Education in Great Britain
Education in Great Britain
The British education system has much in common with that in Europe,
. Full-time education is compulsory for all children in the middle
teenage years. Parents are required by law to see that their
children receive full-time education, at school or elsewhere,
between the ages of 5 and 16 in England, Scotland and Wales 4 and
16 in Northern Ireland.
. The academic year begins at the end of summer.
Compulsory education is free charge, though parents may choose a
private school and spend their money on education their children.
About 93% of pupils receive free education from public funds, while
the others attend independent schools financed by fees paid by
. There are three stages of schooling with children, moving from
primary school to secondary school. The third stage provides
further and higher education, technical college of higher education
There is, however, quite a lot that distinguishes education in Britain from
the way it works in other countries. The most important distinguishing
features are the lack of uniformity and comparatively little central
control. There are three separate government departments managing
education: the Departments for Education and Employment is responsible for
England and Wales alone; Scotland and Northern Ireland retain control over
the education within their respective countries. None of these bodies
exercises much control over the details does not prescribe a detailed
program of learning, books and materials to be used, nor does it dictate
the exact hours of the school day, the exact days of holidays, school’s
finance management and such lick. As many details possible are left to the
discretion of the individual institution.
Many distinctive characteristics of British education can be
ascribed at least partly, to public school tradition. The present-day level
of “grass-root” independence as well as different approach to education has
been greatly influenced by the philosophy that a school is its own
community. The 19th century public schools educated the sons of the upper
and upper-middle classes and the main aim of schooling was to prepare young
men to take up positions in the higher ranks of the army, the Church, to
fill top-jobs in business, the legal profession, the civil serves and
politics. To meet this aim the emphasis was made on “character-building”
and the development of “team spirit” rather than on academic achievement.
Such schools were (and still often are) mainly boarding establishments,
so they had a deep and lasting influence on their pupils, consequently,
public-school leaves for formed a closed group entry into which was
difficult, the ruling elite the core of the Establishment.
The 20th century brought education and its possibilities for social
advanced within everybody’s reach, and new, state schools naturally tended
to copy the features of the public schools. So today, in typically British
fashion, learning for its own sake, rather than for any practical purpose
is still been given a high value. As distinct from most other countries, a
relatively stronger emphasis is on the quality of person that education
produces rather than helping people to develop useful knowledge and skills.
In other words, the general style of teaching is to develop understanding
rather than acquiring factual knowledge and learning to apply this
knowledge to specific tasks.
2.Public Schools – For Whom?
About five per cent of children are educated privately in what is
rather confusingly called public schools. These are the schools for the
privileged. There are about 500 public schools in England and Wales most of
them single-sex. About half of them are for girls.
The schools, such as Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester, are
famous for their ability to lay the foundation of a successful future by
giving their pupils self- confidence, the right accent, a good academic
background and, perhaps most important of all, the right friends and
contacts. People who went to one of the public schools never call
themselves school-leaves. They talk about “the old school tie” and “the old
boy network”. They are just old boys or old girls. The fees are high and
only very rich families can afford to pay so much. Public schools educate
the ruling class of England. One such school is Gordonstoun, which the
Prince of Wales, the elder son of the Queen, left in 1968. Harrow School is
famous as the place where Winston Churchill was educated, as well as six
other Prime Ministers of England, the poet Lord Byron, the playwright
Richard Sheridan and many other prominent people.
Public schools are free from state control. They are independent.
Most of them are boarding schools. The education is of a high quality; the
discipline is very strict. The system of education is the same: the most
able go ahead.
These schools accept pupils from preparatory schools at about 11
or 13 years of age usually on the basis of an examination, known as Common
Entrance. There are three sittings of Common Entrance every year in
February, June and November. Scholarships are rarely awarded on the results
of Common Entrance. The fundamental requirements are very high. At 18 most
public school-leaves, gain entry to universities.
Great Britain does not have a written constitution, so there are
no constitutional provisions for education. The system of education is
determined by the National Education Acts.
Schools in England are supported from public funds paid to the
local education authorities. These local education authorities are
responsible for organizing the schools in their areas.
Let’s outline the basic features of public education in Britain.
Firstly, there are wide variations between one part of the country and
another. For most educational purposes England and Wales are treated as one
unit, though the system in Wales is a little different from that of
England. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own education systems.
Secondly, education in Britain mirrors the country’s social
system: it is class-divided and selective. The first division is between
those who pay and those who do not pay. The majority of schools in Britain
are supported by public funds and the education provided is free. They are
maintained schools, but there are also a considerable number of public
schools. Parents have to pay fees to send their children to these schools.
