MANY CHOICES Almost 90 percent of American students below the college level attend public elementary and secondary schools, which do not charge tuition but rely on local and state taxes for funding. Traditionally, elementary school includes kindergarten through the eighth grade. In some places, however, elementary school ends after the sixth grade, and students attend middle school, or junior high school, from grades seven through nine. Similarly, secondary school, or high school, traditionally comprises grades nine through twelve, but in some places begins at the tenth grade. Most of the students who do not attend public elementary and secondary schools attend private schools, for which their families pay tuition. Four out of five private schools are run by religious groups. In these schools, religious instruction is part of the curriculum, which also includes the traditional academic courses. Religious instruction is not provided in public schools. There is also a small but growing number of parents who educate their children themselves, a practice known as home schooling. The United States does not have a national school system. Nor, with the exception of the military academies (for example, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland), are there schools run by the federal government. But the government provides guidance and funding for federal educational programs in which both public and private schools take part, and the U.S. Department of Education oversees these programs. In American parlance, a college is a four-year institution of higher learning that offers courses in related subjects. A liberal arts college, for example, offers courses in literature, languages, history, philosophy, and the sciences, while a business college offers courses in accounting, investment, and marketing. Many colleges are independent and award bachelor’s degrees to those completing a program of instruction that typically takes four years. But colleges can also be components of universities. A large university typically comprises several colleges, graduate programs in various fields, one or more professional schools (for example, a law school or a medical school), and one or more research facilities. (Americans often use the word « college » as shorthand for either a college or a university.) Every state has its own university, and some states operate large networks of colleges and universities: The State University of New York, for instance, has more than 60 campuses in New York State. Some cities also have their own public universities. In many areas, junior or community colleges provide a bridge between high school and four- year colleges for some students. In junior colleges, students can generally complete their first two years of college courses at low cost and remain close to home. Unlike public elementary and secondary schools, public colleges and universities usually charge tuition. However, the amount often is much lower than that charged by comparable private institutions, which do not receive the same level of public support. Many students attend college — whether public or private — with the benefit of federal loans that must be repaid after graduation. About 25 percent of colleges and universities are privately operated by religious groups. Most of these are open to students of all faiths. There are also many private institutions with no religious ties. Whether public or private, colleges depend on three sources of income: student tuition, endowments (gifts made by benefactors), and government funding. There is no clear distinction between the quality of education provided at public and private colleges or institutions. The public universities of California and Virginia, for example, are generally rated on a par with the Ivy League, an association of eight prestigious private schools in the north-eastern United States. This does not mean that all institutions are equal, however. A student who has graduated from a highly regarded college may have a distinct advantage as he or she seeks employment. Thus, competition to get into the more renowned schools can be intense. A college student takes courses in his or her « major » field (the area of study in which he or she chooses to specialize), along with « electives » (courses that are not required but chosen by the student). It has been estimated that American colleges and universities offer more than 1,000 majors. EDUCATION, A LOCAL MATTER From Hawaii to Delaware, from Alaska to Louisiana, each of the 50 states has its own laws regulating education. From state to state, some laws are similar while others are not. For example: All states require young people to attend school. The age limit varies, however. Most states require attendance up to age 16, some up to 18. Thus, every child in America receives at least 11 years of education. This is true regardless of a child’s sex, race, religion, learning problems, physical handicaps, ability to speak English, citizenship, or status as an immigrant. (Although some members of Congress have advocated permitting the states to deny public education to children of illegal immigrants, such a proposal has not become law.) Some states play a strong central role in the selection of learning material for their students. For example, state committees may decide which textbooks can be purchased with state funds. In other states, such decisions are left to local school officials. Although there is no national curriculum in the United States, certain subjects are taught in virtually all elementary and secondary schools throughout the country. Almost every elementary school, for example, teaches mathematics; language arts (including reading, grammar, writing, and literature); penmanship; science; social studies (including history, geography, citizenship, and economics); and physical education. In many schools, children are taught how to use computers, which have also become integral parts of other courses. In addition to required courses — for example, a year of American history, two years of literature, etc. — secondary schools, like colleges, typically offer electives. Popular electives include performing arts, driver’s education, cooking, and « shop » (use of tools, carpentry, and repair of machinery). EDUCATION SYSTEM IN THE UK Across the UK there are five stages of education: early years, primary, secondary, Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE). Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 (4 in Northern Ireland) and 16. FE is not compulsory and covers non-advanced education which can be taken at further (including tertiary) education colleges and HE institutions (HEIs). The fifth stage, HE, is study beyond GCE A levels and their equivalent which, for most full-time students, takes place in universities and other HEIs and colleges. Early Years Education In England since September 2010, all three and four year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free nursery education for 38 weeks of the year. Early Years education takes place in a variety of settings including state nursery schools, nursery classes and reception classes within primary schools, as well as settings outside the state sector such as voluntary pre-schools, privately run nurseries or childminders. In recent years there has been a major expansion of Early Years education and childcare. The Education Act 2002 extended the National Curriculum for England to include the Foundation Stage which was first introduced in September 2000, and covered children’s education from the age of 3 to the end of the reception year, when children are aged 5. