Primary education generally begins when children are four to seven years of age. The division between primary and secondary education is somewhat arbitrary, but it generally occurs at about twelve years. Primary and secondary education together are sometimes referred to as K-12 (kindergarten through twelfth grade), especially in Canada and the United States.
Typically, primary education is provided in schools, where (in the absence of parental movement or other intervening factors) the child will stay, in steadily advancing classes, until they complete it and move on to secondary schooling. Children are usually placed in classes with one teacher who will be primarily responsible for their education and welfare for that year. This teacher may be assisted to varying degrees by specialist teachers in certain subject areas, often music or physical education. The continuity with a single teacher and the opportunity to build up a close relationship with the class is a notable feature of the primary education system. Over the past few decades, schools have been testing various arrangements which break from the one-teacher, one-class mold.
The major goals of primary education are achieving basic literacy and numeracy[?] amongst all their students, as well as establishing foundations in science, geography, history and other social sciences. The relative priority of various areas, and the methods used to teach them, are an area of considerable political debate.
Traditionally, various forms of corporal punishment have been an integral part of early education. Recently this practice has come under attack, at least in Western countries.