This week, I had my education students look at school schedules from a few different countries. I could have discussed the schedules with them for days and days - I find differences in school systems to be so fascinating.
Most of the schedules I had were from the US. Here are a few points that came up during our class discussions.
Kindergarten in the US is (or can be, depending on location) all day. Looking at a US kindergarten schedule and a Finland sixth grader schedule side-by-side: the kindergartener was in school for longer.
Foreign languages were almost entirely missing from US school schedules. There were a few exceptions. Meanwhile, the Finnish sixth grader was studying Finnish, English, Spanish, and Swedish.
Lunch signup! The Pledge of Allegiance! Assembly! SSR! These were fun things to explain.
Certain subjects are taught more and less in different places. Art and Music were a bit sparse on some of the non-Finnish schedules. I had to explain the concept of a class parent coming in to teach Art Literacy (this was a thing back when I was a kid, too!). Meanwhile, in the UAE, dance and swimming were their own subjects, independent of PE!
In some schools outside of Finland, kids' schedules are basically the same every single day. This was a possible weakness I had never thought of - if a kid has math every day at 11 o'clock before lunch, maybe that will not be so great because then the kid is always hungry during math. In Finland, school schedules (and start and end times) are different every day. It can be confusing, but at least it varies the times and days that children encounter different subjects.
Mini class economies can be fascinating. One schedule noted that Fridays were payday (I assume with good behavior or homework currency), with a class store happening that afternoon. I remember doing something like this in fourth grade and it was so much fun.
PE sometimes means "just wear some tennis shoes." A few of the schedules noted this. In the UAE and in Finland, children have specific PE uniforms, or change at school into PE clothes. In the later elementary grades, they shower after PE.
In some countries/languages, spelling is a subject that has to be taught on its own. Finland doesn't have to deal with spelling because it's a phonetic language (words are pronounced as they are spelled). They focus on syllables instead.
Lesson, recess, and lunch times are different everywhere. I think Finland ended up being the most liberal with recess times, though other school systems had longer lunches (could be a combined recess, though). Finnish lessons last 45 minutes; others were 40 or even 30 minutes long. Some kids were in multiple lessons for stretches of up to 2.5 hours, which was tough to imagine for the Finns (and me, too, honestly).
I enjoyed looking at so many school schedules - it was a walk down memory lane for me to read through the US ones! That afternoon snack time where the teacher reads to you while you sit on the floor and eat pretzels...bliss!