The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Gymnasium (school)

A gymnasium is a type of school of secondary education in parts of Europe. The word "γυμνασιον" (gymnasion) was used in Ancient Greece, meaning a locality for both physical and intellectual education of young men.

In the German-speaking, the Scandinavian and the Benelux countries gymnasium has, at least since the Reformation in the 16th century, had the meaning of a secondary school preparing for higher education at university. They are thus meant for the more theoretically-minded students, who are sifted out at about the age of 10–13. In addition to the usual curriculum, students of a gymnasium often learn Latin and Greek.

Some gymnasiums have a general education, others have a specific focus. (This also differs per country.) The three traditional branches are

  • humanistic education (specialising in ancient languages, like Latin and Greek)
  • modern languages
  • mathematical-scientific education

Nowadays a number of other areas of specialisation exist, like Gymnasiums specialising in art or sports.

At some countries there is a notion of progymnasium, which is equivalent to beginning classes of the full gymnasium, with the rights to continue education in a gymnasium. Here, the prefix "pro" means "instead of".

In Italy the first two years of high school are called Gymnasium if the high school chosen is a classical lyceum (a particular secondary school focusing on latin and greek as well as Literature)

Countries with Gymnasium schools

Final degree

The final degree is called Abitur, Artium , Matura or Student and it usually opens the way to professional schools directly. The final two or three years at a Gymnasium are therefore equivalent to the first two years at a US college.

Relationship with other education facilities

In countries like Croatia, most university faculties only accept students from secondary schools that last four years (rather than three). This includes all Gymnasium students but only a part of vocational high schools, in effect making Gymnasium the preferred choice for all pupils aiming for university diplomas.

In Germany, other types of secondary school are called Realschule, Hauptschule and Gesamtschule. These are attended by about two thirds of the students. A Gesamtschule largely corresponds to an American high school. Students who graduate from Realschule or Hauptschule (usually after year 9 or 10) continue their schooling at a vocational school until they have full job qualifications. These two types of German secondary school are practically unknown in other parts of the world.

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