The Scottish education system is comparable in many ways with the education system of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

National curriculum

Scotland has a national curriculum for primary and secondary education: the Curriculum for Excellence. The curriculum consists of 2 phases:

The complete curriculum has 5 levels:

  • Early level: pre-school education and Primary 1 (P1).
  • First level: Primary 2-Primary 4 (P2-P4).
  • Second level: Primary 5-Primary 7 (P5-P7).
  • Third/fourth level: Secondary 1-Secondary 3 (S1-S3).
  • Senior phase: Secondary 4-Secondary 6 (S4-S6).

Primary education

In Scotland, pupils from 5 to 12 years of age attend primary education; starting in P1 going up to P7.

Lower secondary education

Primary and lower secondary education are collectively called broad general education. Lower secondary education lasts 3 years (S1-S3) and is compulsory for students aged 12 to 15. They take national courses in 8 different curriculum areas:

  • expressive arts;
  • health and wellbeing;
  • languages;
  • mathematics;
  • religious and moral studies;
  • sciences;
  • social studies; and
  • technologies.

Students are offered courses at various levels, the National Qualifications (since 2013-2014). They take courses at the following levels:

  • National 1
  • National 2
  • National 3

Information on all levels can be found on the website of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

Upper secondary education

The upper level of secondary education lasts 3 years (S4-S6) and is called the senior phase. Compulsory education ends after the 1st year of the senior phase (S4), when students are 16 years of age. Like in the lower phase, students take subjects at a variety of levels. The upper level of secondary education has 4 levels:

  • National 4
  • National 5
  • Higher
  • Advanced Higher

Students conclude the senior phase with exams for a Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC).

Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC)

  • Duration: 3 years.
  • Content: students can choose from different subjects, the national courses. They are allowed to take these courses at different levels at the same time. Students are sometimes permitted to skip lower levels. Their results for the subjects are listed on their diploma.
  • Diploma: Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC), awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

We compare the Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) with 4 Highers to a HAVO diploma.

We compare the Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) with 4 Highers and 2 Advanced Highers to a VWO diploma.

Scottish baccalaureate

When a student successfully completes a specific combination of Highers and Advanced Highers and an Interdisciplinary Project, they will have attained a Scottish baccalaureate. There are 4 disciplines: expressive arts, languages, science and social sciences.