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K–12 (spoken as "k twelve," "k through twelve" or "k to twelve") comprises the sum of primary and secondary education in India, the United States, Canada, Ecuador, South Korea, Turkey, Philippines, Egypt, Australia, Afghanistan and Iran for publicly-supported school grades prior to college. The expression is a shortening of kindergarten (K) for 4- to 6-year-olds through twelfth grade (12) for 17- to 19-year-olds, the first and last grades of free education in these countries, respectively. The related term P–12 is also occasionally used in Australia and the United States, to refer to the sum of K–12 plus preschool education.
The image at the right is a table that defines the education system in the United States. The table shows the progression of the education system starting with the basic K–12 system then progressing through post-secondary education. K–14 refers to K–12 plus two years of post-secondary where training was received from vocational technical institutions or community or junior colleges. The K numbers refer to the years of educational attainment and continues to progress upward accordingly depending on the degree being sought.
The term is often used in school website URLs, generally appearing before the country code top-level domain (or in the United States, the state top-level domain). The term "PK–12" is sometimes used to add pre-kindergarten.
In Australia, P–12 is sometimes used in place of K–12, particularly in Queensland, where it is used as an official term in the curriculum framework. P–12 schools serve children for the thirteen years from prep until Year 12, without including the separate kindergarten component. In Canada (Nova Scotia) P–12 is used commonly in place of K–12 and serves students from grade Primary through 12.
K–14 education also includes community colleges (the first two years of university). K–16 education adds a four-year undergraduate university degree. For simplicity purposes education shorthand was created to denote specific education levels of achievement. This shorthand is commonly used in articles, publications and educational legislations. The following list contains the most commonly found shorthand descriptors:
The Career Technical Education (CTE) Unit of the California Community College Economic Development and Workforce Preparation Division focuses on program coordination and advocacy, policy development and coordination with K–18 workforce preparation and career and technical education systems.
The ASCCC Chancellor's Office Career Technical Education (CTE) Unit of the Economic Development and Workforce Preparation Division focuses on program coordination and advocacy, policy development and coordination with K–18 workforce preparation and career and technical education systems. Responsible for the implementation of the Vocational and Technical Education Act (VTEA), managing and coordinating activities that impact other interagency and intra-agency objectives. In addition, the CTE Unit is also responsible for the development, dissemination, and implementation of the California State Plan and the annual performance reports.
Further reference to K–18 education can be found in this publication by Ann Diver-Stamnes and Linda Catelli in chapter 4 "College/University Partnership Projects for Instituting Change and Improvement in K–18 Education".