High School Teachers





The Curricula of Various Countries 



Belgium Bulgaria  Czech Republic
Ecuador Finland Germany  Greece
Hungary Int. Baccalaureate Ireland Italy


Norway Poland Portugal
South Africa

Slovak Republic

Spain Switzerland


United States Sweden




There is an official document by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture regarding the Austria school-system at www.bmuk.gv.at/eu/epages/index.htmthat gives quite a lot of profound information to the interested even in the historical development of the Austrian education system. 

In 1999 Bettina Burger wrote that: 

First I want to explain this one of my school type: This is a high school with focus on engineering. 

Physics is taught only three years with two lessons per week. Because this school type does not only grant university access but enables the students to pursue a highly qualified occupation in trade and industry, the subject is called applied physics. That means, that the students should know and be able to apply the physical laws and methods which are relevant for their engineering practice. The curriculum contains that for describing connections mathematics, symbolic language, scientific terminology, graphics, tables and formulas have to be used. It is very general, so each teacher can decide the details for himself. It does not mention experiments nor how to assess the work. 

The curriculum of a "normal" high school is very different, it is much longer and contains details. It specifies what the students must know before they start any topic, what are fundamental idea, goal, contents, characteristic experiments, applications and connections with daily life and other subjects like biology, chemistry. It contents different forms of teaching and that experiments form a significant part of teaching. At least one of the suggested experiments had to be carried out.



Belgium is a federal state with three policy levels: the federal state, the communities and the regions. 

The three communities are the Flemish Community, the French Community and the German-speaking Community with respectively 55,84%, 43,62% and 0,54% of the overall number of pupils (percentages for '94 '95). 

Constitutional freedom of education led to the organization of three educational networks: 

Each network is free to develop its own curricula. 

On the webpage of the Education Department of the Ministry of the Flemish Community www.ond.vlaanderen.be/

more information can be found on: 

More detailed information on the content of the syllabuses in Flanders can be found on www.argo.be/ for the community education and subsidized official education, and on www.vsko.be/ for the subsidized private education of catholic origin. 

To give an idea: in the syllabus of the 'general education' branch of a secondary private school the main topics for physics are: 

3th year :    properties of matter, optics 
4th year :    forces, work, energy, power, pressure, laws of gasses 
5th year :    electrodynamics and electric structure of the solid state, electromagnetism, nuclear physics (only for some of the students) 
6th year :    kinematics, dynamics, periodical phenomena

Very little ideas of quantum mechanics, relativity or high energy physics are included, unless individual teachers take the initiative to do so. There is a tendency to diminish the hours of the physics courses in the 3th and 4th year of this general education branch of the secondary school! 



Here you will find a PowerPoint presentation about the school system.



Czech Republic

Fig. 1: Schema of Czech school system

Physics at school

Basic school

Gymnazium or high school which prepares students for university study









To be able to use correctly the international system units of measurement and the apparatus to measure used in the physics laboratory;

To put in practice the mathematical knowledge the students have to study vectors, the rectilinear movements, the curved movements and others;

Understand the sequence of the physical phenomena and interpret them in mathematical expressions in the study of the different topics that we will work with in this level.



1. Diagnostic
2. Physic Notions of the Universe
3. Magnitude y measures
4. Vectors
5. Rectilinear Movements
6. Movement of a plane
7. Dynamic
8. Fundamental Forces of Nature
9. Energy and its conservation
10. Static.
11. Fluids





- To understand the physical phenomenon related to the topics of the program;

- Transform the physical phenomenon into mathematical equations for solving problems;

- Make experiments and measures of the Physical phenomenon making use of scientific criterion;

- To understand the importance that the applications of the topics of Physics have for the technical and economic development of our country.

1. Mechanic of fluids

Simple harmonic movement
Elastic waves in material media.



WEEKLY SCHEDULE : 6 hours per week.


By the end of the school year the student will be able to:

Understand the natural phenomenon and their specific characteristics; scientific terms, concepts and conventionalities of Physics.

Translate into mathematical, symbolic and graphic expressions, the different physical phenomenon that rules the laws of electricity, resistance and intensity.


Electric Field
Potential gradient
Magnetic Field
Induced electromotive force
Alternating Current




A very short comment on high school physics teaching in Greece and the relevant syllabus would be the very common one about having too much theory versus lab work. This is supposed to being changing in the context of a broad educational reform which is attempted by now. The reform involves changes in curriculum, school books and assessment. However,not much about particle physics can be found in the new syllabus. 

