K-12 Education System: Overview


The importance of education in the society cannot be under estimated because getting an education is a starting point in life. The benefits of quality education extend beyond a lifetime of high paid employment prospects for completing it. Quality education has more effects for the more educated individuals, as well as others in general (Kaplan & Owings, 2011, p. 87). Therefore, quality education generates both private and social returns to both the individual pursuing education and the society. However, the quality of education that an individual receives is significantly influenced by the education system which a particular country adopts. Different countries around the world develop, adopt and implement different systems of education depending on their socio-economic, cultural, religious, as well as political opportunities and constraints. K–12 education system is among the most popular public school education system which has been adopted by various countries around the world such as the US, UK, Canada, Qatar, Philippines, as well as in various countries in Europe among many others around the world. The K- 12 education system comprises thirteen grades beginning with kindergarten through to the 12th grade (Brux, 2011, pp. 83-84). The system has been successful for various reasons such as; success of reforms, leadership, highly qualified teachers, student choices, and local school control among others. This paper seeks to define the success of K-12 education and discuss the success of that definition of K-12 education.

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Defining the Success of the K–12 as an Education System

K-12 education system has been successful due to the fact that it is easy to reform in order to attain desirable objectives. Countries such as Qatar, the US and Canada have reformed their K-12 education to conform to their ever changing educational needs. In the US, the K-12 education is compulsory and can be obtained through either privately sponsored or public schools for children who have attained compulsory school going age of between six and eight depend on the state. In the Philippines, K-12 education has been reformed to include of the kindergarten and 12 years of basic education schooling (Official Gazete, 2012). In the UK, the history of the K-12 education system can be traced back to 1918, when the education Act of 1918, popularly referred to as the Fisher Act was enacted in the British parliament. This act influenced numerous aspects of the current K-12 education system, by facilitating the implementation of many changes in the progressive education system. The proponents of this system of education argued that these years were formulated with the objective of providing learners with enough time to master the educational concepts and skills, and become lifelong learners. As such these reforms have been aimed at effectively preparing the graduates for tertiary education, the development of middle-level skills, employment, as well as entrepreneurship.

This K-12 education draws its success from the fact that it is facilitated by highly qualified teachers. Rao (2007, p. 9) notes that K-12 concepts of educational requirements were influenced by adult roles which are broadly defined in nature. As such, these highly qualified teachers in the K-12 educational system take students through a preparatory program which fosters adaptation to future roles and values, such as tertiary education, employment, management, leadership, entrepreneurship, as well as community development. These highly qualified teachers mould students around pre-schooling and childhood curricula programs (Official Gazete, 2012).

K-12 education is successful due to the fact that it provides students with many choices regarding the programs to pursue. The system offers many programs ranging from academic programs, extra curricula programs, sports, vocational training among many others. As such, students who acquire education through this system have many career programs to choose from. Brux (2011, p. 83 and 84) reiterates that K-12 education provides private benefits that are not only enjoyed by a student and their immediate family, but also the society in general. At individual level, a student who goes through the K-12 system of education will earn higher pay, will less likely to be unemployed, and will be exposed to a wider variety of aesthetic experience which will enrich his or her life.

At the society level, K-12 educated individuals are more likely to participate in public life such as electoral processes, have more skills, knowledge, pay more taxes, and less likely to commit crime. Thus, they contribute more towards the output of their country’s economy. These benefits of education provision to individuals, their families and the society in general justifies the states’ provision of K-12 system of education. As such, one of the most significant successes of the K-12 as an education system is its ability to create spill over benefits not only to the students, but also their families and the entire society (Brux, 2011, p. 84). The K-12 education in most countries such as the US, Canada and the UK, involve free primary and secondary education, thus justifying the societal spill over benefits of the K-12 education in these countries.

With regard to leadership, K-12 education has demonstrated success not only with regard to the ease with which the system can be managed and administered but also leadership in terms of educational programs offered. The system produces some of the best graduates around the world. The US National Academy of Engineering (2010, p. 29) postulates that unlike many systems of education in many countries across the world, the K-12 system of education has been regarded as a successful system of education due to the significant role it has played in preparing young people for post K-12 life. Most students who acquire education through the K-12 system of education are highly competent to take up their positions in the post secondary educational institutions, employment opportunities, as well as other responsibilities awaiting them after graduation (US National Academy of Engineering, 2010, p. 29). For instance, the US National Academy of Engineering (2010, p. 29) reiterate that students who acquire education through the K-12 system, are usually well prepared and ready for engineering-related employment opportunities and post secondary training.

