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Middle school (known also as intermediate school or junior high school) covers a period of education that straddles primary education and secondary education, serving as a bridge between the two. The terms can be used in different ways in different countries. The concept itself dates back to 1909, with the founding of Indianola Junior High School in Columbus, Ohio.

Junior High School[]

Junior high schools were schools in the United States that contained seventh through ninth grades. The junior high schools in the United States were mostly replaced with the middle school concept with sixth through eighth grades. The ninth grade was moved to high schools. Many high schools were known as senior high schools when the junior high school concept was popular.


In Korea, a middle school is called chung hakkyo (중학교, 中學校) That includes grade 7 through 9. In the 1980s, many middle schoolers in Korea had to wear uniforms.

In Japan, junior high schools are called chū gakkō (中学校, literally, middle school) cover years seven through nine. They are referred to as "junior high schools" in most conversation in English but are referred to by MEXT as "lower secondary schools". (See Secondary education in Japan.) Also refer to the report of a Kamisugiyama Junior high school.

Taiwanese middle schools (3-year) were originally called junior high school, or chuzhong (初級中學, 初中). However, in August 1968, they were renamed to middle schools, or guozhong (國民中學, 國中) when they became free of charge and compulsory. Private middle school nowadays are still called chuzhong. Taiwanese middle schools are attended normally by those older than twelve. Accompanied with the switch from junior high to middle school was the cancellation of entrance examination needed to enter senior high school.

In Mainland China, middle schools (chuzhong or 初中) refer to years 7-9. It covers the last 3 years of the 9-year compulsory education, which is supposed to be free but in fact subject to fees. At the end of the last year, the college-bound students take exams to enter high school (gaozhong or 高中), others wishing to continued training may enter technical high school (中学专科/中专) or vocational school (职业学校).

New Zealand[]

In New Zealand intermediate schools cover years 7 and 8 (formerly known as form 1 and 2) in areas where the local primary schools teach year 1 to year 6 students. Many primary schools however, do teach year 7 and 8. These primary schools may have a relationship with a nearby intermediate school to teach manual training classes such as woodwork.

United Kingdom[]

In the United Kingdom, some English Local Education Authorities introduced Middle Schools in the 1960s and 1970s. The notion of Middle Schools was mooted by the Plowden Report of 1967 which proposed a change to a three-tier model including First Schools for children aged between 5 and 8, Middle Schools for 8-12 year-olds, and then Upper or High Schools for 12-16 year-olds. Some authorities introduced Middle Schools for ideological reasons, in line with the report, while others did so for more pragmatic reasons relating to the raising of the age of end of compulsory school to 16. Different authorities introduced different age-range schools, although in the main, three models were used:

  • 5-8 First Schools, followed by 8-12 Middle Schools, as suggested by Plowden
  • 5-9 First Schools, followed by 9-13 Middle Schools
  • 5-10 First Schools followed by 10-13 Middle Schools, or Intermediate Schools

In addition, some schools were provided as combined schools catering for pupils in the 5-12 age range as a combined first and middle school.

Around 2000 middle and combined schools were in place in the early 1980s. However, that number began to fall in the later 1980s with the introduction of the National Curriculum. The new curriculum's splits in Key Stages at age 11 encouraged the majority of Local Education Authorities to return to a two-tier system of Primary and Secondary schools.

Some Middle Schools still exist in various areas of England. A list of Middle Schools in England is available.

United States and Canada[]

In the United States and Canada, middle school refers to a distinct form of school organization rather than a general term for the middle level of education. Advocated by groups such as the National Middle School Association, the middle school concept is a relatively new model for the middle-level grades, contrasted with the more traditional junior high concept. North American children at this level are educated either at junior high schools or at middle schools, depending on location.

Middle schools generally include grades 6 to 8 (although they can include just 7 and 8, and a few start as early as grade 4, although that is rare) while junior high schools include grades 7 and 8 or 7 through 9.

Junior high schools are designed similarly to high schools. The faculty is organized into academic departments which operate more or less independently of one another. This is meant as a hybrid, to ease the transition from elementary school to high school for students. Sometimes they are called Intermediate schools.

The middle school concept, however, involves a group of four to six teachers from different disciplines working as a team with the same group of students of the same grade level, with each teacher teaching a different subject. This format facilitates interdisciplinary units, where the entire team teaches on the same general topic from the perspective of different disciplines.

Sometimes intermediate schools go before middle school, sometimes middle school goes before junior high school, and a few times middle school goes before intermediate school. In most cases, however, the middle school (according to the middle school concept) is seen as an alternative and a replacement to the junior high and intermediate school. The middle school format has now replaced schools using the junior high format by a ratio of about ten to one in the U.S. In Canada, the junior high concept is primarily seen in Western Canada, while middle schools to US-standards are generally only seen in Ontario and parts of Atlantic Canada, where they are sometimes called senior elementary schools.

See also: Secondary education in the United States, Education in Canada.

Professional organizations[]

The National Middle School Association (NMSA) was founded in 1973. It now claims over 30,000 members representing principals, teachers, central office personnel, professors, college students, parents, community leaders, and educational consultants across the United States, Canada, and 46 other countries. An equivalent organisation operates in the UK under the name of The National Middle Schools' Forum.

See also[]

Further reading[]

  • Arnold, J. "Needed: A Realistic Perspective of the Early Adolescent Learner." CLEARINGHOUSE 54:4 (1980).
  • Beane, J. "Dance to the Music of Time: The Future of Middle Level Education." THE EARLY ADOLESCENT MAGAZINE 2 (September 1987):18–26.
  • Beane, J. A MIDDLE SCHOOL CURRICULUM: FROM RHETORIC TO REALITY. Columbus, Ohio: National Middle School Association, 1990a.
  • Cross Keys Middle School. A PLACE OF OUR OWN. Florissant, Missouri: Florissant Public Schools, 1990.
  • Jennings, W., and Nathan, J. "Startling/Disturbing Research on School Program Effectiveness." PHI DELTA KAPPAN 59 (1977): 568–572.
  • Fenwick, J. (Primary Author) Taking Center Stage: A Commitment to Standards-Based Education for California's Middle Grades Students. Sacramento: California Department of Education, 2001

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