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) came into force in September 2008, and is a single regulatory and quality framework for the provision of learning, development and care for children in all registered early years settings between birth and the academic year in which they turn 5. The EYFS Profile (EYFSP) is the statutory assessment of each child’s development and learning achievements at the end of the academic year in which they turn 5. In Wales, children are entitled to a free part-time place the term following a child’s third birthday until they enter statutory education. These places can be in a maintained school or a non-maintained setting such as a voluntary playgroup, private nursery or childminder which is approved to provide education. The Foundation Phase is a holistic developmental curriculum for 3 to 7-year-olds based on the needs of the individual child to meet their stage of development. Statutory rollout of the Foundation Phase framework started in September 2008 and the process was completed in the 2011/12 school year. In Scotland, education typically starts with pre-school. Local authorities have a duty to secure a part-time funded place for every child starting from the beginning of the school term after the child's third birthday. Pre-school education can be provided by local authority centres, or private and voluntary providers under a partnership arrangement. In Scotland, early years education is called ante-pre-school education for those who are start receiving their pre-school education in the academic year after their 3rd birthday until the end of that academic year (note: depending on when the child turned 3 years of age, some children may only receive part of an academic year’s worth of ante-pre-school education (e.g. 1 term), whereas other children may receive an entire academic year of pre-school education). All children are entitled to receive a full academic year’s worth of pre-school education in the academic year before they are eligible to, and expected to, start primary school. The commitment in the Northern Ireland Executive’s Programme for Government is to ‘ensure that at least one year of pre-school education is available to every family that wants it.’ Funded pre-school places are available in statutory nursery schools and units and in those voluntary and private settings participating in the Pre-School Education Expansion Programme (PSEEP). Places in the voluntary/private sector are part-time whilst, in the statutory nursery sector, both full-time and part-time places are available. Pre-school education is designed for children in the year immediately before they enter Primary 1. Taking into account the starting age for compulsory education in Northern Ireland this means children are aged between 3 years 2 months and 4 years 2 months in the September in which they enter their final pre-school year. The Programme incorporates a number of features designed to promote high quality preschool education provision in all settings including a curriculum which is common to all those involved in pre-school education Primary The primary stage covers three age ranges: nursery (under 5), infant (5 to 7 or 8) (Key Stage 1) and junior (up to 11 or 12) (Key Stage 2) but in Scotland and Northern Ireland there is generally no distinction between infant and junior schools. In Wales, although the types of school are the same, the Foundation Phase has brought together what was previously known as the Early Years (from 3 to 5-year-olds) and Key Stage 1 (from 5 to 7-year-olds) of the National Curriculum to create one phase of education for children aged between three and seven. In England, primary schools generally cater for 4-11 year olds. Some primary schools may have a nursery or a children’s centre attached to cater for younger children. Most public sector primary schools take both boys and girls in mixed classes. It is usual to transfer straight to secondary school at age 11 (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or 12 (in Scotland), but in England some children make the transition via middle schools catering for various age ranges between 8 and 14. Depending on their individual age ranges middle schools are classified as either primary or secondary. The major goals of primary education are achieving basic literacy and numeracy amongst all pupils, as well as establishing foundations in science, mathematics and other subjects. Children in England and Northern Ireland are assessed at the end of Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. In Wales, all learners in their final year of Foundation Phase and Key Stage 2 must be assessed through teacher assessments. Secondary In England, public provision of secondary education in an area may consist of a combination of different types of school, the pattern reflecting historical circumstance and the policy adopted by the local authority. Comprehensive schools largely admit pupils without reference to ability or aptitude and cater for all the children in a neighborhood, but in some areas they co-exist with other types of schools, for example grammar schools. Academies, operating in England, are publicly funded independent schools. Academies benefit from greater freedoms to help innovate and raise standards. These include freedom from local authority control, the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff, freedom around the delivery of the curriculum and the ability to change the lengths of terms and school days. The Academies Programme was first introduced in March 2000 with the objective of replacing poorly performing schools. Academies were established and driven by external sponsors, to achieve a transformation in education performance. The Academies Programme was expanded through legislation in the Academies Act 2010. This enables all maintained primary, secondary and special schools to apply to become an Academy. The early focus is on schools rated outstanding by Ofsted and the first of these new academies opened in September 2010. These schools do not have a sponsor but instead are expected to work with underperforming schools to help raise standards. In Wales, secondary schools take pupils at 11 years old until statutory school age and beyond. Education authority secondary schools in Scotland are comprehensive in character and offer six years of secondary education; however, in remote areas there are several two-year and four-year secondary schools. In Northern Ireland, post-primary education consists of 5 compulsory years and two further years if students wish to remain in school to pursue post GCSE / Level 2 courses to Level 3. Ministerial policy is that transfer should be on the basis of nonacademic criteria, however legally post primary schools can still admit pupils based on academic performance. At the end of this stage of education, pupils are normally entered for a range of external examinations. Most frequently, these are GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Standard Grades in Scotland, although a range of other qualifications are available. In Scotland pupils study for the National Qualifications (NQ) Standard grade (a two-year course leading to examinations at the end of the fourth year of secondary schooling) and NQ Higher grade, which requires at least a further year of secondary schooling. From 1999/00 additional new NQ were introduced in Scotland to allow greater flexibility and choice in the Scottish examination system. NQ include Intermediate 1 & 2 designed primarily for candidates in the fifth and sixth year of secondary schooling, however these are used in some schools as an alternative to Standard Grades. Further Education Further education may be used in a general sense to cover all non-advanced courses taken after the period of compulsory education. It is post-compulsory education (in addition to that received at secondary school), that is distinct from the education offered in universities (higher education). It may be at any level from basic skills training to higher vocational education such as City and Guilds or Foundation Degree.