Every child in Britain must by law receive full-time education from the age of five to the age of sixteen. The great majority of parents send their children to state schools. Only about 5% of children go to private fee-paying schools, first preparatory schools, then public schools – very expensive secondary schools such as Harrow and Eton.
Under the old selective system children attended primary schools (from 5 to 11), which were followed by a secondary school course (from 11 to 15 or over). At eleven every child had to sit for the eleven-plus exam. Children with the highest marks went on to grammar school, concentrating on academic careers, while technical schools offered courses leading towards some immediate occupation, and secondary modern schools offered education to the more practically minded.
This division, however, came under attack on both educational and social grounds. A new system was therefore introduced, with comprehensive schools attended by all children between 11 and 16 or 18. There is no selection by examination and this system by offering equal opportunities, may help to overcome inequalities in home background. These schools are usually very big but in spite of it there is an individual approach to the pupils. They are allowed to concentrate on those subjects they excel in and gradually drop those they are less good at. Children are usually grouped according to ability to give the brighter ones a chance to take higher examinations. At the age of 16 the pupils sit for (0 level) examinations. Success in these examinations is required for most jobs and further vocational training. After two more years at school, where the pupils specialize in three of four subjects, they sit for A level examination, which is necessary for entrance to university.
There are about fifty universities in Britain now. Among them Oxford and Cambridge are the oldest. Most of their colleges were founded before 1600; the oldest three were built before 1300. Then there are several so called redbrick universities founded in the 19.century and a number of new universities which were established in the 1960s. Only those students who have been most successful in the A level examinations are accented to universities. Most universities provide a wide range of courses in various subjects. Some of them have become particularly notable for their special interests; science and mathematics at Cambridge, technology at Manchester and social sciences at the University of Essex. Students have to pay fees and living costs, but many receive state grants or take a competitive examination to win a scholarship.
There are some national variations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
About 93% of British pupils receive their education in state schools. The rest pupils attend private or church schools. Primary Schools are for ages 5 to 11. Primary schools are divided into infant schools (for very young children from 5 to 7 – there is only very elementary schooling, but most of the time children play, talk, practice or train in good habits, make various things) and junior schools for children ages 7 to 11. Most primary schools practice “streaming”. Children of the same age are divided according to ability in “streams”, then pupils learn at different speeds (for example: Stream “A” for children who learn the quickest, Stream “B” for average pupils and Stream “C” for slower children). Secondary Schools are for ages over 11. There is national curriculum to English and Welsh schools. Schools have great responsibility for it. Some subjects taught at schools a age 11-16: English, Math, Science, Technology, History, Geography, Music, Art, foreign language and optional religious education or technical and vocational education.
The principal examination is the General Certificate of /Secondary// Education – GCE or GCSE:
- O (Ordinary) Level is usually taken at about age 16. There is a wide choice and pupils do not have to take a fixed number of subjects. It is useful to have 5 or more subjects at O Level, preferably including English language.
- A (Advanced) Level is usually taken at about age 18. Pupils do one or more subjects – usually three. There is a wide range of choice. To get into a university it is generally necessary to have two A Levels (with reasonable grades) and five O Levels. Grammar Schools are attended by about 25 per cent of secondary school pupils. Most pupils who want to get an academic type of education attend grammar schools.
There are five grades of pass – A, B, C, D and E. In addition to grammar schools there are other types of secondary schools in England and Wales: Secondary modern schools, Secondary technical schools and Comprehensive schools. The English Universities can be divided into 3 groups:
- Oxford and Cambridge – they are the oldest and the most famous
- Redbrick Universities which were founded in the 19th century (London, Manchester). These schools provided some technological train in industrial areas.
- The new universities opened after 1960 (Sussex, York …).
It is impossible to speak of a uniform system of education in the U.S.A as a whole; its administration is under the control of the individual states or municipal governments or even private institutions, not under control of the federal government. Each state has its own laws about schools. That’s why there at great differences in the standards of various schools. Most states, however, require schools attendance from 6 to 16 years of age. Pre-school facilities include day-care centers which are for children up to the age of 5. Nearly all of them are private. Most children, however, begin with kindergartens, when they are 5 years old. Elementary education (6 to 11 years of age) comes at the elementary schools. Besides reading, writing and arithmetic, such subjects as languages, science, geography, health and safety, art and music are taught. Secondary education (12 to 17 years of age) is divided into junior high schools (12-14) and senior high schools. High school is comprehensive and coeducational. All students must take certain general courses and can choose from specialized ones according to their talents and the vocation they are preparing for. There are some subjects in the high schools curriculum, ranging from conventional subjects such as English, Latin, modern languages, science, math etc. to new subjects such as auto-mechanics, aeronautics, electrical work, printing. The graduates get the High School Diploma or Certificate of Education. They don’t have to take any final exams to get this diploma. The diploma is given to pupils who complete their course with satisfactory credits (= marks given for attendance and grades) = marks given for quality of work. Most students study 4-5 subjects for the diploma. The diplomas are given to graduates at special ceremony for which they wear caps and gowns. They also have their ball called a prom.
About 40 % pupils go on to full-time higher education after high schools. Universities and colleges are both private and state. Prestigious American universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton and Berkeley are very expensive, but brilliant students whose families can’t afford to support their studies, can try a apply fro scholarships.
What is S.A.T.
Scholastic Aptitude Test is a standard national test for those high school students who want to go to university or college. It always takes place on a Saturday. It consists of 2 parts:
a) verbal (English, vocabulary and reading comprehension)
b) mathematics, mostly algebra
The test is checked by a computer at one national centre. Students are announced only the scores, they don’t get their tests back.
In our state the children start to study at the age of 6 or 7. The age of 3-6 they can attend the kindergartens and the majority of children go there. The basic school is divided into 2 levels. The first level is for the 6-10 years old children and the second level is for children of the age of 10-15.
After the basic school some of the children go to study to the high school which last 4 years and is ended by the graduation exam. I thing, that the most respected high school is the Grammar school.
The majority of these schools leavers try to get to the university. People study at the university usually for 4-6 years. The best university is the Charles University in Prague.