The American educational system can be one of the best in the
world, but only if you make sure you and your children get the
most out of it. The United States really has several systems, at
different levels, from public elementary and secondary schools
through universities and colleges of every variety. Trade and
technical schools fill important needs. American educational
resources are impressive, even if the delivery of educational
services is haphazard no uniform is required in the US.
Every community in the United States has a public school
system, responsible for educating children at elementary and
secondary levels. Public schools are supported largely by
property taxes, with additional aid from state and federal
governments. Federal and state agencies set standards for local
public schools, but local community school boards actually
administer the schools. Among literally thousands of different
public school jurisdictions, districts, taxing authorities, and
administrations, educational procedures and standards can vary
widely across the country.
Public schools are free. They are also mandatory
starting with First Grade. Parents can be arrested for keeping
their children from school, unless they go through a difficult
process of proving that the children are receiving an adequate
education at home.
Begins at Age Five. Some communities offer pre-school
education or nursery schools for 3 and 4 years olds, but public
school in America usually begins with kindergarten, for five
year olds. Kindergartens children learn the basic elements of
numbers and the alphabet, often by watching educational
television programs like Sesame Street.
High school is a special experience in American culture with
a mythology of its own. It's the time when boys and girls
awkwardly discover each other. It is questionable how much
actual education occurs in high school given these
circumstances. The terms "freshman, sophomore, junior and
senior" refer to the first through fourth years of high school
(as well as the first through fourth years of college).
Some Definitions. The terms "college" and "university"
are often used interchangeably. A university is a larger
institution often having more than one college, law, medical,
and dental schools, or business or other specialized schools.
The term "campus" refers to the land the college sits on and the
buildings on it. Colleges range from huge state-supported
university systems, to small "liberal arts" and religious
Two year colleges, often called community colleges,
usually award the Associate of Arts degree (A.A.). They accept
most applicants, are often public supported, and have lower
tuition than four-year schools.
Four year colleges, called "undergraduate" schools,
form the mainstream of American "higher education." Admission
requirements, courses offered, residence facilities and other
features will vary widely. These colleges give "bachelors"
degrees, usually a bachelor of arts (B.A.) or a bachelor of
Private colleges can be extremely expensive. Students
with financial difficulties have access to a well-developed
system of financial aid, however, which can dramatically reduce
costs through a combination of grants, loans, and work-study
Types of Colleges. The most prestigious colleges in
the eastern part of the United States--like Harvard, Princeton
and Yale--are known as the "Ivy League" because of the
characteristic ivy plants that frequently grow on the sides of
their beautiful old buildings. (The term "Ivy League" also
refers to the type of people who have traditionally attended
such universities, as well as certain clothing styles associated
with them.) Other colleges, especially some of the large state
schools, are known as football or basketball schools due to
their emphasis on athletics. Most colleges are co-educational
("co-ed"), meaning that they accept both men and women, though
many single-sex colleges still exist. (The term "a co-ed" refers
to a female student at a co-educational college. It is not
popular with feminists.)
Colleges and universities with religious affiliations
are widely found in America. Some, though not all, give or
require religious instruction along with academic subjects. Most
major religious groups in America have their own systems of
Life in the usa a definitive guide to everything American
More than 90 percent of pupils in the UK attend publicly-funded
state schools. Approximately 8.5 million children attend one of
the 30,000 schools in England and Wales; in Scotland, 830,000
children attend about 5,000 schools, including pre-schools and
other special education schools; and Northern Ireland sends
350,000 children to 1,300 state schools. Primary schools usually
include both girls and boys as pupils. Secondary schools may be
either single-sex or co-educational.
