Primary education or elementary education, as it is known in the United States, fulfills the special needs of students during the first few years of their schooling life. Primary education has specific goals that make it a critical component of an educational system as a whole.

Primary Education

Primary education is the first stage of compulsory education. In countries such as the United States and Canada, primary education generally covers the first six or seven years of school life. In many countries, although primary education is compulsory, parents may provide this level of education at home. However this education is provided, its importance is undeniable. The United Nations has identified universal primary education by 2015 as one of its Millennium Development Goals.

Stages of Primary Education

Parents can elect to send children to either public or private institutions when it comes time for them to receive their primary educations. This level usually begins in kindergarten and continues until grades five to seven, depending on the particular system. After primary education, students proceed to middle school or junior high school. Some school systems offer a more comprehensive primary education, encompassing eight primary grades. Students progress directly to high school after graduation.

Formal Goals of Primary Education

During their primary education, students are taught to think critically, to strive to attain high standards, to meet the challenges posed by technological advancements and to develop citizenship and basic values. In order to achieve these goals, schools must provide orderly and safe environments, where supervised learning can take place.

Informal Learning in Primary Education

Yet another key competency provided by primary education—one that may not be explicitly targeted by curricula—is socialization. As noted by Danielle Tasmajian in her paper, "Socialization Skills Acquired by Elementary School Children," when children start school, it is usually the first time that adults other than their relatives supervise their behavior. The school becomes the agency that first organizes social relationships, and the classroom becomes the place where children learn to socialize with their peers without the presence of their parents.