All British children must stay at school from the age of 5 until they are 16. Many of them stay longer and take final examination when they are 17 or 18. Before 1965 all children had to go through special intelligence tests. There were different types of state secondary schools and at the age of 11 children went to different schools in accordance of with the results of the tests.
State schools are divided into the following types:
- Grammar schools. Children who go to grammar schools are usually those who show a preference for academic subjects, although many grammar schools now also have some technical courses.
- Technical schools. Some children go to technical schools. Most courses there are either commercial or technical.
- Modern schools. Boys and girls who are interested in working with there hands and learning in a practical way can go to a technical schools and learn some trade.
- Comprehensive schools. These schools usually combine all types of secondary education. They have physic, chemistry, biology laboratories, machine workshops for metal and woodwork and also geography, history and art departments, commercial and domestic courses.
There are also many schools which the State doesn’t control. They are private schools. They charge fees for educating children and many of them are boarding schools, at which pupils live during the term time.
After leaving school many young people go to colleges or further education. Those who become students at Colleges of Technology (called “Techs”) come from different schools at different ages between 15 and 17. The lectures at such colleges, each an hour long, start at 8,15 and end at 4,45 in the afternoon.
Schooling is voluntary under the age of 5 but there is some free nursery school education before that age. Primary education takes place in infant schools for pupils ages from 5 to 7 years old and junior schools (from 8 to 11 years). Some areas have different systems in which middle schools replace junior schools and take pupils ages from 9 to 11 years. Secondary education has been available in Britain since 1944. It is compulsory up to the age of 16, and pupils can stay at school voluntarily up to three years longer.
In 1965 non-selective comprehensive schools were introduced. Most local education authorities were have now completely changed over to comprehensive schooling.
At the age of 16 pupils take school-leaving examinations in several subjects at the Ordinary level. The exam used to be conducted by eight independent examining boards, most of them connected with the university. This examination could also be taken by candidates at a further education establishment. This exam was called the General Certificate of Education (GCE). Pupils of comprehensive school had taken the examination called the Certificate of Secondary Education either with or instead of the GCE.
A GCE of Advanced (“A”) level was taken two years after the Ordinary level exam. It was the standard for entrance to university and to many forms of professional training. In 1988 both examinations were replaced by the more or less uniform General Certificate of Secondary Education.
The private sector is running parallel to the state system of education. There are over 2500 fee-charging independent schools in GB. Most private schools are single-sex until the age of 16. More and more parents seem prepared to take on the formidable extra cost of the education. The reason is the believe that social advantages are gained from attending a certain school. The most expansive day or boarding schools in Britain are exclusive public schools like Eton college for boys and St. James’ school for girls.
Universities and Colleges in Great Britain.
There are over 90 universities in GB. They are divided into three types: the old universities (Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities), in the 19th century universities, such as London and Manchester universities, and the new universities. Some years ago there were also polytechnics. After graduating from polytechnic a student got a degree, but it was not a university degree. 31 formers polytechnics were given university status in 1992.
Full courses of study offer the degree of Bachelor of Art or Science. Most degree courses at universities last three years, language courses 4 years (including year spent aboard). Medicine and dentistry courses are longer (5-7 years).
Students may receive grants from the Local Education Authority to help pay for books, accommodation, transport, and food. This grant depends on the income of their parents.
Most students live away from home, in flats of halls of residence.
Students don’t usually have a job during term time because the lessons called lectures, seminars, classes of tutorials (small groups), are full time. However, many students now have to work in the evenings.
University life is considered «an experience». The exams are competitive but the social life and living away from home are also important. The social life is excellent with a lot of clubs, parties, concerts, bars.
There are not only universities in Britain but also colleges. Colleges offer courses in teacher training, courses in technology and some professions connected with medicine.