The Greek school system in few lines has as follows: 

i) Primary school (6-12 years old) 
ii) Gymnasium (12-15 years old) 
iii) Lyceum (15-18 years old)

Primary school and Gymnasium are compulsory. The curriculum includes integrated science teaching for the last two years at primary school, whereas physics is taught as a separate science from the second year at Gymnasium onward. An educational reform focussing on Lyceum curriculum was launched in school year 1997-1998 and will be completed in 1999-2000. Thus, an attempt of making some comments on the new physics syllabus for Lyceum would be risky. Although more time is dedicated to lab-work it seems that again, teaching theory is predominant. The syllabus update on the other hand, does not meet the need for including QMS and particle physics. 

For some information contact the Ministry of Education at: www.ypepth.gr and the Hellenic Pedagogical Institute at: www.pi.schools.gr

Germany - Saxony only

Curriculum Overview - Mittelschule (grade 5 - 10, age 12 - 16)

Grade 6

Optics (17)
Mechanics (20)
Thermodynamics (18)

Grade 7

Mechanics (20)
Electricity (23)
Energy in Nature and Technology (12)

Grade 8


Electricity (12)
Fluid and Gas Mechanics (16)
Thermodynamics (27)

Grade 9 
Students with lower ability leave the Mittleschule after grade 9.

Electricity (19/25)
Mechanics (15/20)
Radioactivity (5/0)
Experiments (6/10)

Grade 10
Students have to choose an examination in physics, chemistry or biology.

Mechanical Oscillations and Waves (6)
Electromagnetic Waves (8)
Nuclear Physics (6)
Preparation for Exams (5)


Curriculum Overview - Gymnasium (grade 5 - 12, age 12 - 18)

Grade 6

Optics (17)
Mechanics (20)
Thermodynamics (18)

Grade 7

Mechanics (20)
Electricity (23)
Energy in Nature and Technology (12)

Grade 8

Electricity (12)
Fluid and Gas Mechanics (16)
Thermodynamics (27)

Grade 9

Electricity (15/35)
Mechanics (10/30)
Experiments (0/20)
In grades 9 and 10 there is a special profile with more science lessons.

Grade 10

Mechanic Oscillations and Waves (7/11)
Electromagnetic Oscillations and Waves (6/14)
Optics (0/9)
Experiments (6/11)
Nuclear Physics (6/10)

Grade 11

Mechanics (45/75)
Electricity (45/75)

Grade 12

Optics, Atom- and Nuclear Physics (45/75)
Thermodynamics (30/30)
Special Relativity (0/20)
Students can choose a "Leistungkurs" with 5 hours per week or "Grundkurs" with 3 hours per week. If they have chosen the  "Leistungkurs" there is an exam after grade 12.


Curriculum Overview Berufliches Gymnasium (grade 11 - 13, age 17 - 19)


Grade 11

Mechanics (76)

Grade 12

Electricity (60)
Oscillations and Waves (25)
Experiments (20)

Grade 13

Waves (25)
Quantum Physics (20)
Solid State Physics (14)
Choice (14)

· Relativity and Cosmology

· Elementary Particles

· Thermodynamics and Synergetics

· Nuclear Physics

(23) Students can chose an examination in physicas after grade 13.




The Hungarian system of school in main lines: The school is obligatory for all the children from 6 to 16. 

Primary school.   from 6 to 14 8 levels
Secondary school. Three main types    
  Gymnasium to prepare for university from 14 to 18. 4 levels finishing with final examination.
  Technical high school to learn profession, and to prepare for university from 14 to 18. 4 level finishing with final examination.
  Vocational school to learn profession from 14 to 17; it is not enough to go to the university.  

Physics in the school: 
    Start: 6th level, in the primary school 2 hours/week 
                     Topics: Properties of matter (atoms, molecules), mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, optics, astronomy. They use in this time only a little mathematics, enough for the topics. 
    Secondary:  Generally 4 years 2 hours/week 
                        Properties of matter, the motion of atoms, structure of atoms, modeling, boundaries, connection between the world of atoms and macroscopic world, thermodynamics. 
                        Mechanics, dynamics, circular motion, harmonic motion,  waves. 
                        Optics, electricity, magnetism, electromagnetic fields. 
                        Modern physics, quantum mechanics, relativity, astronomy 

The students have to solve lot of exercises, and they can choose physics as a subject of final examination. 

Connection to Hungarian Educational Ministerium:  www.om.hu/

International Baccalaureate (IB)

IB. This is a worldwide organization which offers, currently, two schemes: the Middle Years programme for 11 to 16 year olds and the Diploma programme for post-16 students. 

