The general pattern of education in the USA is an eight-year elementary school, followed by a four-year high school. This has been called 8-4 plan organization. It is proceeded, in many localities, by nursery schools and kindergartens. It is followed by a four-year college and professional schools. This traditional pattern, however, has been varied in many different ways.
American education provides a program for children, beginning at the age of 6 and continuing up to the age of 16 in some of the states, and to 18 in others.
The elementary school in the United States is generally considered to include the first six or eight grades of the common-school system, depending upon the organization that has been accepted for the secondary school. It has been called the `grade school` or the `grammar school`. There is no single governmental agency to prescribe for the American school system, different types of organization and of curriculum are tried out.
The length of the school year varies among the states. Wide variation exists also in the length of the school day. A common practice is to have school in session from 9.00 to 12.00 in the morning and from 1.00 to 3.30 in the afternoon, Monday through Friday. The school day for the lower grades is often from 30 minutes to an hour shorter. Most schools require some homework to be done by elementary pupils.
There are eight years of elementary schooling. The elementary school is followed by four years of secondary school, or high school. Often the last two years of elementary and the first years of secondary school are combined into a junior high school.
The school year is usually nine months in length, beginning early in September and continuing until about the first of June, with a vacation of a week or two at Christmas time and sometimes a shorter one in spring. There are slight variations from place to place. Students enter the first grade at the age of six and attendance is compulsory in most states until the age of sixteen or until the student has finished the eighth grade.
The elementary schools tend to be small. The high schools are generally larger and accommodate pupils from four or five elementary schools. A small town generally has several elementary schools and one high school. Admission to the American high school is automatic on completion of the elementary school. During the four-year high school program the student studies four or five major subjects per year, and classes in each of these subjects meet for an hour a day, five days a week. In addition, the student usually has classes in physical education, music, and art several times a week. If he fails a course, he repeats only that course and not the work of the entire year.
Institutions of higher learning supported by public funds are not absolutely free. The state colleges and universities charge a fee tuition or registration. This fee is higher for those who come from outside the state. Usually there is no admission examination required by a state university for those who have finished high school within the state. Sometimes a certain pattern of high school studies is necessary, however, and some state universities require a certain scholastic average, or average of high school grades. Private colleges and universities, especially the larger, well-known ones as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, have rigid scholastic requirements for entrance, including an examination.
It usually takes four years to meet the requirements for a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree. A Master of Arts or Master of Science degree may be obtained in one or two additional years. The highest academic degree is the Doctor of Philosophy. (Note that Doctor of Philosophy degree can be obtained in any field: e.g. Doctor of Philosophy in Medicine, Doctor of Philosophy in Physics, etc.). It may take any number of years to complete the original research work necessary to obtain this degree.
From Hawaii to Delaware, from Alaska to Louisiana, each state has its own laws regulating education. From state to state some laws are similar, others are not. For example, all states require young people to attend school (the age limits vary: seven to sixteen, six to eighteen, etc.). Though there is no national curriculum in the United States, certain subjects are taught across the country. Almost every elementary school provides instruction in these subjects: mathematics, language arts (this subject includes reading, grammar, composition and literature), penmanship, science, social studies (this subject includes history, geography, citizenship and economics), music, art and physical education. In many elementary courses in the use of computers have been introduced. And in some cases, a foreign language is offered in the upper elementary school. Not all schools offer any foreign language course, if they do, it usually lasts for no longer than half a year. In general, it is not necessary to study a foreign language to get a high school diploma. But if one plans to enter a college or university, one should study a foreign language for no less than two years.
Paraphrase the following sentences:
1. There is no single governmental agency to prescribe for the American school system.
2. Most school require some homework.
3. There are slight variations from place to place.
4. If a student fails a course…
5. They charge a fee tuition or registration.
6. Well-known colleges and universities have rigid scholastic requirements.
7. Though there is no national curriculum in the USA, certain subjects are taught across the country.
Compare the American system of education with the British one.
XIV. Follow-up discussion.You must have noticed that the education system in the USA is a bit different from that of the UK. How could you find out what the following terms mean in the US education system?
High-school college sophomore graduate school student