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The word student is etymologically derived through Middle English from the Latin second-type conjugation verb "stŭdērĕ", meaning "to direct one's zeal at"; hence a student is one who directs zeal at a subject. A student is also known as a disciple in the sense of a religious area of study or in the sense of a "discipline" of learning. In its widest use, student is used for any school or class attendee. In many countries, the word student is reserved for higher education or university students; persons attending classes in primary or secondary schools are typically called pupils.

Currently, many children and teenagers are subject to compulsory education: by law they are required to attend some form of school. Laws vary from country to country, but most students are allowed to abandon their education when they reach the age specified in their jurisdiction.

Researchers, educators, and education administrators around the world are increasingly heeding student voice, a common reference to the experiences, opinions, ideas, and actions of children and youth in schools. This practice provides authenticity and efficacy for school improvement efforts.

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