Expat FAQ

Do you have a general question on expatriation? FAQs give you answers to the most frequent questions: Education.

When does school start?

In most countries, the academic year begins with the start of autumn and ends during the following summer. In Southern Hemisphere countries, this means that the academic year lasts from February or March to November or December. In the Northern Hemisphere countries, it lasts from August or September to May, June or July instead. The summer may or may not be part of the term system.

Academic Terms

An academic term is a division of an academic year, the time during which a school, college or university holds classes. These divisions may be called terms. The schedule adopted by institutions of learning or education systems vary widely. In general:

  • Semester - Divides the academic year into two terms, roughly 16 - 18 weeks each.
  • Trimester - Divides the academic year into three terms, roughly 14 - 16 weeks each.
  • Quarter or Quadmester - Divides the academic year into four terms, roughly 12 weeks each, and generally counts the summer as one of the terms.


African schools have a four-term school year with terms between 10 and 11 weeks long. Holidays occur between terms.

  • First Term - Begins mid-January and ends in March or April
  • Second Term - Begins mid-April and ends in June
  • Third Term - Begins mid-July and ends September
  • Fourth Term - Begins early October and ends early December


In general, all schools (from primary to universities) have two semesters. The first semester is from September to January, and the second is from February or March to around July.

Schedules are based around the intense holiday schedules, such as Chinese New Year. Some countries and states also operate on a Friday-Saturday weekend versus a Saturday-Sunday weekend.


In most of Australia, the school year lasts from late January to early December, and is split into four terms. The exact dates vary from year to year and between states, and there are differences between public and private school, but in general:

  • Term 1 starts in late January or early February and ends one or two weeks before Easter
  • Term 2 starts one or two weeks after Easter and ends in late June.
  • Term 3 starts in mid-July and ends mid-September.
  • Term 4 starts in early October and ends mid-December.

Tasmania is an exception in that the school year is split into three terms. The first is the longest and includes an extended Easter holiday. The terms are separated by a holiday lasting two weeks with the Christmas/Summer holidays between the end of a school year and the start of another lasting six to eight weeks.


Schedules very greatly between the countries of Europe, but in general the school year runs from early September to late June. Many countries have classes later into the summer, but may have exams - effectively ending the grading period- in June.

In the UK and Ireland, there is a three-term school year, each term divided in half by a week-long break known as "half term".

  • Autumn term: Early September to mid December (half term: late October)
  • Spring Term: Early January to Easter (half term: mid February)
  • Summer Term: Easter to mid July (half term: late May/early June)

There are usually one-week breaks between terms.

North America

Schools may run to two semesters (Fall and Spring) or Trimester.
Semester - The first semester starts from September (or late August) to mid-December and the second runs from early January til June. The semesters are often divided into two terms.
Trimester - Schools that operate on a trimester system have the first term starting in September to January, the second from January to March, and the third from March until June. The trimester is more common in elementary and middle schools (K-8) than in high schools (9-12).

South America

The school year usually begins during the first weeks of February and ends in December. Education is usually divided into two semesters. There is a 3-week winter break in July, and other breaks for public festivities, like Easter, etc.


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