Curricula of Different Countries

Curricula of Different Countries

We have examined the curricula of different countries – comparing curriculum structure and guidelines, content (i.e., topics covered, sequence, and textbooks), pedagogical approaches, and types of assessment. We also spoke to teachers in the different countries to gain more insight and include their input in our comparison.

The number of countries that we have explored is not exclusive. If you would like to see a new country on this page, please reach out to the ESCAPE Projects Team at

How Do Countries Compare?

Curriculum Organization

Language of Instruction​

Curriculum Content



Discover more about your students' prior learning & funds of knowledge!


In Ontario, education is the responsibility of the provincial government. Four types of school boards exist: English Public, English Catholic, French Public, or French Catholic. Languages of instructions are English and French. The curriculum is presented in the form of objectives and guidelines and is organised in strands; it emphasizes acquisition of four broad categories of knowledge and skills, with clear criteria for each. These are Knowledge and Understanding; Thinking and Investigation; Communication; and Application. 


Two education systems exist in parallel in Afghanistan. Religious education is the responsibility of clerics at mosques, while the government provides free academic education at state schools. From age 7 to age 13, pupils attend primary schools where they learn the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic and their national culture. Three years of middle school follow where academic-style education continues. Students must pass an examination at the end of this phase if they wish to study further. At secondary school, students have a choice between continuing with an academic path for 3 years that could perhaps lead on to university, or study subjects such as applied agriculture, aeronautics, arts, commerce, and teacher training instead. Both programs culminate in a bacilluria examination. The Ministry of Education (MoE) is responsible for the administration of primary education, secondary education, vocational education, and religious education, including funding, policy development, curriculum design, evaluation, and basic teacher education. Primary education runs from grades 1 to 6. Children typically begin school between the ages of six and eight. The primary curriculum is consistent nationwide; however, teachers can tailor it to the local content. 

Primary education is divided into two cycles.The first cycle covers grades 1 to 3, and the curriculum includes subjects such as religious studies, first language (Dari or Pashtu, depending on the region), mathematics, arts, and physical education. The second cycle includes grades 4 to 6. The curriculum covers the same subjects as the first cycle, plus additional subjects such as natural sciences, history, geography, and a secondary language (Dari or Pashtu, depending on the region). At the end of grade 6, students must pass an examination to gain admission to lower secondary education [Maktabeh Motevasteh]. At this point, they may opt to pursue a religious studies track, or a more general education track. The vast majority of students pursue the latter. Secondary education includes two three-year cycles. The first cycle, from grades 7 to 9, is referred to as lower secondary education, and the second cycle, from grades 10 to 12, is referred to as higher secondary education. The curriculum of the first cycle includes subjects such as religious studies, local languages, mathematics, natural sciences, social studies, foreign languages (English, German, French and Russian), and physical education. Students who pass the examination at the end of grade 9 can continue to higher secondary education. (Upon completion of grade 9, students may opt to pursue technical and secondary vocational education, rather than higher secondary education.) The curriculum of higher secondary education is determined by whether the students choose to focus on natural sciences steam or social studies stream, although the subjects taken are largely the same, and duplicate most of the subjects taken in lower secondary education. No matter which streams the students take, they need to pass the graduation exam to be awarded the 12th grade graduation certificate. 


China is in South Asia and provides 9 years of compulsory education for each student from Grade 1. The language of instruction in Mainland China is Putonghua (Mandarin), and the written language is simplified Chinese. The Chinese curriculum structure is currently based on the curriculum expectation published by the Ministry of Education, which was just revised in March 2022 and will be implemented in September 2022. Guided by the current curriculum expectation in use, most provinces are adopting Renjiao Edition textbooks, with the contents organized into units and lessons, and a heavy focus on content knowledge acquisition for high stakes tests. The main assessment format is paper tests and exams. Curriculum Links (2022 Edition): 


English or the official language of an Indian state (e.g., Bangla, Tamil, Hindi, etc.) is used as a language of Instruction in Indian schools. Syllabus and textbooks are designed by a federal organization called National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) primarily in English. Every Indian state enjoys the liberty to modify the syllabus and textbooks initially designed by NCERT in their local languages and as per their local history and geography. State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) is the organization responsible for the state level modifications. Textbooks designed by NCERT hold classroom instructions for the teachers that they are encouraged to follow.  Quizzes, written and oral tests, lab experiments are commonly used for Assessment. The link to the NCERT website could be found here 


In Iraq, a country in Southwestern Asia, more than three-fourths of the people speak Arabic, the official language, and roughly one-half use English for business and/or international purposes. Modern Standard Arabic – a benchmark of literacy – is used as the primary medium of instruction in all parts of Iraq except for the North, where Kurdish is the official language. The Iraqi public school education curriculum for both Baghdad and Kurdistan Regions encourages integrated learning, for instance, through thematic approaches and as reflected in textbooks presenting lesson objectives, problem-solving activities, key concepts/words, and various instructional and assessment strategies, all of which allow for deeper understanding and application of the subject(s). 


