Education in Great Britain

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Education in Great Britain



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The British education system has much in common with that in Europe,

that :

  • 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 parents.

  • 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 and universities.

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, schools 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 everybodys 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.

Lets 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 countrys 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 dont 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 secondary schools.

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.



classschoolagenursery school playgroup or kindergarten3

4reception class

year 1

infant school5

6year 2

year 3

year 4

year 5

year 6

primary school

junior school7




11year 7

year 8

year 9

year 10

year 11


secondary school12




16year 12

year 13sixth form college 17

18first year (fresher)

second year

third/final year

University or Polytechnic19









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