The fees are high. As matter of fact, only very rich families can send
their children to public schools. In some parts of Britain they still keep
the old system of grammar schools, which are selective. But most secondary
schools in Britain, which are called comprehensive schools, are not
selective – you don’t have to pass an exam to go there.
Another important feature of schooling in Britain is the variety
of opportunities offered to schoolchildren. The English school syllabus is
divided into Arts and Sciences, which determine the division of the
secondary school pupils into study groups: a Science pupil will study
Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Economics, Technical Drawing, Biology,
geography; an Art pupil will do English Language and Literature, History,
foreign languages, Music, Art, Drama. Besides these subjects they must do
some general education subjects like Physical Education, Home Economics for
girls, and Technical subjects for boys, General Science. Computers play an
important part in education. The system of options exists in all kinds of
The National Curriculum, which was introduced in 1988, sets out
detail the subjects that children should study and the levels of
achievement they should reach by the ages of 7, 11, 14, and 16, when they
are tested. Until that year headmasters and headmistresses of schools were
given a great deal of freedom in deciding what subjects to teach and how to
do it in their schools so that there was really no central, control at all
over individual schools. The National Curriculum does not apply in
Scotland, where each school decides what subjects it will teach.
After the age of 16 a growing number of school students are
staying on at school, some until 18 or 19, the age of entry into higher
education in universities, Polytechnics or colleges. Schools in Britain
provide careers guidance. A specially trained person called careers advisor
or careers officer helps school students to decide what job they want to do
and how they can achieve it.
British university courses are rather short, generally lasting
for 3 years. The cost of education depends on the college or university and
special which one chooses.
4.Education in Britain.
|class |school |age |
| |nursery school |3 |
| |playgroup or |4 |
| |kindergarten | |
|reception class | |5 |
|year 1 |infant school |6 |
|year 2 | |7 |
|year 3 |primary school |8 |
|year 4 |junior school |9 |
|year 5 | |10 |
|year 6 | |11 |
|year 7 | |12 |
|year 8 | |13 |
|year 9 |secondary school |14 |
|year 10 | |15 |
|year 11 | |16 |
|year 12 |sixth form college |17 |
|year 13 | |18 |
|first year (fresher) | |19 |
|second year |University or |20 |
|third/final year |Polytechnic |21 |
|postgraduate |University |23 |
5.Pre-primary and Primary Education.
In some of England there are nursery schools for children under 5
years of age. Some children between two and five receive education in
nursery classes or in infants’ classes in primary schools. Many children
attend informal pre-school playgroups organized by parents in private
homes. Nursery schools are staffed with teachers and students in training.
There are all kinds of toys to keep the children busy from 9 o’clock in the
morning till 4 o’clock in the afternoon while their parents are at work.
Here the babies play, lunch and sleep. They can run about and play in
safety with someone keeping an eye on them.
For day nurseries, which remain open all the year round, the
parents pay according to their income. The local education authority’s
nurseries are free. But only about three children in 100 can go to them:
there aren’t enough places and the waiting lists are rather long.
Most children start school at five in primary school. A primary
school may be divided into two parts-infants and juniors. At infants school
reading, writing and arithmetic are taught for about 20 minutes a day
during the first year, gradually increasing to about 2 hours in their last
year. There is usually no written timetable. Much time is spent in modeling
from clay or drawing, reading or singing.
By the time children are ready for the junior school they will be
able to read and write, do simple addition and subtraction of numbers.
At seven children go on from the infants’ school to the junior
school. This marks the transition from play to “real work”. The children
have set periods of arithmetic, reading and composition which are all
Eleven Plus subjects. History, Geography, Nature Study, Art and Music,
Physical Education, Swimming are also on the timetable.
Pupils are streamed, according to their ability to learn into, A, B, C and
D streams. The least gifted are in the D stream. Formerly towards the end
of their fourth year the pupils wrote their Eleven Plus Examination. The
hated 11 + examination was a selective procedure on which not only the
pupil’s future schooling but their future careers depended. The abolition
of selection at Eleven plus Examination brought to life comprehensive
schools where pupils can get secondary education.
The majority of state secondary school pupils in England and
Wales attend comprehensive schools. These largely take pupils without
reference to ability or aptitude and provide a wide range of secondary
education for all or most children in a district. Schools take those, who
are the 11 to 18 age-range, middle schools (8 to 14), and schools with an
age-range from 11 to 16. Most other state-educated children in England
attend grammar or secondary modern schools, to which they are allocated
after selection procedures at the age of 11.
