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Official school ages: primary, secondary, and compulsory education

Some of the statistics on this site, for example primary and secondary school net enrollment rates, are easier to interpret if the official school ages in a country are known. I have therefore prepared a file that lists the official school ages in 206 countries and territories, taken from the latest release of UNESCO's global education database. This article summarizes the entrance age and duration of primary, secondary, and compulsory education from that database. To download the file with official school ages go to the bottom of this article.

In 204 of 206 countries, children enter primary school between 5 and 7 years of age (see Table 1). Exceptions are Ireland, where primary school begins at 4 years, and Mongolia, where it begins at 8 years. In 127 countries, the official primary school entrance age is 6 years. The duration of primary school ranges from 3 years (in Armenia, Russia, and Turkmenistan) to 8 years (in Ireland). In 123 countries, primary school has 6 grades.

Table 1: Entrance age and duration of primary education
   Primary |
    school |           Primary school          |
  duration |        entrance age (years)       |
   (years) |     4      5      6      7      8 | Total
-----------+-----------------------------------+------
         3 |     0      0      0      3      0 |     3
         4 |     0      0     12     16      1 |    29
         5 |     0      4     17      3      0 |    24
         6 |     0     15     86     22      0 |   123
         7 |     0     11     12      3      0 |    26
         8 |     1      0      0      0      0 |     1
-----------+-----------------------------------+------
     Total |     1     30    127     47      1 |   206


The official entrance age for secondary school ranges from 10 to 14 years (see Table 2). In 102 of 206 countries and territories, children enter secondary school at 12 years of age. The duration of secondary school ranges from 4 years (in Gibraltar and the Philippines) to 9 years (in Germany and Slovakia).

Table 2: Entrance age and duration of secondary education
 Secondary |
    school |         Secondary school          |
  duration |       entrance age (years)        |
   (years) |    10     11     12     13     14 | Total
-----------+-----------------------------------+------
         4 |     0      1      1      0      0 |     2
         5 |     0      2     25     11      2 |    40
         6 |     2      8     55     16      1 |    82
         7 |     9     24     21      7      0 |    61
         8 |     6     13      0      0      0 |    19
         9 |     2      0      0      0      0 |     2
-----------+-----------------------------------+------
     Total |    19     48    102     34      3 |   206


Children who complete both primary and secondary education have to attend school for 10 to 14 years (see Table 3 and Figure 1). In seven countries, children can continue their education at a higher level after 10 years of primary and secondary school (Armenia, Gibraltar, Mongolia, North Korea, Philippines, Russia, and Turkmenistan). In two countries, the completion of primary and secondary school combined takes 14 years (Cook Islands and Iceland). In more than half of all countries, primary and secondary school combined take 12 years.

Table 3: Entrance age and duration of primary and secondary education
   Primary |
       and |
 secondary |
    school |           Primary school          |
  duration |        entrance age (years)       |
   (years) |     4      5      6      7      8 | Total
-----------+-----------------------------------+------
        10 |     0      1      2      3      1 |     7
        11 |     0      3     21     12      0 |    36
        12 |     0     17     75     25      0 |   117
        13 |     1      8     28      7      0 |    44
        14 |     0      1      1      0      0 |     2
-----------+-----------------------------------+------
     Total |     1     30    127     47      1 |   206


Figure 1: Entrance age and duration of primary and secondary education
Graph with distribution of entrance age and duration of primary and secondary school
Data source: UNESCO global education database, October 2006. - Number below bar indicates countries in group.

The length of compulsory education has a wider range than primary and secondary education combined (see Table 4 and Figure 2). Children can enter school between 4 and 8 years and graduate after 4 to 13 years to comply with national regulations of school attendance. In some countries only primary education is required, while in other countries children have to continue their education at the secondary level. One country requires only 4 years of schooling (Angola), and ten more countries require 5 years of schooling (Anguilla, Bangladesh, Brunei, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Samoa). At the upper end are four countries with 13 years of compulsory education (Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, and Turks and Caicos Islands). On average, compulsory education takes 8 to 9 years.

Table 4: Entrance age and duration of compulsory education
Compulsory |
    school |         Compulsory school         |
  duration |        entrance age (years)       |
   (years) |     4      5      6      7      8 | Total
-----------+-----------------------------------+------
         4 |     0      0      1      0      0 |     1
         5 |     0      5      4      1      0 |    10
         6 |     0      0     18      6      0 |    24
         7 |     0      1     11      5      0 |    17
         8 |     0      0     12      9      1 |    22
         9 |     0      1     30     15      0 |    46
        10 |     0      7     29      5      0 |    41
        11 |     0      7     13      1      0 |    21
        12 |     0     11      3      0      0 |    14
        13 |     1      0      3      0      0 |     4
-----------+-----------------------------------+------
     Total |     1     32    124     42      1 |   200


Figure 2: Entrance age and duration of compulsory education
Graph with distribution of entrance age and duration of compulsory education
Data source: UNESCO global education database, October 2006. - Number below bar indicates countries in group.

Download
The ZIP archive contains three files with the official primary, secondary, and compulsory school ages. One file is in Excel format, one in Stata format, and one in tab-delimited text format. The contents of the three files is identical and the following variables are included:
  • country: country name
  • primage: official entrance age of primary education
  • primdur: official duration of primary education
  • secage: official entrance age of secondary education
  • secdur: official duration of secondary education
  • compage: official entrance age of compulsory education
  • compdur: official duration of compulsory education
Related articles
External links
Friedrich Huebler, 27 January 2007 (edited 1 July 2012), Creative Commons License
Permanent URL: http://huebler.blogspot.com/2007/01/official-school-ages-primary-secondary.html

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