So what I'm asking is for some kind of timeline for the schools. Additionally, if you're from a country where things are done differently, you can post the timeline too!
I'm from Holland, so I'll give an example.
EDIT: here's an image explaining it a lot better than i did, but with less context, so, tl;dr: + Show Spoiler +
(taken from EUR Psychology lecture slides)
1 to 3 : No real school, there's this thing called crèche but that's mostly for ¨safekeeping¨ the kids.
4 to 12: Basisschool, which I guess is kind of comparable to elementary school, although I'm not sure. When you're 4, you enter groep 1 (group 1), next year, you enter groep 2, and so on and so forth until you reach age 12. Additionally if you do really badly, you may have to do one year over, and if you do really well, you may get the option to skip 1 or 2 years. Which is what I personally did, when I was in groep 6, I had it really easy, so I did some tests and was allowed to skip groep 7 and go directly to 8, which is the last year of basisschool. Here's where it gets complicated.
In groep 8 (at age 12 or, in my case, 11) everybody is tested, and according to your score, you're sent to either:
EDIT: here's and image showing the actual amount of people in each category:+ Show Spoiler +
vmbo (age 12-16): this is for the people that fall in the bottom 60% for the scores. You only get 4 years of what I guess would be called high school. After that (at age 16) you can enter your professional career or do some follow-up studies (called mbo). Those that do well during their vmbo get the option to go up to havo.
havo (age 12-17): this is for the 20~30 percent after the vmbo, they get 5 years of ¨high school¨ education, wherein they see different things than the children doing vmbo. Once they're done, hey can choose to do an HBO. Additionally if you do well, you're allowed to go to vwo.
vwo and gymnasium (age 12-18): This is for the top 10~15 percent. You get 6 years of ¨high school¨, after which you can go to university. Notice I also named gymnasium, that's the highest level of education, for the top 5 percent. It's basically the same as vwo except you're forced to learn latin and greek for 6 (or in some schools 3) years.
Once you're done with vmbo: you get your MBO, if you do well, you can go on with an HBO, and if you do well there, you can even go to university. But this is exceedingly rare and takes extremely long. Most people just stop after their MBO and get a job.
(I think this is at age 18) Examples are: Vendor, teacher at the basisschool.
Once you're done with havo: You can do a HBO, and, same as vmbo, you can, if you do well go to uni after. If you do an HBO, examples of jobs are: Nurse, some kinds of programming and engineering.
Once you're done with vwo: Either you go to uni or you do a HBO, the vast majority of people go to university. which takes anywhere from 5 to 15 years depending on what studies you do, and if you go for a masters degree, or even a PhD. Jobs are: basically anything you want, ranging from surgeon to rocket scientist to whatever else you can imagine.
I hope this clarifies the dutch education system a little bit, and I would be thankful if you would be so nice as to return the favor, so that we can educate each other and all get a little wiser in the process.
Have a nice day!
ps. I may have made mistakes, feel free to correct me if you feel I am wrong, don't be afraid to ask questions. Also, most importantly, DO NOT turn this thread into a political debate, circlejerk, or collective hammering onto the American education system. Don't judge what you don't know.
pps. Note that no level is mandatory, if you do REALLY well at the tests when you're 12 years old, you're ALLOWED to go to vwo, but you can also go to havo or vmbo if you want.