Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Today, we're going to be taking trips around the world! Don't forget your book bags, lunches, and stationery because we're heading to school.


Let's talk about Russian schooling. First of all, let me say that the Russian school system is impeccable. There is a 99.7% literacy rate, (U.S. 99.0%) with the government implementing a mandatory 11 years of school. This is divided into elementary, (grades 1-4) middle, (grades 5-9) and senior (grades 10-11) sections. No dropping out once you're 16 ;) You finish at 17!

Students may elect to go to "college," which is the U.S. equivalent of a technical school, before entering university. 17-year-old students attend this school for two years, completing training in a technical job. Ideally, the graduates leave college prepared to begin the job in which they were trained. So, when you talk to kids from Russia - and from most countries around the world, really - be sure to clarify that you mean "university" when you say "college." Otherwise, they'll think you're in a technical school!

Anyway, the Russian school year is somewhat similar to that here in the U.S., except that it's divided into 4 semesters with a week or two of vacation in between and nearly 3 months of summer vacation.

Russian literature
Russian history
World history


Class Length
40-45 min with 5-15 min break in between

Primary School
4 classes a day

Secondary School
5-6 classes a day

Senior High School
7 classes a day

School Day
Primary school goes from 8am - 2pm. With additional classes, the length of the school day only goes up from there. Some institutions might require Saturday classes in addition to the Mon - Fri routine.

Grading System
Students are graded in a scale of 2-5, with 2 being the worst possible grade. Talk about pressure, huh? No room for mistakes.

Much like the U.S., getting into a university involves a high degree of competition. But grades, extracurriculars, and awards might not be enough to seal the deal. Russian universities - and kindergartens, too - are notorious for taking in bribes. Although some have been called out for this act (taking in bribes up to $30, 000 US dollars!), there's no saying that the bribery hasn't stopped quite yet.

On top of all that happy (or not) news for Russian students, they get to wear THIS.



Japan is well-known the world over for their excellent standards in education. According to recent research, a 6-year-old in Japan is the rough equivalent of a 9-year-old in the U.S. This isn't achieved easily, of course. Japanese schooling is INTENSE. Students are regularly called out on their grades in front of the class. Grades are posted for the whole school to see, which is meant to increase motivation for children to study hard and do well. The social aspect of education has immeasurably great effects.

The school year in Japan begins in April with classes from Mon - Sat. Their school year has three terms in it, with short breaks in between. Their summer is just one month long, and they have large homework packets to complete for the first day back - to keep their minds sharp!

Kindergarten is from ages 3-5. Teachers are FEMALE technical school graduates - no men, please! Surprising, huh? Compulsory Japanese education starts at age 6 (and there's a huge celebration for the day. It's pretty much a parade of six-year-olds. Super-adorable!) and continues through age 15. High school is not required, but like I said before, the social aspect of education pretty much makes the completion of high school a requirement.

Those interested in a medical profession then go to a medical undergraduate school for 6 YEARS. Theeeen they go to Medical school, but it's only for 4 years. Those interested in academia or other fields complete a 4-year university degree just like we do over here. Again, "college" only refers to a technical school, which aren't looked too kindly upon. Like I said, be sure to keep this in mind when talking to people from other countries! You can say "I'm in University" or even "I'm in Uni." Notice that there's no article before "university." ;)

Mathematics starting at age 6. Advances rapidly.
Japanese classes starting at age 6.
Foreign language classes starting at age 12. English will soon be a compulsory class in elementary school, however.
Japanese and world history
Art & Acting
P.E. (this one is pretty important. It's highly competitive, with numerous chances to compete in school-wide sporting events).
Industrial arts
Home economics
Moral education
In addition to classes, they're usually required to join at least one after school club. It keeps them at school until 6pm on most weekdays. They also meet before school and on weekends. Dedication to a club is supposed to keep the children in line and fight against juvenile delinquency.

Class Length
45-50 minutes, with 5-10 minute breaks in between. There's a 40 min lunch break as well as a 20 min recess.

Primary School

8:30am - 3:00pm
5 classes a day

ior high school & high school
8:30am - 6pm + extensive school programs that solidify material on weekends
6+ classes a day

Grading system
Grades are given based on four rankings:
yu = excellent (90% - 100%)
ryo = good (70% - 89%)
ka = passable (60-69%)
fuka = not passable (0-59%)

The percentages are rough estimates and may not be reflective of pre-university grading systems.

On top of taking exams to pass every year of school, students must take an entrance exam to determine if they're eligible to enter the university of their choice. That's why some students take additional classes at night or on weekends to cram the material in. University life is much like over here, with students living in dorms and being enrolled full-time. In order to pay off tuition, fees, and living expenses, (avg $10,000/year) students may take out loans or do part-time work. It is verrrry rare for a student to work full-time and be enrolled part-time. With so many students wanting to get into each university, it's either go full-time or don't go at all. Well, at many universities.

School Uniform
I have no idea why, but guys go crazy over Japanese girls in uniform. It's not really that revealing, you perverts.

There. Isn't she cute?


