I was so surprised to find so many differences in the various school systems. The date school starts, the age at which the kids start, grading systems, approach and teaching philosophy – the variation is huge!
Fascinated by all the differences, I sat down and found 15 exciting and fun facts about schools around the world. Enjoy!
- In Germany, school kids are given a school cone (Schultüte) on their first day of school. It can be filled with sweets, snacks, art supplies, lunch boxes, little books and small gifts. They can only open it at school. Children don’t have to be able to write their names on entering schools- although they must be able to hold a pen properly. School readiness is decided on not only physical development but also social skills.
- Russian children always start school on September 1st even if it’s a holiday, or the weekend. This is referred as Knowledge Day (День Знаний)- and marks both the first day of school and the first day of autumn. Most kids bring a change of shoes to school. Elementary school through high school are usually in the same building.
- Dutch children go to school on their fourth birthday. This results in some chaos as new kids are added to the class throughout the year during the first year (called groep 1 or kleuterklas). The kids get to play and learn social skills and only start “real school” when they’re 6 (groep 3). However, school is not compulsory until the kids are 5 years old.
- Polish kids have to wear strój galowy- a formal costume– usually a white blouse with navy blue pants or skirts for the girls and suits for the boys for the first day of school and school ceremonies. There’s also an opening ceremony where the kids are sworn in as students of the first class.
- Singaporean schools have recently enjoyed their 5 minutes of fame and al because of a math problem. It went viral, causing a stir and even a hashtag on its very own- #WhenIsCherylsBirthday. it came from a test for students gifted in math and stirred a discussion about school quality around the world. Here’s the problem– can you solve it?
- Finnish schools are considered the best in the world. They’re also very hands-off: no grades until year three. There are no national tests until the 12th year and subsequently much less pressure on teachers as school results cannot be compared. Teachers are trusted and respected and they have a lot of autonomy.
- Japanese kids are expected to go to school by themselves and they also clean have to the classroom. There is no canteen; children are expected to bring packed lunches to school. They’re often very beautifully arranged into so called bento boxes. It is customary for the grandparents to buy the school bag called randoseru.
- French kids are served a 3-course meal for lunch. The French education system has been made famous by Karen le Billon in her book (French Kids Eat Everything) that described the French approach to eating (did you know that schools hire nutritionists and special chefs to cook for the kids?) On the other side, the system is very rigid and strict.
- The school year in Kenya is divided into trimesters (the academic year is divided into three parts, not two) not semesters. The parents are expected to pay for the children’s school. Most students attend school even though they don’t have to.
- In Taiwan, children attending elementary schools would wear new uniform, carry new school bag, have a new pencil box (yes, pencil box, that is always a very fun shopping trip) and carry a home lunch box (optional).
- In Australia, the longest holiday is actually the Christmas holiday! Summer officially lasts from December to February, and therefore includes Christmas and New Year holidays. Typically Christmas summer holiday in Australia last approximately six weeks, usually from mid-December (depending on school year, see below) to late January.
- Schools in Nigeria start in January and end in December. The academic year is divided into trimesters and there are 2 months off between each one. Nigerian schools are also very strict about dress code – even including hair styles, jewellery and accessories.
- Parents of kids in Swiss schools have to pick them up for lunch. The children get a lunch break between 12 and 2pm and that’s when they get home to have lunch. As mothers enter the workforce in bigger and bigger numbers, a special Mittagstisch (literally lunch table) is set up for the kids with working parents.
- In Brazil, schools run from 7am to noon so that the kids can eat lunch with their parents. However, in Brazil there are three sessions per day to meet the demands for space. Kids attend one session per day.