Exploring Schools around the World

by Jacquie Fisher

xHave you ever thought about what it would be like to attend a school in another country?  It may be very different from your own school.  Going to school is important for kids, and schools all share a similar goal – to help children learn skills that will be needed as they grow up.  Let’s learn more about what a typical school day looks like in countries around the world.

Getting to School

In the United States, some children walk to school, ride the bus or are driven to school by their parents.  But in some locations around the world, kids have to take unique forms of transportation to get to class on time.   In Peru and Guatemala, many children take boats to reach their schools which can be located on the other side of some of the large rivers and waterways.  Children in the Philippines ride to school in a rickshaw, a cart that is pulled by a bicycle or an adult.  And in Bolivia, a horse-drawn wagon is used to transport the kids each day.  If you’re lucky enough to live on an island, you will have to use a small plane to reach your classroom!  Students who attend school on Kelleys Island in Ohio and also on the Orkney Islands in Scotland must use a plane for transportation during the winter months or other times their local ferry is not running.

A School is not always a Building

Some schools are located in buildings and have multiple classrooms – but this is not always the case.  In many countries, there is not enough money to build a school, so classes are held in a variety of locations.  In less populated areas, there is just one large classroom for kids of all ages and grades.  Kids in some areas of Kenya attend classes under the trees in their village.  Other schools hold their classes outdoors with children sitting on the ground and doing lessons that connect with nature.  In Afghanistan, buildings are not available in many locations so tents are used as classrooms.  And in some cases, children can attend school on a ship or boat!  Some students in Bangladesh attend classes on wooden boats moored to a riverbank.  And the kids who travel with their parents on Mercy Ships, which are global hospital ships that travel the world to provide healthcare, do their homework in their cabin or in the ship’s library and stop at various ports in different countries to learn their classwork.

What Will Kids Learn Each Day?

There is usually a teacher in the classroom or learning area – after all, what is school without a great teacher?  But in some countries, boys must have a male teacher while girls are only taught by female educators.  In Iran, boys and girls are educated separately at the primary grades.  Once they reach universities, men and women can attend classes together.  In Afghanistan, classes are segregated by ninth grade and the girls must be taught by female teachers.

Almost every child around the world will learn to read and write in their native language – and many schools will teach children more than one language.  Some schools are not able to afford books for their classrooms, so students must copy their lessons onto chalkboards or notebooks each day.  Science, math and computers are also popular classes in many developed countries.  For rural schools, classes in farming and animal care are important.  And some children help clean their school and care for local animals as part of their school day.

Lunchtime & Recess

No matter where you go to school, lunch is an important part of the day.  Your favorite lunch might be peanut butter and jelly  — but a “typical” school lunch varies from country to country. For example, in Japan, the kids actually help prepare and serve the food during lunchtime.  Sometimes we all enjoy similar lunch foods but have different names for the item.  For example, kids in Australia enjoy drinking ‘poppers’ – in America, we call these same items juice boxes.  Rice or noodles are the main ingredient in hot lunches for many schools around the world.  Many schools also serve soups.  These are popular choices since they aren’t too expensive and can be cooked in large amounts fairly quickly so that no one has to wait a long time to eat lunch.  And in some countries such as Brazil, children will go home to share lunch with their family before returning to school for afternoon classes.  Many schools will also have some type of outdoor play or recess period during the day.

How long is a school day?

Most schools begin around 8 am and end the day around 3 or 4 pm.  Some countries also have evening study sessions where kids can return to do their homework after dinner. While many children attend school each day and then go home at night, there are some kids who live at their schools.  These are known as boarding schools.  If you attend a boarding school, you live in a dormitory and attend classes with other students at the school.  In England, there’s even a boarding school in a castle – Kimbolton Castle allows children ages 11 and older to board at the historic dorms and attend classes at the castle!

The days of the week that kids attend school vary greatly around the world.  In Kenya, Russia and India, children attend school 6 days each week.  In Japan, school is in session five days a week plus two Saturdays each month.  And until recently, children in France attended school four and a half days each week with a half-day on Saturday and no school on Wednesdays or Sundays.

If you would like to learn more about schools around the world, I would suggest one of these fun books:  It’s Back to School We Go by Ellen Jackson, School Days Around the World by Catherine Chambers and Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World by Susan Hughes.

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