Difference between Middle School and High School

Introduction to the high school format.

High school can be a time filled with many unknowns and many new people.

12 years of primary and secondary education is a very long time. From the first steps of spelling words and counting cookies to studying Dickens and taking the 8th derivative of a function — it’s a path filled with excitement and challenges. But above all, the most noticeable difference is perhaps a student’s first steps into high school… oh boy has everything changed to beyond recognition compared to middle school. In the first steps of high school, you may notice some insane and ridiculous changes — awarding merciless and nonchalant zeros for assignments, 4 courses of 80 minutes each per semester (and spares in some cases), grading system in percentage instead of letters, rigorosity of courses like dash one, dash two, IB, and affiliated specialty programs. Of course, these aren’t differences between high school and middle school in its entirely, but it provides a right-to-the-point overview to the major changes. In this article, I will be going over the dash system and a major difference between middle school and high school.

In middle school, the two most prominent differences as compared to high school is the rigorosity of the workload (i.e., taking dash one or dash two) and the schooling structure (i.e., instructors, timetables, and courses to take).

In high school, the difficulty of courses is filtered into a dash system. Any courses with a -1 beside the course name is the hardest and most rewarding. Math 30–1 means that the course is at 30 level (grade 12 level usually) and the -1 is the top tier course. Math 30–2 usually means that the student did not do too well in Math 20–1 and that a lower difficulty and less rigorosity of workload is needed. In major science courses, like Chemistry 30, Physics 30, and Biology 30, a dash 2 course is usually not offered as students who enroll in these science courses should have a solid understanding of basic scientific concepts and methods that a dash 1 course should suffice.

A major difference between middle and high school is the school instructional hours. Each semester is comprised of 4 courses, each approx. 80 minutes long with a 1 hour lunch break. These long instructional hours enable teachers to teach everything that’s required in the course in the 140 some hours of instructional time per semester. The teachers in high school are always more than willing to help you with whatever you need, whenever you need it (of course not at 12 am). The only thing to avoid is being shy. When people are willing to help you, they are taking out their time for other people. You should appreciate that effort and make the most of it while you can.

There are tons and I mean literally tons of courses you can take in high school like construction, visual arts, and psychology, but there are the core courses that must be taken for the student to graduate. In Alberta, the requirement is 100 credits including English 30 and Social 30. Notice here that the level of the course (i.e., dash 1 or dash 2) does not matter. Nonetheless, these courses are here to help you succeed. You may tailor your schedule to whatever you deem fit and feel is necessary to have a memorable time in high school! Following is a table that summarizes the course requirements to get an Alberta High School Diploma.


Written by Andy Dai