An elementary school or primary school is an institution where children receive the first stage of academic learning known as elementary or primary education. Elementary school is the preferred term in some countries, particularly those in North America, where the terms grade school and grammar school are also used. Primary school is the preferred term in the United Kingdom, France, India, Ireland, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia, Latin America, Nepal, South Africa, New Zealand, Malaysia and in most publications of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
United Kingdom 
Elementary school was formerly the name given to publicly funded schools in Great Britain which provided a basic standard of education for working class children aged from five to 14, the school leaving age at the time. They were also known as industrial schools.
Elementary schools were set up to enable working class children to receive manual training and elementary instruction. They provided a restricted curriculum with the emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic (the three Rs). The schools operated on a 'monitorial' system, whereby one teacher supervised a large class with the assistance of a team of monitors, who were quite often older pupils. Elementary school teachers were paid by results. Their pupils were expected to achieve precise standards in reading, writing and arithmetic such as reading a short paragraph in a newspaper, writing from dictation, and working out sums and fractions.
Before 1944 around 80 percent of the school population attended elementary schools through to the age of 14. The remainder transferred either to secondary school or junior technical school at age 11. The school system was changed with the introduction of the Education Act 1944. Education was restructured into three progressive stages which were known as primary education, secondary education and further education.
In the UK, schools providing primary education are now known as primary schools. They generally cater for children aged from four to eleven (Reception to Year Six or in Northern Ireland and Scotland P1 to P7). Primary schools are often subdivided into infant schools for children from four to seven and junior schools for ages seven to 11. In the (diminishing) minority of areas where there is a "three-tier" system, children go to lower school or "first school" until about 9, then middle school until about 13, then upper school; in these places, the term "primary school" is not usually used.
United States 
In the United States, authority to regulate education resides constitutionally with the individual states. The direct authority of the U.S. Congress and the federal U.S. Department of Education is essentially limited to regulation and enforcement of federal constitutional rights. Great indirect authority is exercised through federal funding of national programs and block grants; but there is no obligation upon any state to accept these funds, and the U.S. government otherwise may propose but not enforce national goals, objectives and standards, which generally lie beyond its jurisdiction.
Nevertheless, education has had a relatively consistent evolution throughout the United States. All states have historically made a distinction between two genres of K-12 education and three genres of K-12 school. The genres of education are primary and secondary; and the genres of school are elementary school, middle or junior high school, and high school (historically, "senior" high school to distinguish it from the junior school).
Primary education (or "primary school" meaning "primary education") still tends to focus on basic academic learning and socialization skills, introducing children to the broad range of knowledge, skill and behavioral adjustment they need to succeed in life - and, particularly, in secondary school. Secondary education or secondary school has always focused on preparing adolescents for higher education or/and for careers in industries, trades or professions that do not require an academic degree.
The elementary school has always been the main point of delivery for primary education; and the (senior) high school has always been the focal point of secondary education. Originally, elementary school was synonymous with primary education, taking children from kindergarten through grade 8; and secondary school was entirely coextensive with the high school grades 9 - 12. This system was the norm in America until the years following World War I, because most children in most parts of what was then the mostly rural United States could go no further than Grade 8. Even when the high schools were available, they were often not accessible.
As the population grew and became increasingly urban and suburban instead of rural, the one-room schoolhouse gave way to the multi-room schoolhouse, which became multiple schools. This produced the third genre of school - the junior high school - which was designed to provide transitional preparation from primary school to secondary school, thus serving as a bridge between the elementary school and the high school. Elementary schools typically operated grades Kindergarten through 6; the junior high school, often housed in the same building as the senior high school, then covered grades 7 through 9; and the senior high school operated grades 10 through 12. At the same time, grade 9 marked the beginning of high school for the purpose of GPA calculation.
It was typical during this period for state departments of education to certify (in California, "credential") teachers to work in either primary or secondary education. A Primary School Certificate qualified the holder to teach any subject in grades K through 8, and his/her major and minor subjects in grade 9. A Secondary School Certificate qualified the holder to teach any subject in grades 7 and 8, and his/her major and minor subjects in grades 9 through 12. Certain subjects, such as music, art, physical, and special education were or could be conferred as K through 12 Teaching Certificates.
By the late 1960s, the lines of transition between primary and secondary education began to blur, and the junior high school started to get replaced by the middle school. This change typically saw reassignment of grade 9 to the (senior) high school, with grade 6 reassigned to the middle school with grades 7 and 8. Subsequent decades in many states have also seen the realignment of teacher certification, with grade 6 frequently now included on the secondary teaching certificate. Thus, whereas 20th-century American education began with the elementary school finishing at grade 8, the 21st century begins with the American elementary school finishing at grade 5 in many jurisdictions.