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Some of the critical questions with regarding the K-12 education have been; what the society expects from a system of education? What success is, as well as what critical success factors are essential in an education system? According to Jenkins, Roettger and Roettger (2007, p. 55), the most critical success factors with regard to these are learning and enthusiasms. As such, when students still love learning in a school, as well as getting prepared for the next level of education or the available employment opportunities, then such an education system or school can be regarded as successful. With regard to these therefore, the basic understanding is that students gain entry into the K-12 education system through the kindergarten. At this stage, students are highly enthusiastic for life but have minimal skills and knowledge for post K-12 life. The primary objective of a successful system of education is about gain and maintaining attitudes of entry level and not about growth (Jenkins, Roettger & Roettger, 2007, p. 55). The K-12 education system can be considered successful due to the fact that the K-12 system of education has effectively managed to create such success factors or rather objectives at various levels of the education system.

Quality education has been credited for various benefits. According to economic theory, individuals usually make rational decisions regarding acquisition of education as long as they reap returns and bear the costs of such actions. In the US, one of the success points of the K-12 education system is the enforcement of mandatory school attendance, as well as age of dropping out of school laws. If this was not the case, then such decision would be made by parents and children, who in essence may not be in a position to comprehensively appreciate or even understand the full benefits associated with educational achievements. Therefore, by enforcing such school attendance laws, the decision was left in the hand of the state. This is a success because it has ensured that all eligible children gain access to basic or elementary education for free (Hungerford & Wassmer, 2004, p. 18).

K-12 education is successful because it is a system that enhances local school control. In many countries, the system is highly decentralized making it very easy for school administrators to effectively control the school activities. Sykes, Schneider & Plank (2009, p. 87) notes that in the US, K-12 was formulated in a more decentralized manner in order to ensure the provision of quality and equitable education for all eligible children. It can be regarded as being successful because the US K-12 system of education is the most decentralized system of public education in the world. This can be attributed to the fact that the US lacks federal presence in education. As such, with lack of federal absence for education, various states are mandated to provide the public with this crucial societal function. However, from the second half of the 20th century, this started to change as the federal government started getting more involved in education policies. Slaughter-Defoe and colleagues (2012, p. 222), reiterate that despite criticism of the K-12 public school system, not all alternatives to public education are good. As such, they give some credit to the K-12 system of education.

The K-12 education system has also played significant roles with regard to shaping the human capital in the countries where it has been implemented such as Canada, the US, the UK, Philippines and Qatar among others. The system is a preparatory system which ensures children are well equipped with the basic knowledge and information they need to handle various human capital responsibilities. By ensuring that there is an increase in the overall educational attainment, countries which embrace the K-12 educational system have significantly ensured that they increase and maintain their national stock of human capital or rather workforce. This is an economic growth success of the K-12 educational system that enables such countries to increase their aggregate output and income. This is because the productivity of these countries increase with the increase in human capital with the required education, skill, as well as knowledge to produce more goods and services highly valued in the markets. This increases amount of income earned by such countries (Hungerford & Wassmer, 2004, p. 18). Therefore, the quality of human capital in countries such as the US, the UK, Canada, as well as others in Europe is a significant source of economic growth which has been associated with the K-12 educational system.

K-12 education has also been successful with regard to the improvement of the quality of life of those who undergo this system of schooling. Various studies have indicated that there is a positive association between educational achievement and improved quality of life. Additionally, this improved quality of life spills over to all of the society. Other studies have also indicated that there is a positive link between the overall or rather greater educational achievement of an individual and overall or greater health, as well as improved mortality of such an individual, their spouses and children (Hungerford & Wassmer, 2004, p. 19). Many people have gone through the K-12 educational systems and this has significantly improved the quality of their lives. Various programs are offered to children through the K-12 educational system which influences various aspects of their lives in positive ways as to improve their lives. Parents who have attained education through the K-12 education system also have positive contributions to the lives of their children. This is more so because research indicates that parent’s level of education significantly influence their children’s education and cognitive development. Therefore, since many Americans, Britons, Canadians and citizens from many other nations underwent through the K-12 system of education, the system has successfully contributed towards the general improvement of their lives, as well as that of their children and spouses.

