Differences between primary & secondary schools

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Primary school and secondary school are both teaching institutions. However they vary completely in what they teach, why they teach it, and whom they are teaching.

Although primary school is supposed to instil younger children with basics of education, secondary school seeks to provide a broader scope of knowledge while preparing students to become adults and enter college and the work force.

Age Group

The most obvious difference between primary and secondary schools is student age. Primary-school ages range from 4 to 12. Secondary school students generally range from 13 to 18. Clearly such an age difference merits a difference in type of education and intellectual treatment. It is expected that primary school provides a basis of basic knowledge while secondary school both builds on that information, and expands on it.


Primary and secondary school are different in orientation. For instance, in primary school, every subject is taken by the same group of students. That is, they all go to music class together, for the purpose of familiarity. Once they enter secondary school there is more choice in subjects. Not everyone takes the same subjects, and every class has a new set of students. This prepares secondary school students for university and college, where students are exposed to new people at almost every turn, building social skills and helping students adapt to new situations.


Primary students must learn basics of writing, grammar, mathematics, geography, science, art, music, and history, to gain a solid foundation of general education. Although secondary education has the some of the same subjects, it seeks to build upon them and expand to more complicated teaching material, and to teach students to use a critical thinking method.


Finally, the purpose of both types of schools is the most important difference. Primary school seeks to help children make friends, learn social skills, get along with others, and learn basic knowledge such as shapes and numbers, moving on to simple mathematics and language. Secondary school is intended to prepare students for college, and it helps them decide on eventual careers.