Children in Finland, who rank near the top on international tests, aren’t required to go to school until age seven. Most do, however, attend high-quality daycare or preschool programs.
Some children, particularly girls, learn self-defense at school in India. Crimes against women and girls have reportedly been increasing and some schools are requiring female students to learn how to defend themselves so they can fight off potential attackers. Some schools are also incorporating awareness classes for boys about the need to respect women.
3. North Korea
North Korean leadership proudly flaunts an anti-American mindset and they pass it along to their students from an early age. According to the Associated Press, some elementary schools boast posters with slogans like, “We love playing military games knocking down the American bastards.” Students beat toy American soldiers as sport, and while the country has turned to improving its economy, students are still warned about “Yankee” imperialism. Children also spend significant time singing patriotic songs and learning about communist leaders.
4. South Korea
No running out of class the second lessons are over for Korean students. They’re expected to stay and help clean and tidy the classroom. Physical education and extracurriculars like music are also emphasized, especially for young children. High school students log long hours on academics, though. They typically begin around 8 a.m. and have class in 50-minute increments until 4 or 4:30 p.m. Some then stay at school for a dinner break while others go home for a short break. But then, in many cases it’s back to the school library or off to a private school or tutor until 10 p.m. or even midnight.
School lunches in France are serious business. No bologna sandwiches for these kids. Schools in France provide lunch for kids (some have the option of going home for lunch) and it’s usually pretty “adult” fare, like parsnip puree or grilled salmon. Meal-time is considered part of the curriculum and kids are expected to learn not only about different foods and where they come from (schools try to source locally), but also to display good manners and etiquette. No paper plates or plastic cutlery either - food is served on ceramic plates with real silverware. Lunch is also leisurely and lasts an hour or even two. French schools are not asking kids to cram processed gunk in their mouths and be back at their desks ready to study 20 minutes later.
Kids in Argentina (and much of the southern hemisphere) have summer vacation from December through February, meaning there is no “Christmas break.” But they do get breaks at other times during the year. Schools in Australia, another southern hemisphere country, often break the academic calendar into four terms, with short breaks in April, July and September and a summer break from December to January.
China has more students per class than most other countries. The average for lower secondary education is above 50 students per classroom in China. It’s around 23 in the United States and below 20 in Switzerland and Russia.
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.