The Diploma Programme. This is an intensive two-year programme of study whose basic aim is to provide a broad-based education in preparation for university studies. Students study six subjects covering the full range of arts, science, humanities and languages. These subjects are studied at either Standard or Higher levels, the difference being in the time allocation and syllabus quantity, not in the intellectual level expected. In addition they follow a course called Theory of Knowledge (philosophy and thinking skills), a social programme called Community, Action and Service, and must produce a 4000 word Extended Essay. Grading for academic subjects is on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 7 (highest). The students must also pass the other three compulsory elements, which can gain them bonus points. In total a student can achieve 45 points and typically will need 40+ to gain entry to a top university. 

Physics in the IB. This is a very modern course in its content and very practically based in its philosophy. The syllabus contains all of the essential, usual physics in its six core topics but does have more modern physics than most in the Atomic & Nuclear topic. Additionally two option topics are also studies from a range of five. These range from Optics to Relativity. The syllabus has a strong practical element. Students must spend approximately a quarter of their time on experimental work, which is teacher assessed throughout the two years and then submitted for moderation. In all it counts for 24% of a students overall grade. 

All the science subject syllabi are currently beginning a review process but the results of these will not come into effect until 2002. 

Being an international scheme the full programme is also available in French and Spanish (as well as English) and possibly others too. 

For more information and contact details refer to the International Baccalaureate site at www.ibo.org



Second Level Education in Ireland

In Ireland students at second level may opt to study science; which is composed of physics, chemistry, biology and applied science for the first three years at the end of which they take the Junior Certificate Examination. Then they may opt for a Transition Year programme of one-year duration after which they commence the two-year Leaving Certificate Programme. The Leaving Certificate is offered in three forms:

o The Leaving Certificate: used for purposes of selection into further education, employment, training and higher education.

o The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme: students study two subjects from specified vocational subject groupings and take three Link Modules on Enterprise Education, Preparation for Work and Work Experience.

o The Leaving Certificate Applied: designed for students who do not wish to proceed directly to third level education or whose needs, aspirations and aptitudes are not adequately catered for with existing programmes. This programme is structured around three main elements: Vocational Preparation, Vocational Education, and General Education. This programme is characterised by educational experiences of an active, practical and student-centred nature.

More details of the Irish education system can be found at http://www.irlgov.ie/educ/

A revised physics syllabus was implemented in 2000. There have been some major changes; notably the introduction of particle physics as an option and the inclusion of science, technology and society so that the role of physics in the everyday world can be appreciated.

Students must follow a course of practical work and data logging has been introduced to aid teachers and students in this work.

The syllabus includes the following topics:
o MECHANICS: Motion, Forces, Energy.
o HEAT: Quantity of heat, Heat transfer
o LIGHT: Reflection, Refraction, and Wave Nature of Light
o ELECTRICITY: Charges, Electric Field, Capacitance, Electric Current,
o Electromagnetism,
o MODERN PHYSICS: The Electron, The Nucleus

Higher-level students can choose either PARTICLE PHYSICS or APPLIED ELECTRICITY as an option.

Particle Physics includes the following topics: Conservation of energy and momentum in nuclear reactions, Acceleration of protons, Converting mass into other forms of energy, Converting other forms of energy into mass, Fundamental forces of nature, Families of particles, Anti-matter, Quark model.

The full version of the physics syllabus can be found at:


Here you will find a PowerPoint presentation on Education in Ireland.




The whole Italian education sistem will be renewed in the next years (starting from 2001-2002 school year). A special commission is working on the new curriculum and at the moment nobody knows what really is going to happen (July 2000). Nevertheless the national association of physics teachers (AIF) has proposed for few years a framework describing important goals and topics which should be taken into account in setting up new curricula. The draft of the proposal provides for the following topics: 

biennium of secondary school (students age 14-15 years):

1)  from materials properties to matter properties     2)  energy  3)   strengths and movement    4)  communication (waves, sound, light)   5)  electric and magnetic phenomena  6)  interaction and equilibrium  7)  microcosm and macrocosm 

key words: mass, charge, field, energy, frame of reference, equilibrium, interaction, causality, microscopic structure of matter. 

triennium of secondary school (high school students 16-18 years):

the following in addition to the previous key words: electron, quantum, invariants, wave-particle, decay, radioactivity, entropy, standard model. 

        for further   informations look at the AIF site  http://www.a-i-f.it 


Teaching Modern Physics in Dutch High Schools. 

