Educational stages are subdivisions of formal learning, typically covering early childhood education, primary education, secondary education and tertiary (or higher) education. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes seven levels of education in its International Standard Classification of Education system (ISCED, from Level 0 (pre-primary education) through Level 6 (second stage of tertiary education)). UNESCO's International Bureau of Education maintains a database of country-specific education systems and their stages.
Education during childhood and early adulthood is typically provided through either a two- or three-stage system of childhood school, followed by additional stages of higher education or vocational education for those who continue their formal education:
Early childhood education at preschool, nursery school, or kindergarten (outside the U.S. and Canada)
Primary education at primary school or elementary school, and sometimes in the early years of middle school
Secondary education at secondary school or high school, and sometimes in the latter years of middle school
Higher education or vocational educationThe following table introduces the main concepts, although terms and ages may vary in different places:
For additional ISCED stages of education, see ISCED.
Sudbury schools do not use formal grade levels or educational stages. Instead, students ages 4 through 18 are intermingled in a democratic educational system, relying on a series of certifications to use equipment that may require specialized knowledge or safety procedures. These certifications are not typically restricted by age, but rather by demonstrated ability.
In Australia, children undergo thirteen years of formal education (plus non-compulsory preschool or kindergarten), usually starting at age 4, 5 or 6, and finishing at age 17, 18 or 19. The years are numbered from "Kindergarten" to 12.
In New South Wales (NSW), Western Australia (WA), Queensland (QLD) and Victoria (VIC), primary school is Kindergarten (NSW)/Prep (Vic & Qld)/Pre-primary (WA) and Years 1–6, and secondary school, Years 7–12 (see table below).
In the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Tasmania (TAS), primary school is Kindergarten (ACT)/Prep (Tas) and years 1–6, secondary school is years 7–10 and college or Senior Secondary is years 11 and 12 (see table below).