Iran (pronounced ee-RAHN), formerly known as Persia, is situated at the crossroads of Central Asia, South Asia, and the Arab states of the Middle East. It shares a border with seven countries: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, and Turkmenistan. The name “Iran” means “land of the Aryans.” This country has been officially known as the Islamic Republic of Iran since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. It is a Shiite Muslim country, but most of its people are Persian, not Arab. 
The schooling system in the Islamic Republic of Iran consists of one year of pre-primary education at age 5, five years of primary education (from age 6 to 11), three years of lower secondary (from age 11 to 14), and three years of secondary school (from age 14 to 17). Students who wish to enroll in a university must take one year of pre-university training and pass the National Entrance Examination. Secondary vocational and technical education is also available. Ministries of Education and Higher Education specify a national course of study for all subjects, publish textbooks, finance the education and design, and make tests. Education is uniform throughout the country. Language of instruction is Farsi and foreign languages (English and Arabic) are taught in secondary schools. The grading system through all levels of education is based on a 20-point scale. Education is highly centralized, and All levels of education culminate in the end of the year testing which determines the students’ promotion to the next level; if students fail the end of the year testing, they must repeat the entire year. Konkur (university entrance examination) is a comprehensive test to enter universities. Instruction is content centered, and students are required to acquire a great deal of factual knowledge.

south korea

South Korea, constituting the southern part of the Korean peninsula in East Asia, is a nation with rich culture and history. South Korea is a monolingual society, where Korean is the native language and the Korean alphabet, Hangeul, is used for the writing system. Culturally, Koreans highly value education and perceive it as the means to climb up the socio-economic ladder. Hence, both the government and many families invest in their child’s education, and consequently, Korea has an extremely high literacy rate and high school graduation rate. The Korean educational system is divided into 4 parts: Kindergarten (age 3 – 5; optional), elementary School (6 years), Middle School (3 years), High School (3 years). Unlike Canada, the school year in Korea starts in March and ends in early January of the following year with 2 semesters. Korean is the language of instruction including most of the mathematical and scientific terms. The Ministry of Education develops and monitors the national curricula, and they are revised every 5 to 10 years. Each subject curriculum consists of characters, objectives, contents (structure and expectations), teaching and learning methods, and evaluation in details. The curricula guide educators to relate learning contents to real life, as well as to provoke higher order thinking skills. Links: Ministry of Education (KOR, ENG); Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation (KOR, ENG); National Curriculum Information Centre (KOR, ENG), The Korea Authorized & Approved Textbook Association (KOR), Korean textbooks – online shopping (KOR) 

There are 3 types of textbooks: 1) Published by the Ministry of Education; 2) Developed by private publishers based on the national curriculum; these textbooks can only be published once approved by the Ministry of Education; 3) Supplementary resources and textbooks that are not published by the MOE and/or publishers; these are approved by the Ministry of Education. The textbooks are used throughout schooling. They are well organized by units and with clearly stated objectives and learning concepts. Also, colourful pictures, examples, and storylines/scenarios are incorporated in order to promote student engagement. As well, all three types of the textbooks are affordable and can be easily purchased online and/or at bookstores depends on the type of the textbook. Assessment in the Korean education system consist of various forms: reports, presentations, projects, performances, written tests and quizzes, etc. In addition, mid-term and final exams are carried out in each semester for middle school (except Gr. 7) and high school students. Furthermore, Grade 12 students write a national exam called Suneung – the College Scholastic Ability Test – in November, where its result, along with their school grades, determine the university a student can enter. 


Lebanon, a country in Western Asia located on the Eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, is well-recognized for its rich history and linguistic and cultural diversity. In Lebanon, three main languages are used in schools: English and/or French with Arabic. However, Math and Science are taught exclusively in English or French. The Lebanese public school education curriculum is based on thematically organized textbooks presenting problems to be solved, activities to be completed, a glossary of keywords, and various instructional strategies which allow for deeper understanding and application of the topic(s). 


The education system is very diverse with several boards of education operating within the country, including the public, private and religious school (Madarsah) boards. Languages of instruction include Urdu, English and, in some areas, regional languages. Students spend approximately 3.5 hours of class time per week each on Science and Math.  Rote learning is common in institutions following public and religious boards and classes are generally lecture based. A large amount of detail is covered under each concept even in lower grades. Education, including for STEM subjects, is often linked to the religion of the state: Islam. 


Syria has a centralized education system that is primarily public (~98%). The Ministry of Education sets the curriculum, guidelines and goals of teaching for all schools. The formal language and medium of instruction in schools and universities is Arabic. Two different types of Arabic are used in daily communication and in education: conversational language is quite different from the one taught in schools and used in assessments. The Curriculum is based on textbooks and developed by the Ministry of Education’s Center for Development of Educational Curricula. Textbooks are considered as one of the important means in communicating information, skills, and values to learners and connecting school and home. Everyone who has been schooled is able to understand the Arabic used in schools. The content of the textbooks is organized into units, with a focus on knowledge acquisition reflected in the number and variations of topics covered in each unit and grade; topics are presented in an way that is easy for learners to understand (e.g., using colours, pictures, conceptual maps, contextualized examples, and questions based on individual and group activities). The Ministry textbooks and resources highlight key instructional strategies for lesson planning and delivery and the role of the teacher in each step of the learning process. Assessment in the Syrian curriculum is in the form of quizzes and tests (one per semester). Also, students have to sit for national exams in all subjects: one at the end of grade 9 and one at the of grade 12 (Baccalaureate).