Teaching and Upbringing Young People: Education in the USA and the UK
As in any other country, in Britain (England and Wales in particular) there is a well-organized system of education aimed at making the sphere of education effective. Education is compulsory, special standards exist and requirements in both teaching and studying are to be followed.
Education from 5 to 16 is guaranteed and controlled by the state. Schools are organized in many specific ways, but a common tendency is a move from primary to secondary school at about 11.
Children under 5 years old are not required to study, but about 50% of them receive education in nursery schools. There are many pre-school play groups and voluntary communities which children can attend.
There are two main types of schools in England and Wales – state (maintained) and independent (private). The first group is controlled by the Local Education Authorities which employ teachers, maintain buildings, provide materials and financial support. Local Education Authorities themselves are controlled directly by the Department of Education and Science which has much power in planning educational work.
Most parents send their children to free state schools, but an option exists – fee-paying independent schools, many of which provide accommodation for pupils during the term. The fees may reach several thousands of pounds a term. The most remarkable independent schools in England are: Eton, Winchester, Rugby, Uppingham. These schools train pupils for leading positions in the society.
At 16 years pupils can promote to a sixth-form college or tertiary college having passed A level examinations in two or three subjects, and most of pupils take compulsory GCSE exams in 5-15 subjects.
Further education gives more room for vocational bias, technical education and professional orientation. Special schools for handicapped children exist, and their main aim is to help pupils and make them feel comfortable.
Free state schools remain popular as they provide the children with all means of education charging no fees. There are two types of state schools: county and voluntary, but even though the latter are supported by religious denominations, the character of education doesn’t differ much. It comprises two stages: primary and secondary education.
At five children go to infant departments, and at seven move to junior schools where they start learning subjects different from “three R’s”: reading, writing and arithmetic. At 11 children proceed to the next stage of education – secondary schooling – after they pass eleven plus exams. It is more suited to their natural abilities. Grammar and secondary modern schools provide the children with a wide range of knowledge and skills, gives boys and girls a possibility to study without any reference to their aptitudes. Secondary schooling coaches the children for further academic and vocational courses. Local Education Authorities and governors of the schools decide on what to study at maintained schools according to the government’s curriculum. Up to 16 children study English, Mathematics, Science, History, Religion and Physical Education. With a practical slant for lower-attaining pupils and the abundance of practical and aesthetic activities, maintained schools tend to take into account pupils’ interests and peculiarities which makes them respected all over Britain.
In the US many Americans send their children to a nursery school, or to day care or pre-school at an early age. At 5 children go to kindergarten and begin their formal K-12 education. As in Britain, US schools are divided into primary and secondary, but these words are rarely used. It is more common to talk about elementary school, junior high school and high school. Elementary schools teach children from kindergarten till the end of sixth grade. Grade seven and eight are taken at junior high school, and the ninth to the twelfth grades at high school. The school year runs from early September to June. Students attend daily from Monday to Friday, school usually lasts from 8.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. Students spend most of the day with their class. They rarely have homework until they reach the final grades of elementary school. The traditional subjects for elementary school are called “three R’s”, students also study history and geography, do creative activities and sports. Children should be fairly quiet during the lesson. If they don’t hurt others, the teacher does not punish them. During the recess when all the pupils go outside to play on the playground, the punished are left in the room or sent to the principal’s office. At public schools students do not usually have a school uniform.
Students at junior high school take different lessons from different teachers. They can choose what classes to take. They may take technical subjects alongside academic subjects, thus their independence is encouraged. Many students go to school by school bus. At the age of 16 when many Americans learn to drive, students often go to school in their own car or borrow that of their parents. After school, students can choose extra-curricular activities: joining chess, computers, acting or cooking clubs, working on a school newspaper or playing in a sports team. During the last year of studying Prom is the major event. Students take special car to get ready for the day that will open the door into their independent adult life with a free choice of future occupation and pastime.
Schools raise children and shape young personalities that is why school education must constantly develop to reflect current needs and tendencies in social life. School is a model of a future society, and the future is in the hands of teachers who must feel the responsibility.