFree schoolAlternative schoolParochial schoolBoarding schoolMagnet schoolCyberschoolK-12

By scope: Compulsory educationComprehensive schoolVocational schoolUniversity-preparatory schoolUniversity


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