The system of education in the UK is comprised of four parts. These are primary education, secondary education, further education and higher education. The compulsory education in the UK mainly begins at the age of 5 when a child enters an infant school primary school and lasts until the age of 16.
Besides being divided into parts, the British education system has also five key stages. The first stage is for children from the age of 5 to the age of 7. It is provided by infant schools or primary schools. The second stage is provided by primary or junior schools for those from the age of 7 to 11. The third stage is for students from the age of 11 to 14. It is provided by middle schools, high schools or secondary schools. The fourth stage is for students from the age of 14 to 16, provided by upper schools or secondary schools. There is also the fifth stage for students from the age of 16 to 18 who want to continue their education. It is provided by upper schools, secondary schools or sixth form colleges.
At the end of each stage, students are assessed. The Most important assessment is associated with the fourth key stage of the study when students pursue their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). After the GCSE is completed, students have to make a decision about their future path. It is possible to go directly into the working world, to go onto further education or choose a higher education path.
Primary education in the UK
Children in the UK must attend school when they rich the age of five. The exception is Northern Ireland, where compulsory education begins at the age of four.
Primary education includes the first two key stages. So the first two years of study are associated with pre-primary education and the following years, until a child reaches the age of 11, are associated with junior school education.
Though each country of the UK has its own curriculum, much of the content is similar. Nevertheless, there are some slight differences.
In England, the National Curriculum includes such subjects as English, foreign language, maths, science, art and design, computing, design and technology, geography, history, music and physical education.
The Welsh curriculum is focused on applying literacy and numeracy across the whole curriculum. Also, it identifies the different areas of learning such as personal and social development, well-being and cultural diversity, language, literacy and communication skills, mathematical development, Welsh language development (as the first or second language depending on a school), knowledge and understanding of the world, physical development and creative development.
In Scotland, the primary school curriculum includes expressive arts, health and wellbeing, languages, mathematics, religious and moral education, sciences, social studies, and technologies.
Curriculum in the Northern Ireland is focused on studying language and literacy, mathematics and numeracy, the arts, the world around us, personal development and mutual understanding, religious education and physical education.
Parents can choose to educate their children at state or private schools. Each state school in the country is entitled to provide a child with a free place. Private schools in the UK are not free.
There are different types of state schools in the UK. Community schools are run by the local authority and have strong links with local communities. Foundation schools in the UK are run by their own governing body. There are also trust schools that are considered to be a type of foundation schools. Such schools form a charitable trust with an outside partner. There are also voluntary-aided and voluntary-controlled schools.
Secondary education in the UK
Students in secondary schools study a wide range of subjects, including English, Maths, Science, Design and Technology, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), History, Geography, Modern Foreign Languages, Art and Design, Music, Citizenship, Physical Education. In some cases, Sex and Relationship Education and Religious education are included in the curriculum as well.
The secondary school in the UK ends with a GCSE state examinations. GCSE’s take a total of 2 years and mark the end of compulsory education for students in the UK. In the most cases, students pass about 10 GCSEs in different subjects, including mathematics and English language. The results of such examinations are crucial. They will show if a student can apply for further education, pursue higher education in a university or leave school to become a part of the working world.
Further education in the UK is provided by various educational institutions. Many of them offer the same courses as schools and higher education institutions. There are also vocational and technical courses created those who prefer to learn in a vocational context. Such courses have the aim to meet the needs of employers. There are three main pathways provided by the further education sector. The first one is the academic pathway that includes AS and A levels, International Baccalaureate and undergraduate study. The academic pathway can lead to a job, an apprenticeship or university.
A student can also choose the applied general or technical pathway that provides students with national vocational qualifications, as well as business and technical qualifications. Such pathway can also result in a job, higher apprenticeships, or higher education at college or university.
The third pathway is known as the occupational or professional one. The pathway is provided by apprenticeships or through training courses for employees and can lead to higher apprenticeships or a job or promotion.
The sector of further education has also a range of courses for international students, such as English language courses, summer schools, international diplomas, foundation years and top up courses.
Higher education in the UK is not compulsory and is not free. Nevertheless, there are a variety of scholarships and loans available to students who wish to study in the UK. Furthermore, education in the UK is not as expensive as it may seem first. For example, it is twice as low as in the US. Furthermore, it is important to understand that education in the UK usually takes less time.
It will take just three years to complete an undergraduate degree program and to get a BA (Bachelor of Arts), a BEng (Bachelor of Engineering), or BSc (Bachelor of Science).
After a student completes the undergraduate degree, it is possible to apply for a postgraduate program that generally takes from a year to two years of study. The same concerns Ph.D. program.
Unlike school education, university of college education in the UK provides students with the ability to choose their own educational pathway and to learn more about a subject or job they really enjoy.
Furthermore, higher education in the UK provides students with numerous advantages. These are academic achievements at a university as well as some social advantages. Higher education in the UK involves students in a wide number of out-of -school activities, allows to find new friends and to get insight into future careers.