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Primary (or elementary) education consists of the first five to seven years of formal, structured education. In general, primary education consists of six to eight years of schooling starting at the age of five or six.

In most contemporary educational systems of the world, secondary education comprises the formal education that occurs during adolescence. It is characterized by transition from the typically compulsory, comprehensive primary education for minors, to the optional, selective tertiary, "postsecondary", or "higher" education (e.g. university, vocational school) for adults. Depending on the system, schools for this period, or a part of it, may be called secondary or high schools, gymnasiums, lyceums, middle schools, colleges, or vocational schools. The exact meaning of any of these terms varies from one system to another.

Secondary education occurs mainly during the teenage years. In the United States, Canada, and Australia, primary and secondary education together are sometimes referred to as K-12 education, and in New Zealand Year 1–13 is used. The purpose of secondary education can be to give common knowledge, to prepare for higher education, or to train directly in a profession.

Secondary education in the United States did not emerge until 1910, with the rise of large corporations and advancing technology in factories, which required skilled workers. In order to meet this new job demand, high schools were created, with a curriculum focused on practical job skills.ion.

Higher education, also called tertiary, third stage, or postsecondary education, is the non-compulsory educational level that follows the completion of a school such as a high school or secondary school. Tertiary education is normally taken to include undergraduate and postgraduate education, as well as vocational education and training. Colleges and universities mainly provide tertiary education. Collectively, these are sometimes known as tertiary institutions. Individuals who complete tertiary education generally receive certificates, diplomas, or academic degrees.

Vocational education is a form of education focused on direct and practical training for a specific trade or craft. Vocational education may come in the form of an apprenticeship or internship as well as institutions teaching courses such as carpentry, agriculture, engineering, medicine, architecture and the arts.

Informal learning occurs in a variety of places, such as at home, work, and through daily interactions and shared relationships among members of society. For many learners, this includes language acquisition, cultural norms, and manners. In informal learning, there is often a reference person, a peer or expert, to guide the learner. If learners have a personal interest in what they are informally being taught, learners tend to expand their existing knowledge and conceive new ideas about the topic being learned. For example, a museum is traditionally considered an informal learning environment, as there is room for free choice, a diverse and potentially non-standardized range of topics, flexible structures, socially rich interaction, and no externally imposed assessments.

Educational neuroscience is an emerging scientific field that brings together researchers in cognitive neuroscience, developmental cognitive neuroscience, educational psychology, educational technology, education theory and other related disciplines to explore the interactions between biological processes and education.Researchers in educational neuroscience investigate the neural mechanisms of reading,, attention, and their attendant difficulties including dyslexia, dyscalculia and ADHD as they relate to education. Several academic institutions around the world are beginning to devote resources to the establishment of educational neuroscience research.

There is no broad consensus as to what education's chief aim or aims are or should be. Some authors stress its value to the individual, emphasizing its potential for positively influencing students' personal development, promoting autonomy, forming a cultural identity or establishing a career or occupation. Other authors emphasize education's contributions to societal purposes, including good citizenship, shaping students into productive members of society, thereby promoting society's general economic development, and preserving cultural values.

 

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