(UK) In England and Wales, 93% of schools are free state schools and 7% are private schools. Confusingly, some private independent schools are called ‘public’ schools! The most famous is probably Eton. Scotland has its own education system.
(USA) In the US, 90% of schools are free state schools. Most of the private schools were set up by religious groups.
(UK) Education is compulsory from five to sixteen years of age. There are three main stages: primary (Years 1-6); secondary (Years 7-11); and optional ‘sixth form’ (two or three years of pre-university study). State secondary schools are mainly ‘comprehensive’ schools, which means pupils don’t have to pass a special exam to go there. In some areas, though, local authorities operate a ‘selective’ system.
(USA) There is no national system but most states have compulsory education from five to sixteen. There are twelve ‘grades’; elementary school (1st – 8th grade); high school (9th – 12th grade). Some states have ‘junior high’ schools (7th - 9th grade).
(UK) England and Wales have a national curriculum (Scotland has its own) and pupils have to study core subjects like maths, English and science. At fourteen, students can study optional subjects. At sixteen, pupils specialise and choose three or four subjects.
(USA) There is no national curriculum but in most states, core subjects are compulsory. Students can also choose options or ‘electives’. Some of the most popular of these are performing arts, cooking and driver’s education.
(UK) Pupils do tests in core subjects from the age of seven. At sixteen, they do exams called GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) in a variety of subjects. If pupils stay on at school, they take ‘A’ or ‘A/S’ level exams in their specialized subjects as part of the university entrance procedure.
(USA) Most schools have exams after each of the higher grades. Then, after 12th grade, pupils take exams to get their high school diploma.
(UK) About 40% of pupils go on to higher education. Virtually all British universities are public and each university demands certain ‘A’ level grades. If students are successful and there are places available, they can choose which university to go to. The government only gives a few grants so most students borrow money from a bank which they have to pay back when they leave university.
(USA) Over 60% of students go on to higher education; two-year colleges for vocational training; four-year colleges and universities for academic degrees. State universities are run by the individual state and charge quite low tuition fees. There are also private universities. The most prestigious and expensive are Harvard, Yale and Princeton.
(UK) The setting up of a national curriculum has probably raised standards in most areas but some people say that there is too much testing. Pupils have to do an average of 87 official tests during their time at school! Some inner-city schools also have serious problems of discipline and violence.
(USA) In the 1980s, US students were getting low scores in reading, writing and basic maths. Since then, scores have improved but are still lower than in many other developed countries. Another serious problem is violence and guns in schools and there have been several shootings. The situation has improved with the use of ID cards, cameras and metal detectors to stop pupils bringing guns to class.