Main aim of the project: Develop a series of ~35 lessons about modern physics. Have them tested in the classroom. Write a proposal for examination terms 

Relevant student background: A more or less standard High School curriculum containing classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, waves, geometrical and wave optics, and radioactivity 

The contents of the course: 
  * Main topic: Introducing a 'quantum picture' of matter. 
Other topics were dropped, sometimes reluctantly, to avoid overloading the program. Accordingly, the proposed core program contains, for instance, no relativity theory, except for an ad hoc introduction of E = mc2, necessary for treating nuclear and particle interactions. However, for interested students there are some possibilities of spending additional time on extra courses. 

* Main difficulty: Quantum Mechanics is a 'difficult' theory. 
This holds for students, even for most physics students, and it will certainly be true for almost all high school students. Therefore, a high school course must be very elementary, but how does one achieve this? Can such an "elementary course" be realized at all? 

What makes QM difficult? 
* Mathematical difficulties 
* Conceptual difficulties 

For students, the mathematical difficulties get most of the attention but (as a consequence?) Students tend to see Quantum Mechanics as a mathematical exercise, with no direct relation to physical reality. 

There are more details of this programme. 



In the 3-year High School covering age groups 16-19 years, there is a compulsory 5 periods a week general science course that includes biology, chemistry and physics. This is taken the first year. In the second and third years we offer two physics courses (2FY and 3FY) each of 5 periods a week. About 30 % take 2FY while about two third of these continue with 3FY. Both courses are algebra based, but 3FY is more mathematical than 2FY. For instance: The difficult parts of mechanics including projectile motion, circular motion and Newton's laws on vector form are done in 3FY. The syllabus also emphasize conceptual understanding, scientific methods, experimental work including data logging, history of physics and environmental problems. In 2FY the students may be selected for an oral exam including a practical part. This exam is set by the teacher and marked by an external examiner. For 3FY most students have to sit for a written exam set by a national examination board, but some may also be selected for an oral exam as in 2FY. All student are marked by there teacher independently of these final exams. The complete syllabus can be found on the following website: skolenettet.nls.no/.  Go from "Laereplaner" to "Videregaend opplaering" to "Velg studieretning" to "Fysikk FY+3FY". (The syllabus is in Norwegian.) 



Added by hst 2000. The school system in Poland is being reorganized. It changes from 8 years of primary school + 4 years of high school (lyceum) to 6 years of primary school  + 3 years of gymnasium + 3 years of high school (lyceum). The changes started last year and at the moment we have two levels of gymnasium existing. The new lyceum will start its program in September 2002. Physics, as a separate subject, starts in  the gymnasium. Gymnasium is supposed to give  basic understanding of physical phenomena. Further physics education will be given in lyceum at a level depending on the profile of the particular lyceum. The idea of reorganization is not only to change the school structure. The MAIN AIM of the " New School" is to make it MORE CREATIVE.

Basic concepts for new physics program (3-year high school - lyceum)

Ages: 16, 17, 18. To be started in 2002.

1. Vibrations, energy transformations, amplitude, period, frequency, applications of harmonic oscillator model in the description of physical phenomena. 
2. Relations between macroscopic properties of matter and its microscopic structure, different types of electrical conductors, physical basis of microelectronics, varieties of crystal and magnetic structures of solid state, phase transitions. 
3. Model of macroscopic object. Thermodynamic processes, reversible and irreversible processes, statistical character of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, entropy. 
4. Propagation of disturbances in media, mechanical waves, wavelength, velocity of the wave, interference and diffraction, sound and its properties. 
5. Light as a wave, electromagnetic spectrum, colours, reflection and refraction of light, optical instruments. 
6. Quantum model of light, photoelectric effect. 
7. Atom models, spectral analysis, laser. 
8. Waves of matter, experiments corroborating wave nature of particles. 
9. Modern physics tools and their role in discovering world of atoms and particles, elementary particles and their place in the history of the Universe. 
10. 4 types of interactions: gravitational, electromagnetic, weak, strong 
11. Structure of the Universe, cosmological models, astronomical observations, astrophysics. 
12. Relativistic effects, equivalence of mass and energy. 
13. Nuclear energy, radioactivity and its applications. 
14. Physics and philosophy, time, space, motion, causality and average causality in the Universe, measurements and uncertainty principle, basic concepts of methodology of science, inductive and deductive methods, statistical methods.