Before 1965 a selective system of secondary education existed in
England. Under that system a child of 11 had to take an exam, which
consisted of intelligence tests covering linguistic, mathematical and
general knowledge which was to be taken by children in the last year of
primary schooling. The object was to select between academic and non-
academic children. Those who did well in the examination went to a grammar
school, while those who failed went to a secondary modern school and
technical college. Grammar schools prepared children for national
examinations such as the GCE at O level and A-level. These examinations
qualified children for the better jobs, and for entry higher education and
the professions. The education in secondary modern schools was based on
practical schooling, which would allow entry into a variety of skilled and
Many people complained that it was wrong for a person’s future to
be decided at a so young age. The children who went to “secondary moderns”
were seen as “failures”. More over, it was noticed that the children who
passed this exam were almost all from middle-class families. The Labor
Party, returned to power in 1965, abolished the 11+ and tried to introduce
the non-selective education system in the form of “comprehensive” schools,
that would provide schooling for children of all ability levels and from
all social backgrounds, ideally under one roof. The final choice between
selective and non-selective schooling, though, was left to LEAS that
controlled the provision of school education in the country. Some
authorities decided for comprehensive, while others retained grammar
schools and secondary moderns.
In the late 1980s the Conservative government introduced another
major change. Schools cloud now decide whether to remain as LEA-maintained
schools or to “opt-out” of the control of the LEA and put themselves
directly under the control of the government department. These “grant-
maintained” schools were financed directly by central government. This did
not mean, however, that there was more central control: grant-maintained
schools did not have to ask anybody else about how to spend their money.
A recent development in education administration in England and
Wales in the School Standards and Framework Act passed in July 1998. The
Act established that from 1.09.1999 all state school education authorities
with the ending of the separate category of grant maintained status.
There are some grant-maintained or voluntary aided schools,
called City Technology Colleges. In 1999 there were 15 City Technology
Colleges in England. These are non-fee-paying independent secondary schools
created by a partnership of government and private sector sponsors. The
promoters own or lease the schools, employ teachers and make substantial
contributions to the costs of building and equipment. The colleges teach
the NC, but with an emphasis on mathematics, technology and science.
So, today three types of state schools mainly provide secondary
education: secondary modern schools grammar schools and comprehensive
schools. There should also be mentioned another type of schools, called
specialist schools. The specialist school programmer in England was
launched in 1993. Specialist schools are state secondary schools
specializing in technology, science and mathematics; modern foreign
languages; sports; arts.
State schools are absolutely free (including all textbooks and
exercise books) and generally co-educational.
Under the NC a greater emphasis at the secondary level is laid on
science and technology. Accordingly, ten subjects have to be studied:
English, history, geography, mathematics, science, a modern foreign
language, technology, music, art and physical education. For special
attention there of these subjects (called “core subjects”): English,
science, mathematics and seven other subjects are called “foundation or
statuary subjects”. Besides, subjects are grouped into departments and
teachers work in teams and to plan work.
Most common departments are:
. Humanities Departments: geography, history, economics, English
literature, drama, social science;
. Science Department: chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics;
. Language Department: German, French, English;
. Craft Design and Technology Departments: information and
communications technology, computing, home economics and photography.
The latter brings together the practical subjects like cooing,
woodwork, sewing, and metalwork with the new technology used in those
fields. Students can design a T-shirt on computer using graphics software
and make-up the T-shirt design. Students can also look at way to market
their product, thus linking all disciplines. This subject’s area
exemplifies the process approach to learning introduced by the NC.
It is worth mentioning here the growing importance of personal
and Social Education. Since the 1970s there has been an emphasis on
“pastoral” care, education in areas related to life skills such as health
(this includes looking at drug, discussing physical changes related to
poverty, sex education and relationship). There are usually one or two
lessons a week, from primary school through to sixth form and they are an
essential part of the school’s aim to prepare students to life in society.
Education in Britain is not solely concentrated on academic
study. Great value is placed on visits and activities like organizing the
school club or field trips, which are educational in a more general sense.
The organization of these activities by teachers is very much taken for
granted in the British school system. Some teachers give up their free
time, evenings and weekends to do this “unpaid” work. At Christmas teachers
organized concerts, parties and general festivities. It is also considered
a good thing to be “seen” to be doing this extra work since it is fairly
essential for securing promotion in the school hierarchy.
Classes of pupils are called “forms” (though it has recently
become common to refer to “years”) and are numbered from one to beginning
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