In most parts of the world, primary education is the first stage of compulsory education, and is normally available without charge, but may also be offered by fee paying independent schools.
The term grade school is sometimes used in the US, although this term may refer to both primary education and secondary education.
The term primary school is derived from the French école primaire, which was first used in an English text in 1802. In the United Kingdom, “elementary education” was taught in “elementary schools” until 1944, when free elementary education was proposed for students over 11: there were to be primary elementary schools and secondary elementary schools; these became known as primary schools and secondary schools.
Primary school is the preferred term in the United Kingdom, Ireland and many Commonwealth nations, and in most publications of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Elementary school is still preferred in some countries, especially in the United States and Canada.
In some parts of the United States, “primary school” refers to a school covering kindergarten through to second grade or third grade (K through 2 or 3); the “elementary school” includes grade three through five or grades four to six. In Canada, “elementary school” almost everywhere refers to Grades 1 through 6; with Kindergarten being referred to as “preschool.