Throughout the world's education systems, education is generally divided into primary and secondary education with an option for students to also pursue post-secondary education in many systems. The border between each type of education will vary among educational systems. In most cases, primary education encompasses the first six to eight years of a child's education with secondary education comprising the adolescent years.
Many educational systems throughout the world require that a child receive at least a primary level of education. Some systems also make secondary education mandatory. Within the United States, for example, most states require a child to receive both a primary and secondary education. In the developing nations of the world, although primary education may be available, it is often unrealistic for children to attend for reasons such as transportation and the need to help the family earn money or take care of the home. Many international organizations, such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are leading the push to ensure that all children receive at least a basic primary level of education.
The line between primary and secondary education can vary among systems, with some educational systems also using a middle school or junior high designation as a transitional period between primary and secondary education. In most systems, primary education begins around the age of five or six and continues until the child enters adolescence at around the age of 12 or 13. Secondary education takes up the next two to four years in most educational systems.
In the United States, for instance, primary education starts at the age of five or six and continues until completion of the sixth grade, in most systems. Middle school then lasts for the next two or three years, and then the student enters secondary education. A student's compulsory education ends when the student successfully completes four years of secondary education. In other countries, such as Mexico, a student's secondary education ends closer to the age of 15 or 16, at which time the child may choose to enter a technical school, pursue a college level degree, or seek employment.
After completion of secondary school, most educational systems afford students the option to pursue higher education by applying for entrance into a post-secondary educational institution, frequently referred to as a college or university. In most systems, acceptance into a college or university is competitive. Post-secondary education may result in the student receiving a bachelor's degree, master's degree, or doctorate degree.