From hst 1999. Youth Palace, Katowice. 
Physics faculty was invented and created there by Urszula Woznikowska-Bezak. It all stared with the question that she asked herself: 
- What programs should be realized to attract young people to the physics faculty ? 
- How to achieve the assumed results and the groups acceptance of the goals ? 
- How to avoid methods based on formal teaching ? 
There are also appeared new aspects of today: 
- Spreading knowledge about the significance of physics among the people of the European Union. 
- Care of the new generation of physicists. 

The answer seemed to be simple - it is better to know only a little piece of knowledge than to misunderstand a big one, and a good start of effective learning in physics lies in creating a specific atmosphere, based on conversations and physical contact between both of the sides participating in the process of learning. 

Mostly this is realized in pupils` after-school weekly sessions but also with experiments in Research Institutes, at Summer and Winter Physics Schools where they present their interests, talk, sing and enjoy life itself. 
Here has grown an idea to create a common sphere of meetings with physics. For the most interested can be included competitions: 

Pupils who come to us gain experience of being independent and having freedom of decision about what to do with their spare time and future. And...... 

We had a discussion about teaching curricula and the ways of working with them based on the curriculum shown by Maria Kusmierek from Poland, which she uses in her experimental class. It seems that all Physics teachers meet the same problems, the most important of which is that there is less and less time given to teaching Physics. Besides in some countries the teacher has to follow strictly the official syllabus, in others he (or she) is less restricted. Another problem is that very often the teaching is mainly limited to lectures given by the teacher and to solving physical problems mathematically (eg Italy). Because of the shortage of time and because of the 'theoretical' way of teaching sometimes pupils do not see a single experiment, do nothing with their own hands, and learn nothing about modern Physics like basic quantum mechanics, nuclear physics or particle physics. Those who try to include these topics find out that most of the pupils are very interested in them. Even if we give rather simple explanations of the problems there is always a group which probes deeper. Some of us have already found out that it is worth starting by showing the pupils what matter is built of, going up to the quarks and then connecting it with the history of the Universe. For beginners one can explain things practically without mathematics, building up the mathematical apparatus later according to the needs and ability of the pupils. Also we find out that experiments not only make lessons more interesting, but allow pupils to understand and to remember the lessons better - so it is worth trying .... 



General curricula structure

In Portugal the school system is composed of Basic School (compulsory) and Secondary School (optional). Basic School is for six to fifteen years old students and it is divided in three stages: first stage (4 yrs duration), second stage (2 yrs) and third stage (3 yrs). Secondary School is for students from the age of fifteen (3 yrs duration).

From the beginning of Basic School some elementary concepts of Physics are taught and reinforced throughout the second stage as part of the Natural Sciences subject. In the eighth and ninth years (third stage) students are formally introduced to Physics in Physics-Chemistry Sciences subject– half split between both disciplines – with three lessons of fifty minutes each per week. The Mathematical concepts covered in Basic School are adequate to understand Physics-Chemistry concepts.

In Secondary School all subjects are grouped in four blocs. Physics is part of the first bloc together with Maths, Chemistry and others. In the first two years (tenth and eleventh years) of Secondary School students study Physics-Chemistry together in four lessons of fifty minutes each per week. In the third and last year of Secondary School (twelfth year) students opt from Physics, Chemistry and other subjects (five lessons of fifty minutes a week).

During Secondary School, the students learn Classical Mechanics – starting by Energy, Dynamics and Kinematics concepts, ending with vector and differential analysis in the 12.th school year -, Stationary DC Electrical Current, Gravitational and Electrostatic Fields, ending the 12.th school year with an Introduction to the Electromagnetic Field. (In the subject of Chemistry, in the 12.th school year, they learn the Theory of Molecular Orbitals and main Quantum Numbers for the atom).


Curricula Revision

In the next school year, a new curriculum will be implemented in Basic and, afterwards, Secondary Schools, starting from the fifth year onwards, which will allow, among many others, the following specializations:

• General Course of Natural Sciences

• General Course of Sciences and Technologies


• Technological Course of Civil Construction

• Technological Course of Electrotechnics/Electronics

• Technological Course of Informatics

• Technological Course of Mechanics

• Technological Course of Chemistry and Environment Control

• Technological Course of Environment and Nature Conservation

At present, only the sketch of the tenth year new syllabus of Physics and Chemistry subjects is known. In this sketch, Physics and Chemistry are inserted in the main scientific and technological courses. Physics and Chemistry subject of the 10.th school year will consist of four didactical units: “From the stars until the atom”, “In Earth’s atmosphere: radiation, matter and structure”, “From Sun to the heating” and “Energy in motions”. There will also be a so-called subject Project-Area, where other themes like Particle Physics can be introduced.
         We hope that the introduction of the new curriculum will offer opportunities for the teaching of Physics.