Contrary to popular belief, education in Mexico is exceptional.
I know, I know; I'm pretty darn biased. But I'm not a liar. Despite absolutely horrible social conditions, Mexico still has over a 90% literacy rate. Universities are top knotch as well. You may not hear that much about education in Mexico considering everything else that's going on with that country, but I assure you that its educational program merits recognition. The country wouldn't have virtually free healthcare at very low government cost without a number of great minds coming together, after all. ;)

Students are required to go to school from the ages of 5 - 13/14 (primary and secondary school). From the ages of 13/14-17/18, students may attend high school at their own discretion/economic ability. After high school, students have the option to go to technical schools for a technical degree, or they can go to a university for a 4-year-degree. There are plenty of opportunities for Master's degrees and Ph.D.s if the student chooses at high costs and only in the big cities.

The Mexican school year depends on the level of school you're in. Primary school starts in August and goes through December with mid-term exams in January. After mid-terms through June, students complete their finals. Classes are not divided into semesters, and you work toward completing courses throughout the entire school year. Secondary and preparatory school is divided into two semesters around the same times as the U.S.

Primary (5-11) - Spanish, Math, (basic - pre-algebra) Reading, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, P.E., English, History, and Crafts.
Secondary (11-14) - Spanish, Math, (algebra - trigonometry/calculus) Biology, Chemistry, Physics, (& associated labs for all natural sciences) English, Geography, Government, Shop, (beauty shop, dressmaking, typing/shorthand, cooking, electrical wiring, welding, electronics technician, or mechanics) Music, History, and P.E.
Preparatory (14-18) - Spanish, Math, (statistics - advanced calculus) Biochemistry, Government, English, History, Computer lab, and any classes associated with your interests. Once you graduate from high school, you come out with an associates degree of your choosing.

Class Length
55 minutes long with 5 minute breaks in between

Primaria (Primary School)
4 classes/ day

Segundaria (Secondary School)
6 classes/day

Preparatoria (Prep School/High School)
6 classes/day

School Day
Primary - 1:30pm - 6:30pm (surprising, huh? Convenient for the parents!)
Secondary - 7:30am - 2pm (because there's day school and night school. Dual-shift schooling!)
Preparatory - 7:30am - 2:30pm (for the same reason)

Grading System
Mexican students are graded on a 1-10 grading system, with 1 being the lowest possible score. It's similar to the American system except with a lot less room for mistakes. Below a 6 is considered failing, but students take an exit exam that is averaged with their class grades. If that average is below satisfactory, you fail the grade.

Mexican universities require their students to take an entrance exam in order to attend the school, achieving a certain number of points in order to qualify. Fortunately, university fees are set at an amount that considers the wide range of socioeconomic statuses in Mexico (1 semester = $250US).

School Uniform

Aren't they cute? Those are definitely private school uniforms. My mom went to public school and had to wear this yellow bell-bottom monstrosity. ;)


As you may already know, education is a huge part of English culture. There are hundreds of schools, colleges, and universities throughout the small span of land - many of which are known throughout the world for their high quality of education.

English students are required to go to school from the ages of 5-16 with the option of home schooling (notice the absence of that option in other countries?). It's free from these ages, too. Isn't that nice?

Schooling is divided into a few levels. First, there's nursery for children under the age of 5. Then there's primary education from 5-11 years old. Next is secondary school from the ages of 11-16. This is followed by sixth form at the secondary school or a college from the ages of 16-18. Note that students in England complete "college" in order to obtain their high school degree.

There are 195 school days in an English school year, as opposed to the 180 school year here in the U.S. This spans from September to July, with breaks in October, December, February, March, May, and all of August.

English classes start in primary school and go up in difficulty from then forward
Basic sciences in primary school
Religious Education (surprising, huh?)
Foreign languages are introduced starting at age 12
Sex education starts at age 12, and it's a requirement then. It's not a requirement in 6th form, however, when kids are actually...active.

Class Length
60-70 min with no breaks except for a 20 min recess at 11am.

It would appear that all levels of schooling require 5 classes a day.

School Day
8:30am registration (roll call, pretty much)
8:55am - 3:10pm classes
Clubs after school, but they're not required - just recommended!

Grading system
This varies throughout the UK as a whole, so it's difficult to specify. However, according to various sources, England works on a percentage scale that is similar to the A - F scale that we use, with the exception that an A is 80% - 100%. I want that so bad.

Like the U.S., entrance requirements vary greatly depending on the university to which you're applying. Universities look closely at students' high school class choices and how well they performed. Much like the U.S. system of "honors" and "A.P." classes, England has varying levels of the same class. Universities typically require that you take at least the "honors" classes in the field you're looking to major in and perform reasonably well in it. More competitive universities might require the equivalent of the "A.P." level in these same classes. What differentiates the English university systems from the American ones is that England requires you to know your major BEFORE entering university. None of that "oh, I'll figure it out after two years of general ed classes." Figure it out as soon as possible and take the most advanced classes your high school offers.

School Uniform
Like in every other country, these vary by the school you go to. I haven't come across many pleasant-looking ones, though. ;)

-- --

And there we have it! That was a glimpse into the school life of children in various parts of the world. When you interact with international students, try to keep in mind that they're coming from a pretty different school structure, social structure, family structure, and everything else in between. Inform them about what they can expect in an American school, and maybe they'll let you know about their school. As students, we're just here to learn, anyway.

Hope you enjoyed the trip! :)


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