It’s not unusual to wonder how long students are required to attend high school in countries worldwide. After all, every country has enormous differences in its educational requirements — including the length of its high school programs.
On average, high school tends to last between two and four years. High school is particularly long in the United States, where almost every high school student attends for four years. By comparison, students in Japan and Mexico only spend three years in high school — and in the United Kingdom, you can only expect to spend two years in high school! (Caveat: “high school” is a relative term, so it doesn’t translate perfectly from one country to the next).
This article explains how high school works and how long students are required to attend school in countries like the United States, Japan, and Mexico. We’ll also explore what makes each school system unique and how students benefit from their country’s excellent high schools.
How Many Years Are in High School in the United States?
In the United States, students attend high school for four years — but if students fulfill their credit requirements early, they can graduate sooner. Each state has unique requirements for how many credit hours students must complete during high school in broad subjects like math, language arts, and physical education.
While students are all required to complete the same mandated credits to graduate, many school districts allow students to graduate early and earn their diplomas if they complete their required credits early. Alternatively, some students elect to take the GED certificate, which requires them to be at least 16 years of age and to pass four core subject competency tests.
These stringent requirements help students navigate higher education and the real world effectively, but they weren’t always in place. In fact, at the beginning of the 20th century, less than a fifth of adolescents attended high school. By 1940, however, enrollment in secondary education programs like high school had skyrocketed to include nearly ¾ of teenagers.
Today, over 90% of Americans have completed high school — and the number keeps rising yearly. And whether they choose to use their diploma to enter the workforce or to pursue higher education, one thing is clear: the well-rounded secondary education programs of the United States have made the American dream accessible for many.
How Many Years Are in High School in Japan?
In Japan, students generally attend high school for three years. This isn’t always the case, however, as students are offered various accelerated options — including combined lower and upper secondary education programs and school programs that cater to special needs or particular interests.
One aspect of their high school system that distinguishes it from many other countries is that the Japanese national government is interested in keeping up-to-date educational standards relevant to students’ needs to succeed.
For this reason, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) revises its national curriculum standards for elementary through secondary programs every decade.
As a result of this system, Japanese high school students tend to enjoy a very sophisticated school system. And that isn’t all — the admission system students go through to attend an excellent high school resembles the college application process in the United States. Throughout middle school, students attend cram school, otherwise known as test prep, to attempt to become as appealing an applicant as possible to be admitted to a highly-ranked high school. Once they’re admitted to a good program, students are virtually set for success.
How Many Years Are in High School in the United Kingdom?
In the United Kingdom, students attend “high school” (known as college or sixth form locally) for two years. Unlike countries like the United States, however, students aren’t required to attend high school after they’ve passed their GCSEs. Aside from completing the sixth form and preparing for college, students are also allowed to enter the workforce or even complete a vocational program once they’ve completed lower secondary school.
Whether they choose to attend a conventional upper secondary school or pick a specialist program, it’s safe to say that schools in the United Kingdom teach plenty of skills to help students succeed. Most general upper-secondary programs require students to learn about citizenship, foreign languages, and practical topics in addition to their core classes. At the same time, specialist schools offer gifted students topical focuses in music, math, or technology.
The focus of the upper secondary school in the United Kingdom is preparing students to pass their A-levels. These scores are considered the primary admission requirement for universities in the United Kingdom and are given in three to four subjects of the student’s choice. Once the student has received their final A-level exam scores, they can send them to colleges to demonstrate their academic success and skillset.
How Many Years Are in High School in Mexico?
In Mexico, students attend high school (known as preparatoria) for three years. The preparatoria programs are designed to teach students the knowledge they need to study at university through a six-semester program. The first three semesters are focused on core subjects like math and science, while the last three semesters allow the student to choose from one of two specializations: physical sciences (including subjects like physics and biology) or social sciences (including subjects like law and economics).
Similar to the United Kingdom, preparatoria isn’t the only option prospective high school students in Mexico have. Some students choose to study at bachilleratos, which more closely resemble the high schools in countries like the United States. Bachillerato general is the most generalized program and focuses on the core subjects while still preparing students for higher studies in the same way that a preparatoria would.
Bachillerato tecnológico is aimed at students who want to complete a vocational program and enter the workforce upon graduation. And there are plenty of programs to choose from, too — whether a student is interested in translation or technical troubleshooting, there’s a vocational program for almost every interest.
The Bottom Line
While some students may be considered to be in “high school” for a longer period of time than others in certain parts of the world, one thing’s for certain – they’re all looking forward to high school graduation! We hope this article has given you a better understanding of high school requirements worldwide!