Primary education, or elementary education, as it is known in the United States, fulfils the special needs of students during the first few years of their schooling life. Primary education has specific goals that make it an exceedingly important component of an educational system as a whole.
Primary education is the first stage of compulsory education. In countries such as the United States and Canada, primary education generally covers the first six or seven years of school life. In many countries, although primary education is compulsory, it can be permissible for parents to provide this level at home. However this education is provided, its importance is undeniable. The United Nations has explicitly identified universal primary education by 2015 as one of its Millennium Development Goals.
Stages of Primary Education
Parents can elect to send children to either public or private institutions when it comes time for them to receive primary education. In these institutions, primary education can last from five to seven years. It usually begins at kindergarten and continues until grades five to seven, depending on the particular system. In countries such as the U.S., after primary education, students proceed to middle school or junior high school. Some school systems offer a more comprehensive primary education, encompassing eight primary grades, in which case students progress directly to high school after graduation.
Formal Goals of Primary Education
Primary education aims to achieve several goals, as encapsulated in the institutions' program-goal statements, such as those of the Cumberland County Schools in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Students are taught to think critically, to strive to attain high standards, to meet the challenges posed by technological advancements and to develop citizenship and basic values. In order to achieve these goals, schools aim to provide orderly and safe environments, where supervised learning can take place.
Informal Learning in Primary Education
Yet another key competency provided by primary education—one that may not be as explicitly targeted by curricula—is socialisation. As discussed by Danielle Tasmajian in her paper "Socialization Skills Acquired by Elementary School Children," when children start school, it is usually the first time that adults they are not related to supervise them. The school becomes the agency that first organises social relationships, and the classroom becomes the place where children learn to socialise with their peers without the presence of their parents.
Impact of Primary Education on Future Learning
Primary education lays the groundwork for future learning and future success. The skills and values that primary education instils are no less than foundational, and serve as bases for all future learning—whether formal or informal. Students build on their primary education in their succeeding years in the educational system.