What school life is like around the world

No matter what time of day, there will always be children hard at work in schools around the world.

With almost 200 countries spreading across the planet, there exists a variety of educational practices.

Here is an insight on schooling in seven countries from seven very different places in the world.


Brazil

Being in the Southern Hemisphere, the Brazilian school year runs from late January to mid December.

Due to the high number of students, Brazilian schools usually divide days into three sessions — 7am-12pm, 12pm-5pm and 5pm-10pm.


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Amazonas, Brazil | Image: The World Bank

Students typically go home to share lunch with their family reflecting Brazil’s renowned focus on familia.

Many schools, especially in the poorer areas can barely afford to run common subjects (like maths, science and physical education), which means arts and music are rarely offered.

Classes average 30 students in size, while there may only be a handful of computers for the entire school to share.


Elementary School
Elementary school in Sao Paulo | Image: Dylan Passmore

Kenya

The Kenyan school year is divided into three terms with one month break in between.

With the school day running from 9am-1:30pm, some students will go home after lunch — while some pay more to stay later.


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Classroom in Kibera Slums, Nairobi, Kenya | Image: Michal Huniewicz

Many schools provide lunch, but because Kenya is experiencing severe economic and environmental suffering, some students save all or part of their lunch to share with their families. 

Schools generally offer a range of subjects, teaching children the Swahili language, as well as English.

School uniform is mandatory.


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Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya | Image: Book Aid International

China

Moving to the Northern Hemisphere, the Chinese school year runs from early September to mid July.

The school day generally runs from 7:30am to 5pm, with a two-hour lunch break — even during the summer holidays many students will spend their time head down in the classroom studying for entrance exams.


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Hunan, China | Image: Carfull

However, class sizes are normally around 20 and children have great access to technology — most schools offer one computer between two students.

This would help get through those long days.


Japan

China’s island neighbour runs its year from April to March, breaking it up with holidays in winter, summer and spring.

Japanese education has been notoriously known for its long hours and strict disciplines — there are extensive rules for hairstyles, make-up, shoes, socks, skirt length, accessories… you name it.

Many children attend a full day at school before a few additional hours of Juku (cram school) in the evening… only to come home and do a couple more hours of study at home.

It’s a good effort if they can tuck into bed before the clock strikes midnight.


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Takayama, Japan | Image: ThirtyFive Millimeter

Classes are normally closer to 30 students each and schools typically offer a whole range of academic subjects, as well as music and the arts.

Students also receive moral education — from learning about courtesy and confidence — to health, safety and environmental awareness.


France

The French school year runs from August to June — some schools close Wednesday afternoons, but older students may spend half a day in class on Saturdays.


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Kermesse in France | Image: Richard Barley

Class sizes tend be large (around one teacher per 30 students), and children participate in activities to develop observation, reasoning, imagination, and physical abilities —  on top of academic courses.

Uniform isn’t required, but all religious dress is banned.


Iran

Iran shares a similar academic calendar to European countries, with students attending from September to June.

From ages five to 18, boys and girls are taught separately — girls typically have female teachers, while boys are educated by men.


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Bandar Abbas, Iran | Image: Unicef Iran

From the age of five, all students must pass an annual exam in order to progress to the next grade level.

Many schools are in remote areas or lack the funds for such things as libraries and other resources — mobile libraries trundle across the country bringing books to thousands of excited children.


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Masjed-e Shah, Isfahan, Iran | Image: David Stanley

Russia

The Russian school year runs from September to May and students attend school from 8:30am to 2pm.

Russia has one of the best mass-education systems in the world, producing a literacy rate of 98 percent (higher than most Western European countries).


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Siberia, Russia | Image: Dave Whitman

School uniforms are making a mandatory return in Russia after they were cancelled in the 90s — social inequality has never been more glaring in schools over the last two decades.

Each classroom has about 20-30 students with children likely to remain together in the same class all the way from grades one to 10.

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