A school is an educational institution designed to provide learning spaces and learning environments for the teaching of students (or “pupils”) under the direction of teachers. Most countries have systems of formal education, which is commonly compulsory. In these systems, students progress through a series of schools. The names for these schools vary by country (discussed in the Regional section below) but generally include primary school for young children and secondary school for teenagers who have completed primary education. An institution where higher education is taught, is commonly called a university college or university, but these higher education institutions are usually not compulsory.
In addition to these core schools, students in a given country may also attend schools before and after primary (Elementary in the US) and secondary (Middle school in the US) education. Kindergarten or preschool provide some schooling to very young children (typically ages 3–5). University, vocational school, college or seminary may be available after secondary school. A school may be dedicated to one particular field, such as a school of economics or a school of dance. Alternative schools may provide nontraditional curriculum and methods.
Non-government schools, called also known as private schools may be required when the government does not supply adequate, or specific educational needs. Other private schools can also be religious, such as Christian schools, madrasa, hawzas (Shi’a schools), yeshivas (Jewish schools), and others; or schools that have a higher standard of education or seek to foster other personal achievements. Schools for adults include institutions of corporate training, military education and training and business schools.
In home schooling and online schools, teaching and learning take place outside a traditional school building. Schools are commonly organized in several different organizational models, including departmental, small learning communities, academies, integrated, and schools-within-a-school.
History and development
The concept of grouping students together in a centralized location for learning has existed since Classical antiquity. Formal schools have existed at least since ancient Greece (see Academy), ancient Rome (see Education in Ancient Rome) ancient India (see Gurukul), and ancient China (see History of education in China). The Byzantine Empire had an established schooling system beginning at the primary level. According to Traditions and Encounters, the founding of the primary education system began in 425 AD and “… military personnel usually had at least a primary education …”. The sometimes efficient and often large government of the Empire meant that educated citizens were a must. Although Byzantium lost much of the grandeur of Roman culture and extravagance in the process of surviving, the Empire emphasized efficiency in its war manuals. The Byzantine education system continued until the empire’s collapse in 1453 AD.
In Western Europe a considerable number of cathedral schools were founded during the Early Middle Ages in order to teach future clergy and administrators, with the oldest still existing, and continuously operated, cathedral schools being The King’s School, Canterbury (established 597 CE), King’s School, Rochester (established 604 CE), St Peter’s School, York (established 627 CE) and Thetford Grammar School (established 631 CE). Beginning in the 5th century CE monastic schools were also established throughout Western Europe, teaching both religious and secular subjects.
Starting a school
The Toronto District School Board is an example of a school board that allows parents to design and propose new schools.
When designing a school, factors that need to be decided include:
- Goals: What is the purpose of education, and what is the school’s role?
- Governance: Who will make which decisions?
- Parent involvement: In which ways are parents welcome at the school?
- Student body: Will it be, for example, a neighbourhood school or a specialty school?
- Student conduct: What behaviour is acceptable, and what happens when behaviour is inappropriate?
- Curriculum: What will be the curriculum model, and who will decide on curricula?
Education facilities in low-income countries
In low-income countries, only 32% of primary, 43% of lower secondary and 52% of upper secondary schools have access to electricity. This affects access to the internet, which is just 37% in upper secondary schools in low-income countries, as compared to 59% in those in middle-income countries and 93% in those in high-income countries.
Access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene is also far from universal. Among upper secondary schools, only 53% in low-income countries and 84% in middle-income countries have access to basic drinking water. Access to water and sanitation is universal in high-income countries.
To curtail violence, some schools have added CCTV surveillance cameras. This is especially common in schools with gang activity or violence.
The safety of staff and students is increasingly becoming an issue for school communities, an issue most schools are addressing through improved security. Some have also taken measures such as installing metal detectors or video surveillance. Others have even taken measures such as having the children swipe identification cards as they board the school bus. For some schools, these plans have included the use of door numbering to aid public safety response.
Other security concerns faced by schools include bomb threats, gangs, and vandalism.
Online schools and classes
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. Some online classes also provide experience in a class, so that when people take them, they have already been introduced to the subject and know what to expect, and even more classes provide High School/College credit allowing people to take the classes at their own pace. Many online classes cost money to take but some are offered free.
Internet-based distance learning programs are offered widely through many universities. Instructors teach through online activities and assignments. Online classes are taught the same as physically being in class with the same curriculum. The instructor offers the syllabus with their fixed requirements like any other class. Students can virtually turn their assignments in to their instructors according to deadlines. This being through via email or in the course webpage. This allowing students to work at their own pace, yet meeting the correct deadline. Students taking an online class have more flexibility in their schedules to take their classes at a time that works best for them. Conflicts with taking an online class may include not being face to face with the instructor when learning or being in an environment with other students. Online classes can also make understanding the content difficult, especially when not able to get in quick contact with the instructor. Online students do have the advantage of using other online sources with assignments or exams for that specific class. Online classes also have the advantage of students not needing to leave their house for a morning class or worrying about their attendance for that class. Students can work at their own pace to learn and achieve within that curriculum.
The convenience of learning at home has been a major attractive point for enrolling online. Students can attend class anywhere a computer can go – at home, a library or while traveling internationally. Online school classes are designed to fit your needs, while allowing you to continue working and tending to your other obligations. Online school education is divided into three subcategories: Online Elementary School, Online Middle School, Online High school.
As a profession, teaching has levels of work-related stress (WRS) that are among the highest of any profession in some countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States. The degree of this problem is becoming increasingly recognized and support systems are being put into place.
Stress sometimes affects students more severely than teachers, up to the point where the students are prescribed stress medication. This stress is claimed to be related to standardized testing, and the pressure on students to score above average.
According to a 2008 mental health study by the Associated Press and mtvU. eight in 10 college students said they had sometimes or frequently experienced stress in their daily lives. This was an increase of 20% from a survey five years previously. 34 percent had felt depressed at some point in the past three months, 13 percent had been diagnosed with a mental health condition such as an anxiety disorder or depression, and 9 percent had seriously considered suicide.
Discipline towards students
Schools and their teachers have always been under pressure – for instance, pressure to cover the curriculum, to perform well in comparison to other schools, and to avoid the stigma of being “soft” or “spoiling” toward students. Forms of discipline, such as control over when students may speak, and normalized behaviour, such as raising a hand to speak, are imposed in the name of greater efficiency. Practitioners of critical pedagogy maintain that such disciplinary measures have no positive effect on student learning. Indeed, some argue that disciplinary practices detract from learning, saying that they undermine students’ individual dignity and sense of self-worth – the latter occupying a more primary role in students’ hierarchy of needs.