secondary school

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a high school or a school of corresponding grade, ranking between a primary school and a college or university.


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Origin of secondary school

First recorded in 1825–35

OTHER WORDS FROM secondary school

sec·ond·ar·y-school, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is a secondary school?

A secondary school is an organization that teaches secondary education, the level of education that follows primary school and occurs before college or university.

In the United States, as elsewhere, the specifics of school systems vary depending on geographic area. A child usually attends a secondary school from around age 11 until age 16 or 18, depending on the state they live in.

A secondary school is usually referred to as a high school or a junior high school in the US, depending on the age or education level of the student. Education at a secondary school builds on what a student has learned already and teaches more advanced subjects, such as biology, chemistry, algebra, geometry, American and world history, and English.

It is technically mandatory for a child to attend secondary school. However, state laws only require a child to attend school until a certain age rather than until a certain education level. So, a child (or adult) is free to quit school upon reaching a certain age, regardless of whether or not they completed their education.

Why is secondary school important?

The first records of the term secondary school come from around 1825. It combines the word secondary, meaning “after the first,” and the word school, meaning an institution where students are instructed. Generally speaking, secondary school is the second learning institution a child will attend, with the first being primary school.

Compared to other countries, American secondary schools can often be very large. Secondary schools located in large cities or in school districts that cover a large geographic area can have thousands of students. Depending on the size of the school and resources available, a secondary school may offer college classes or college counseling to students nearing the end of their education.

In America, the actual curriculum taught at a secondary school (and a primary school) is determined by the state government. Depending on the school district, subjects such as evolution, the history of slavery, and the Civil War will be taught very differently. The presence of Christian religious instruction in American schools is also a highly controversial topic.

Did you know … ?

While secondary school is free in many countries, this is not the case everywhere. Countries that lack necessary funding to provide schooling often require parents to pay for their children to attend secondary school, severely limiting how many children attend and complete secondary school.

What are real-life examples of secondary school?

Secondary school is an important part of education and a big part of a young person’s life.

What other words are related to secondary school?

Quiz yourself!

True or False?

Secondary school typically involves educational instruction that is higher than a primary school and lower than a college or university.

How to use secondary school in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for secondary school

secondary school

a school for young people, usually between the ages of 11 and 18
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012