Secondary education in Hong Kong is largely based on the British schooling system. High school starts on the 7th year of formal education, after Primary Six, called Form One. Students normally spend five years in secondary schools, of which the first three years (Forms One to Three) are free and compulsory like primary education. Forms Four and Five students prepare for the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE ), which takes place after Form Five. Students obtaining a satisfactory grade will be promoted to Lower Six, who then prepare for the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE ) (colloquially the A-levels), which is to be taken after Upper Six. The HKALE and HKCEE results will be considered by universities for admission. Some secondary schools in Hong Kong are called "colleges". In some schools, Lower and Upper Six are also called Form Six and Form Seven.
The HKCEE and HKALE is equivalent to the GCE O-level (or GCSE) and the GCE A-level respectively.
As of Oct 2004, there has been heated discussion on proposed changes in the education system, which includes (amongst others) reduction of the duration of secondary education from seven years to six years, and merge the two exams HKCEE and HKALE into one exam. The proposed changes will be in effect within the next few years.
In the United States, high school generally consists of grades 9, 10, 11 and 12, though this may vary slightly by school district. In some areas, high school starts with tenth grade; a few American high schools still cover grades 7 through 12. American students are allowed to leave high school at age 16-18, depending on the state, graduation, acceptance into higher education, or other education settings. This school-leaving age is usually in grade 10 or 11 if the standard curriculum has been followed throughout life, without skipping grades or being held back. Thus, the last two years of high school are not compulsory, but most students complete high school and receive a diploma. A high school diploma or G.E.D. is generally required for entrance into a college or university, but many colleges accept a small number of students after eleventh grade.
As a practical matter, while U.S. law mandates school attendance at least until graduation or age 16, enforcement of the truancy law is sporadic. Conversely, students who have failed a grade may remain in high school past the age of 18, if they have not graduated on time.
Secondary schooling in Canada differs depending on what province one resides in. Normally it follows the American pattern, however in Quebec, for instance, high school lasts five years and is started earlier and finished at a younger age than elsewhere in Canada. In Quebec most students follow high school by attending a cegep, which is comparable to a junior college, and which is obligatory for Quebec students wishing to go on to university in Quebec.
High school is the former name for secondary schools in Australia. In Victoria the name was officially changed to secondary college in the early 1990s, but to the majority of the adult population they are still "high schools". The exact length of secondary school varies from state to state, generally in New South Wales and Victoria teaching years 7–12, and Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia teaching years 8–12. In the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania high school is 7–10, and students go to (matriculation) college for 11–12. It is compulsory to attend school until the age of fifteen, but most students remain at school to complete their studies and go on to college or university.