The relevant education
departments in England, Scotland and Wales dispense funding for
schools through a Local Education Authority (or Education
Authority in Scotland). In Northern Ireland, schools are largely
financed from public funds through five Education and Library
There are 114 university institutions (and 60 higher
education colleges) in the UK, counting separately the
constituent colleges of the federal universities of Wales and
London. Approximately 1.8 million students currently are in the
higher education system; about one third of young people go on
to higher education at age 18 (with almost 50% of students in
Scotland), and an increasing number of "mature" students are
studying either full-time or part-time for university degrees.
Higher education is a priority in current policy for the
current government, with a target set to attract 50 percent of
18- to 30-year-olds to higher education.
Most undergraduate degrees take three years to complete, with
undergraduate degrees at Scottish universities lasting four
years. At the graduate level, a taught master's degree normally
is earned in a single year, a research master's takes two years,
and a doctoral degree is completed after three years.
Professional courses, such as medicine, veterinary medicine, law
and teaching, usually are undertaken as five-year undergraduate
degrees, but students who already have been awarded a different
undergraduate degree often can take a shorter, graduate-level
The National Academic Recognition Information Centre provides
information on an equivalent UK degree to one gained in the US
or other foreign country. There is no charge to individual
inquirers. (Note: the National Academic Recognition Information
Centre does not comment on institutions that are not regionally
Department of Education and Skills also provides a list of
officially validated and recognized UK degrees.
Universities and Colleges are reputedly the hallowed halls of
intellectual development, the schools of maturation from where
the leaders of our world emerge to set the world ablaze with the
fruits of intellectualism. However, the produce all vary in
flavours according the nature of the curriculum prescribed. The
most marked divergence of tastes lie within institutions
separated by oceans, and continents. Although the UK and USA
share an Anglo-Saxon culture, disparities are marked within
ideals of their respective education systems, further being
indicative of their particular cultures.
In the USA, no matter if one is enrolled in a state school or a
private liberal arts college, it is expected that students will
study academic subjects outside their intended field of study.
The premise of which is to cultivate a rounded individual,
comfortably conversant with all mediums of academic literature,
whether of artistic or scientific character. Hence on American
campuses you will discover scenarios where historians may be
taking courses in astrophysics.
Needless to say such a scenario would not engender smiles on the
faces of their British counterparts, who�ve journeyed through
system of education where from an early age specialization has
been expected. Thus by the time these students commence their
undergraduate training they are only expected to study within
their chosen area of study. (This happens to less of a degree in
Scottish universities, where students are encouraged to explore
topics beyond their major, although in reality students rarely
venture beyond their chosen faculty.
These structural differences influence changes within the
deliverance of classes. Due to obligation of students to study
outside their fields of study the US prescribes a broader, but
less in depth of an enquiry of study. Whereas, breadth is
shunned in favour of more narrowly focused, but deeper lines of
study within British establishments. Each system has its
strengths and weaknesses. Critics of British education would
point towards the enforced learning of unnecessary information,
whereas defenders of the British universities may counter by
accusations of dumbing down in college classes. My personal
perception, based from studying in two small
universities/colleges in the UK and the US, that aside from a
divergence between curriculum's, there is a marked difference of
ethos between UK and USA higher education institutions.
On American campuses, work is constantly requested from students
on a daily basis. In contrast the British university calendar
invites extra-intensive work in patches, separated by periods of
lulls, thus creating large tracts of downtime between
assignments. It this downtime that characterises the British
university lifestyle where social life is the veritable engine
of UK university life, pushing academia into the passenger seat.
In contrast academia takes the fore in America colleges, largely
due to structured system in American colleges brought by an
emphasis upon teaching. Work is definitely more intensive in
American colleges, which is to be expected given that American
students pay significantly more than their British counterparts,
and hence American students tend to be more motivated than their
apathetic British counterparts.
So concluding with
my personal endnote of bias, I would have to admit that American
Colleges invite more of a rigorous, dynamic intellectually
arousing ethos, though at the expense of cultivating an active
social scene. The lessons derived within the UK university
establishment arise from outside the classroom within the pubs
and clubs, where social development rather than intellectual
development takes preponderance.