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Decision making and choice is a crucial skill in everyday life. Individuals who have gone to school are better placed to make better decisions and choices than their counterparts who did not attend school. In essence, educational achievement is likely to enhance the capacity of individuals in making better decisions and efficient choices. For instance, the K-12 system of education in the US moulds learners to better understand and make viable decisions and realistic choices. As such, schooling under the K-12 system of education enables learners to embrace more efficient consumer activities such shopping for low priced quality goods and services. People who have undergone through the K-12 system of education are in better position to search for jobs at low costs. This is because job search costs are significantly minimized by greater level of education. In a nutshell, education influences how individuals make purely economic choices or decisions, as well as some social decisions (Hungerford & Wassmer, 2004, p. 19). Therefore, the K-12 system of education has over the years successfully provided its graduates with the capacity to make better decisions and efficient choices regarding economic and social situations that they face in everyday life.

Research indicates that the K-12 education has significantly contributed to racial and minority groups of students’ success in the STEM circuit. According to Museus and his colleagues (2011, p. 27), the K-12 system of education has addressed various factors which constrained or rather hindered the racial and minority groups of students from accessing and succeeding in the STEM circuit. Some of these constraints included; funding disparities, availability of resources for most schools in these areas, as well as inadequate or insufficient levels of academic preparation for tertiary levels of education and the available employment opportunities for the racial and minority groups of students. Additionally, these students were previously unable to gain access to latest learning materials and equipments such as the latest books, instructional materials, laboratories, as well as technology. The K-12 system of education has significantly endeavoured to eliminate these constraints with the objective of enhancing the participation and success of the racial and minority groups of students in the STEM circuit (Museus et al., 2011, p. 27).

Education achievement is also linked to the generation and creation of social capital. Systems of education such as K-12 adopted by countries such as the US, the UK, Philippines, Canada, Qatar, among others have successfully contributed towards producing graduates who generate and create social capital. Such capital is generated and created when individuals make use of their membership to groups, organizations, as well as communities to obtain and secure benefits. As such, social capital is an attribute of individual and cannot be separated from the social context in which that individual lives. Just like human and physical capital, social capital enhances the productive activity in a country’s economy (Hungerford & Wassmer, 2004, p. 19). Those with more education have better understanding of such concepts than those with less education. Higher levels education is also associated with reduced rates of crime, as well as social cohesiveness which are essential for increased economic productivity. Social capital created through the achievement of education is also associated with greater involvement in community organizations, greater trust, reduced alienation, as well as likelihood of participating in electoral processes (Hungerford & Wassmer, 2004, p. 19). These are attributes of have been demonstrated by people in countries which have the K-12 as their system of education. Therefore, K-12 system of education has successfully contributed to moulding individuals who emphasize the need and significance of generating and creating social capital as a crucial ingredient in the productivity of the economies of their countries.


The provision of quality and equitable basic education remains one of the most significant challenges to many countries around the world. Quality basic education can be viewed in terms of quality schooling, access, participation as well as benefit for the general population of a country. Although, the K-12 system of education faces several constraints in terms of inability to provide solid solution to challenges, it has had several success factors with regard to preparing children to post K-12 life. Many countries around the world have over the years adopted the K-12 system of education for their countries. Many of these countries continuously amend the system to make it better with regard to their ever changing and dynamic educational needs, opportunities and constraints. Countries such as Qatar and Philippines among others have continuously made changes to sections of their K-12 system of education with the objective of addressing the challenges they face and taking advantage of the opportunities arising from their educational industry. Many countries such as the US, Canada, The UK and other European countries seek to have a more decentralized system of education so as to be able to provide quality and equitable education for all. This is because achievement of education is of significant importance to the socio-economic productivity of a country.


Brux, J.M. (2011). Economic Issues and Policy. Mason: South Western Cengage Learning.

Hungerford, T.L., & Wassmer, R.W. (2004). K-12 Education in the US Economy: Its Impacts on Economic development, Earnings, and Housing Values. Web.

Jenkins, L., Roettger, L.O., & Roettger, C. (2007). Boot Camp for Leaders in K-12 Education: Continuous Improvement. Milwaaukee: ASQ Quality Press Publications.

Kaplan, L.S., & Owings, W.A. (2011). American Education: Building a Common Foundation. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Museus, S.D. et al. (2011). Racial and Ethnic Students’ Success in STEM Education. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Official Gazete. (2012). The K to 12 Program. Web.

Rao, V.K. (2007). Education System. New Delhi: A P H Publishing Corporation.

Slaughter-Defoe, D.T. et al. (2012). Black Educational Choice: Assessing the Private and Public Alternatives to Traditional K-12 Public Schools. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, LLC.

Sykes, G., Schneider, B., & Plank, D.N. (2009). Handbook on Education Policy Research. New York: Routledge.

US National Academy of Engineering. (2010). Standards for K-12 Engineering education? Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

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