Nevertheless, the older systems do persist in many jurisdictions. While they are in the minority today, there are still school districts which, instead of adopting the "middle school", still distinguish between junior and senior high schools. Thus, high schools can be either 9-12, which is most common, or 10-12.
The transformation of elementary education is evident. With a constant, steady rise in diversity in thousands of country-wide elementary schools, the educational approach of teachers must adapt. While college students of the 21st century took the basic classes in elementary school (Social Studies, Science, Language Arts, etc.), many schools today are changing their curricula and incorporating classes such as Mandarin Chinese education. Even though the usual educational classes are still in practice, a different approach is being met by administrators and teachers in order to effectively teach all students, and keep up with a changing and evolving society.
Saudi Arabia 
The Saudi Arabian term for elementary school is المدرسة الابتدائية, consisting of students from ages 6 to 12.
Brazil has recently gone through changes in school grades. Currently, at the age of 6 children attend from the grade 1 to 4 what is called Ensino Primário (Portuguese for Primary Teaching, or Primary School), and afterwards from grade 5 to 9 the Ensino Fundamental (Fundamental Teaching/School). At the age of 15 the teenagers go to Ensino Médio (Mid Teaching/School), which is equivalent High School in other countries, but it is only 3 years long (grades 10 to 12) and can either be a regular or technical course.
Depending on state, elementary schools (usually called Grundschulen) provide education from grade 1 to 4 or 1 to 6. Upon graduation from elementary school, students attend either Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium; or a combination of Hauptschule, Realschule and Gymnasium called Gesamtschule.
In India, elementary schools provide education from Class 1 to Class 8. The children in these classes are generally aged between 6 to 14 years. It is the next stage after kindergarten (Pre-Nursery, Nursery, Prep or Lower Kindergarten and Upper Kindergarten). The next stage after primary education is Middle School (Class 6th to 8th). In most schools in North India, children in Classes 1st to 3rd are taught English, Hindi, Mathematics, Environmental Science, and General Knowledge. In class 4th and 5th the environmental science subject is replaced by General Science and Social Studies. However some schools may introduce this concept in Class 3 itself. Some schools may also introduce a third language in Class 5th or even in Class 4th. Sanskrit and French are the most common third languages taught in Indian schools. At some places, primary education is labeled as the education of Class 3rd to Class 5th and up to class 2nd as pre-primary education. This is because many new concepts are introduced in this class. Children are taught painting instead of drawing and colouring, exams are taken, and Word Sum Puzzle in maths are introduced along with geometry.
South Korea 
In South Korea, students attend elementary school from kindergarten to the 6th grade. Students study a wide range of subjects, including: Korean, English, Chinese characters, math, social studies, science, computers, art, physical education, music, health, ethics, and home economics. English instruction generally begins in the 3rd grade. After finishing elementary school, students attend middle school (middle school 1st–3rd grade). The Korean term for elementary school is chodeung hakgyo (Hangul: 초등학교).
The Malaysian term for elementary school is sekolah rendah, or as known as primary school.
The Indonesian term for elementary school is sekolah dasar.
In the Philippines, the Department of Education mandates that elementary school lasts for 6 years in the public school system starting with grade 1 and culminating with grade 6. After successful completion of the 6-year programme shall a student graduate, be awarded an elementary diploma and can move-on to a 4-year high school programme (most private schools will require an entrance examination). However most private schools (which usually call the elementary level as "grade school"), especially exclusive schools and those accredited to have a high degree of autonomy from the Department of Education usually extend their programmes to 7th grade and can also include levels such as nursery, kindergarten or preparatory (prep) as entry levels prior to 1st grade. Subjects usually taken-up include Communication Arts in English (some private schools break this down into Language and Reading) and Filipino, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies (taught in Filipino), Home Economics (HELE - for all-girls schools), Music, Art, and Physical Education (which in some schools is collectively known as MAPE). Students in the 6th grade, whether studying in a public or private school are required to undergo a National (Elementary) Achievement Test (NAT) even if grade 6 isn't the terminal level in that school. The NAT is similar to certain schemes like Primary School Leaving Examination of Singapore (PSLE) except that that NAT score isn't used as a basis to admit students to a high school. Grade 1 and Grade 6 are affected with the K-12 education.
See also 
- Educational stages
- Elementary Education Act 1870
- Environmental groups and resources serving K–12 schools
- Primary school. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved on 12 June 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9061377
- Derek Gillard. Education in England: school supplies A brief history. Chapter 2: 1800-1900 Towards a state system. Retrieved on 15 June 2007.
- Peter Anthony Newsam, 'Elementary school', Microsoft Encarta 2004 edition (CD-Rom), 1993-2003.
- National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (United States)
- Elementary Schools with Education and Crime Statistics (United States)