Want to know more? Use the following Internet links

Basic School

 Secondary School

 Alternative Paths in Basic and Secondary School

 Higher Education

The older version of curricula written by HST'99.



South African education training system is classified in four phases:


   Institution           Age group (in years)    Grade/level       Duration

Primary schools           6-12                          1-6                    6yrs

Middle   schools        13-15                           7-9                    3yrs

High       schools        16-19                         10-12                  3yrs



Some schools are government subsidized and others are private. The private schools are compelled to register with department of education so as to ensure commonality in curriculum and syllabi.


Compulsory education is for ages from 6yrs to 19yrs.


All schools are following a common curriculum and syllabi, which are determined by the government. Every school must teach a minimum of six subjects, two of which must be an official language and any other approved language, and at least three contents.


Physics is taught at primary as part of general science (Biology, Physics and Chemistry), and as part of physical science (Physics and Chemistry) in secondary school

Physics is taught for at least seven periods a week (45min. per period) ,for at least one semester.


High schools physics is as follows:



·        Waves

·        Light

·        Sound

·        Electricity

·        Electromagnetic effects

·        Atomic structure




·        Newton’s laws of motion

·        Law of universal gravitation

·        Momentum

·        Work, energy and power

·        Electrostatic

·        Electricity



Slovak Republic

The System of Education in the Slovak Republic: 

Level Age group Educational Institution
0 2 - 6 years Kindergarten
1 6 - 14 years Primary school 
2 14 - 18 years Secondary school
3 18 - X* years University

* Graduates of a University are various ages It depends on the academic grade and studied subject 
Organizational Chart of the School System in the Slovak Republic 

Primary and Secondary schools in the Slovak Republic
In the Slovak Republic education continues the old tradition of a high level of education existing in Central Europe. It follows the civil rights to education, which should reflect the basic human values included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Right to education is laid down in the Constitution of the Slovak Republic. 
Education in the Slovak Republic is conceived not only as a factor of personality development, social adaptability and working ability of citizens but as a factor of democracy and society development while respecting the equality of ethnic rights and rights of national minorities. 
The education system in the Slovak Republic has 3 levels of education: the first level - primary education, the second level - secondary education and tertiary level - higher education. An integrated part of the education system is represented by preschool education as well as the further education and adult education. Since 1990 several significant changes have occurred in the education system, and namely: education has been differentiated, education in the spirit of patriotism, humanity and democracy has been intensified and the stress has been laid on moral, aesthetic and ecological education, and, on foreign language teaching. 
Considerable diversification takes place in higher education. The range of schools founders enlarged, private and church-affiliated schools have been established, and the possibilities and forms of further education have been increased. 
The system of primary and secondary education system comprises: primary schools, primary art schools, apprentice schools, secondary vocational schools, grammar schools, secondary specialized schools and special schools. A contingent part of the education are also the educational establishments. 
In the Slovak Republic the 9-year compulsory school attendance has been established to be accomplished at primary schools, or also at the first year of the 
secondary school. The primary and secondary education is free of charge, however, non-state schools may also charge tuition fee. 
Education for the children and youth of the Hungarian, Ukrainian, Ruthenian, Polish and German nationality is carried out in their mother tongue. The founder of the primary and secondary schools is, as a rule, a local educational authority, however, the physical persons and legal entities (in case of private schools) as well as church or church societies (in case of church-affiliated schools) may be founders of primary and secondary schools, too. 

Secondary schools
Secondary schools provide pupils with the complete secondary education, secondary specialized education and higher professional education. At the same time, they prepare the students for their occupation and activities in the national economy, administration, culture, art and other branches of life. Besides, they prepare students for study at universities. 

Secondary vocational school - Apprentice schools 
Apprentice schools prepare pupils in 2-year apprentice branches with specially adapted curricula for performance of non-demanding workers trades. Secondary vocational schools provide the complete secondary vocational education in 2-year and 3-year branches of study completed by a final examination. The 4-year study provides the complete secondary vocational education completed by a school-leaving examination. Secondary vocational schools ensure not only theoretical and practical parts of education but also extra-curricular education. 
Secondary specialized schools - Secondary economical, technical, art ... school 
Secondary specialized schools prepare students particularly for the performance of various special activities mainly for occupations in technical and economic 
spheres, economy, health, social work, education, art, culture and administration. These schools prepare also pupils for their study at higher education institutions. It takes as a rule 4 years to complete the study at secondary specialized schools, with the exception of hotel academies, where it takes 5 years, conservatoires have 6-year courses of study and conservatoires of dance 8-year courses. The study at secondary school is completed by a school-leaving examination. A variety of secondary specialized schools exists in the Slovak Republic: technical schools, secondary schools of geodesy, agriculture, forestry, health care, horticulture, floristry, viniculture, fruit-growing, commercial academies, hotel academies, social and law academies, school of library and information science, teacher training, specialized schools for girls, schools of utility art design, conservatoires, conservatoires of dance, secondary schools of art and vocational schools. 
Grammar schools - Preparation school for higher education 
Grammar school is a type of school with general education internally differentiated and preparing the pupils, first and foremost, for further study at higher education institutions and also for some occupations or activities in administration, culture and other spheres of social life. Study at a grammar school lasts 4 years at least and 8 years at most. The Curriculum at grammar schools is differentiated according to specializations: mathematics, mathematics - physics, biology and chemistry, environmental education and foreign languages, programming, cultural-educational activity, physical education, art education and bilingual study. Two foreign languages are compulsory while Slovak language and literature and the second foreign language are compulsory at grammar schools with Hungarian or Ukrainian teaching languages. The bilingual study of Slovak-English, French-German, Spanish and Italian languages has been introduced at 14 grammar schools. At 69 grammar schools an 8-year course of study has been established. 

Physics in schools
In the first and second year, all of the students have an average of 3 periods (45 minutes each) of physics per week. Two periods are for classroom instruction for all students (about 35). The students are divided into three groups. Each group has laboratory time consisting of three consecutive periods once every three weeks. In third and fourth year they can choose to study at a higher level or at the standard level. Standard level studies 2 periods per week. Higher level studies 4 or 5 periods per week. 

Syllabus outline:
1st year:  Mechanics: Kinematics concepts, linear motion with constant acceleration, concept of force and mass, Newton's laws, linear momentum, work, energy and power, rotational motion of a rigid body. Fluids, Circular motion, Universal gravitation, Projectile motion, 
2nd.year:  Thermal physics and properties of matter: Specific heat capacity, specific latent heat, thermal properties of gases. Electrostatic and electrodynamics: Electric force field and potential, electromagnetic induction, direct current in conductors, semiconductors, electrolytes and gasses, Ohm's law, and Kirchoff's laws. 
3rd year: Magnetic field, simple harmonic motion, alternating current, waves, sound, electromagnetic waves 
4th year: Ray optics and wave optics, general relativity, quantum concept, atomic and nuclear physics and astrophysics. 

IB. The students have special curriculum during 2 years. The curriculum contains six academic areas: language A (Slovak), B (English), individuals and society, experimental science, mathematics and the arts and electives. At last three and not more than four are taken at higher level the others at subsidiary or standard level. HL courses represent 240 teaching hours, SL courses cover 150 hours. 
IB Syllabus outline.
Measurement, Mechanics, Thermal physics and properties of matter, waves, electricity and magnetism, Atomic and nuclear physics, 2 options (Mechanics extension, atomic and nuclear physics extension, energy extension, Biomedical physics, historical physics, Astrophysics, Special and general relativity, Optics). 

In physics all of the students are required to spend at least 25% of their teaching time following an internally assessed scheme of practical investigative work, related to all aspects of the programme, including the options. 

Ministry of Education of the Slovak Republic - http://www.education.gov.sk/zs/mshome.html

The National Council of the Slovak Republic
The Higher Education Act of the National Council of the Slovak Republic - http://www.education.gov.sk/news/vszakan.html
Slovak National Council Act on Further Education - http://www.education.gov.sk/zs/25.html
The conditions for applicants for the scholarship of the Government of the Slovak Republic - http://www.education.gov.sk/sms/21eng.html
Higher Education - http://www.education.gov.sk/univ/home10.html



Compulsory Secondary Schooling begins for students at age twelve and ends when they reach the age of sixteen. The contents of the physics curriculum are split into three groups: 1) subject knowledge, 2) procedures, and 3) attitudes. 

Physics at secondary level (grade 3) is a compulsory subject (two periods per week). Students of grade four choose Physics as a specialized course (three lessons per week) or Laboratory Techniques (two periods a week). The number of students in one class is between 20 and 30. If there are more than 20 pupils, it is impossible to do laboratory works with the class as a whole group. In this case, the class is split for these practical lessons. All schools have equipment; usually the number of equipment sets is five. 

The post-mandatory education system lasts two years and leads to the university entrance qualification. . Students can choose four different types of bac (or graduating degrees): Science, Technology, Social Sciences and Fine Arts. In the first year the subjects are obligatory, and for the last one it is a system of compulsory and optional subjects. Those pupils who study Science bac will take four periods of Physics each week in their first year. Physics (four periods per week) is an obligatory subject at second year while Applied Physics (four lessons per week) is an optional subject. 

Here you can see a PowerPoint presentation on Physics Education in Spain.




Switzerland is a small country, in size about as large as the German Bundesland of Bavaria; but it has many different school systems. Each of the 25 Cantons (states or provinces) actually has its own school system. People with children can thus have problems when they want to move from one Canton to another. 

  Duration Age at the beginning
Primary School 5 - 6 years 4 - 6 years
Secondary School I 2 - 4 years 10 - 12 years
Secondary School II 3 - 4 years 14 - 16 years

Compulsory education ends after Secondary School I; afterwards most of the young people start an apprenticeship, and about 20% attend Secondary School II. The final examination at the end of secondary school II is called "Maturität" and is comparable to the "Abitur" in Germany or to the "Baccalauréat" in France. The "Maturität" is the condition to start studying at a University or at one of the Institutes of Technology. There is no "Numerus Clausus". 

At Secondary School II every student has to take Physics (the other compulsory subjects are German, English, French, History, Earth Science, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Arts and Sports). Students have to attend at least two lessons every week for a period of three years (generally during the last years before the final examination). More interested students can attend up to three or sometimes even four lessons a week. The curricula give the teachers quite a lot of liberty, although the structure of physics does not allow too many different ways of proceeding. Textbooks are not dictated, and a Swiss physics textbook does not even exist. Unfortunately to students with the minimum curriculum it is almost impossible to teach modern physics, so for  them physics ends at the close of the 19th century.  


UK (England and Wales only)*

Science is part of the National Curriculum, and so students have to study the 3 sciences up to the age of 16, the end of compulsory education.

Since September 2000 the two years of further study traditionally called the sixth form, leading to the ‘A level’ qualification, have been replaced by a two year AS/ A2 structure. Pupils study 3-5 subjects for an AS qualification at the end of the first year, then choose 3-4 subjects to continue studying to A2 level in the second year. AS + A2 is roughly equivalent to the old ‘A level’. Pupils can also study additional subjects at AS level in the second year. The idea is to broaden pupils’ study but it is too early to tell if it is having the desired effect.

Since the impact of the Nuffield project in the '60's, science teaching has become much more experimentally based; 'stage managed heurism', and the more complex ideas are approached conceptually - no calculus!

Although there are many different AS/A2 courses available their content is not hugely different to either the old A level courses or each other because about 60% is nationally specified content. The three English exam boards each produce two Physics syllabi.

Whilst all the syllabi are of necessity new, two are the result of a fundamental rethink: The Institute of Physics has produced the 'Advancing Physics' course, and the Salters Horners project has an application led course, following on from the success of their Chemistry scheme.

All courses have a significant practical component, and most include projects (both practical and library research). The exams are modular and can be taken at two times during the year with the possibility of retaking modules if marks are low.

The exam boards and their courses are:
OCR B - the IoP’s Advancing Physics
EdExcel A
EdExcel B - Salters Horners Physics

*Scotland has its own examination system and will have to wait for a Scottish HST before a description appears here.

The older version of curricula written by HST'00.


United States

The United States of America does not have a national curriculum for physics or any other subject. While some states have established curriculum guidelines, only a few have created standardized assessments to parallel these guidelines. The country as a whole is moving slowly towards statewide standardized testing, but this trend is meeting with great resistance for a number of reasons.

In most public schools, completion of a physics course is not required for graduation. Often only a small fraction of students actually pursue the study of physics in high school. And while some schools offer several levels of physics study (including a calculus-based advanced placement curriculum), some do not offer physics at all.

There are a number of optional standardized tests in physics. The most common is the SAT II, which is a comprehensive, multiple-choice test that requires only basic algebra. There are also two Advanced Placement options. The B-level exam is a very exhaustive survey of physics, including many modern topics, but requiring only advanced algebra. The C-level covers classical mechanics and electromagnetism with single-variable calculus. These tests are mainly used by students to obtain placement and/or credit at the university.

Other trends in teaching physics have aimed at making physics more hands-on, conceptual, and accessible to all students regardless of mathematical proficiency. Part of the reason for this trend is an attempt to attract students to a subject that is often perceived as complicated, technical, and non-intuitive.

The US physics picture is complicated and inconsistent. Here are a few links to learn more:


© CERN and High School Teachers Programme at CERN

Last modified: 18 July 2002