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System of education in the UK



1)The system of the school education.

2)The system of high education.



1) The educational system of Gr. Br. has developed for over a 100 years. It is a complicated system with wide variations between one part of the country and another. 3 partners are responsible for the education service: central government, the Department of Education and Science (DES), local education authorities (LEAs) and schools themselves.

The DES is concerned with the formation of national policies for education. It is responsible for the maintenance of minimum national standard of education. The DES is assisted by her Majesty’s Inspectorate.

Local education authorities are charged with provision and day-to-day running of the schools and colleges in their areas and recruitment and payment of the teachers who work in them. They are responsible for the provision of buildings materials and equipment.

The great majority of children (about 9 mln) attend Britain’s state school. In most primary and secondary state schools boys and girls are taught together. Most independent schools for younger children are mixed, while the majority of private secondary schools are single-sex.

State schools are almost all day schools holding classes between Mondays and Fridays. The school year begins in September and continues till July. The year is divided into 3 terms of about 13 weeks each. Every state school has its own governing body, consisting of teachers, parents, local politicians, businessmen and members of the local community.

Compulsory education begins at the age of 5 in England, Wales and Scotland, and 4 in NI. All pupils must stay at school until the age of 16. Some pupils in state schools remain at school voluntary until the age of 18.

Education within the state school system comprises either 2 stages – primary and secondary, or 3 stages – first schools, middle schools and upper schools. Nearly all state secondary schools are comprehensive. This word expresses the idea that the schools take all the children in a given area, without selection.

Education for the under-5, from 3 to 5, isn’t compulsory and can be provided in nursery schools and classes attached to primary schools. These schools give little formal education.

The primary schools take children from 5 to 11. The remaining schools take the pupils aged 5 to 7 – infant schools, and 8 to 11 – junior schools.

Secondary education is compulsory up to the age of 16. Secondary schools are much larger than primary schools and most children go to comprehensive schools.

The principal exams taken by secondary school pupils at the age of 16 are those leading to the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). It aims to assess pupils` ability to apply their knowledge to solve practical problems. It is the minimum school leaving age, the level which doesn’t allow school leavers to enter universities but to start work.

The chief exams at the age of 18 are leading to the General Certificate of Education Advanced level (GCEA-level). It enablers 6th formers to widen their subject areas and move to higher education.

Admission to universities is carried by exam or selection (interviews).

2) There are about 90 universities in Gr.Br. which enjoy academic freedom. Universities offer courses in a broad range of academic and vocational subjects, the humanities, and science and technology. The Government encourages young people to choose degree courses in subjects, or combinations of subjects, that provide the knowledge and skills required by a technologically advanced economy. In general, the 1st degree of Bachelor is given to students who pass examinations at the end of 3 or 4 years study. Further study is required to get Master Degree (M.A., M.Sc) and Ph.D.

The oldest and best-known universities are located in Oxford, Cambridge, London, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Southampton, Cardiff, Bristol, and Birmingham.

British universities differ greatly from each other. They differ in date of foundation, size, history, tradition, general organization, methods of instruction, and way of student life.

The two intellectual eyes of Britain — Oxford and Cambridge universities date back to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

The Scottish universities of St. Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh date back to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

In the nineteenth and the early part of the twentieth centuries the so-called Redbrick universities were founded. These include London, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, and Birmingham. During the late sixties and the early seventies some 20 " new" universities were set up. Sometimes they are called " concrete and glass" universities. Among them are the universities of Sussex, York. East Anglia and some others.

Good " A" Level results in at least two subjects are necessary to get a place at a university. However, good exam passes alone are not enough. Universities choose their students after interviews, and competition for places at university is fierce.

For all British citizens a place at university brings with it a grant from their Local Education authority. The grants over tuition fees and some of the living expenses. The amount depends on the parents' income. If the parents do not earn much money, their children will receive a full grant which will cover all their expenses.

There is an interesting form of studies which is called the Open University. It is intended for people who study in their own free time and who " attend" lectures by watching television and listening to the radio. They keep in touch by phone and letter with their tutors and attend summer schools. The Open University students have no formal qualifications and would be unable to enter ordinary " universities.

The academic year in Britain’s universities is divided into three terms, which usually run from the beginning of October to the middle of December, from the middle of January to the end of March, and from the middle of April to the end of June or the beginning of July.

After three years of study a university graduate will leave with the Degree of Bachelor of Arts, Science, Engineering, Medicine, etc. Later he may continue to take the Master's Degree and then the Doctor's Degree. Research is an important feature of university work.

3) Oxford and Cambridge are the oldest and the most prestigious universities in Great Britain. They are often called collectively Oxbridge to denote an elitarian education. Both universities are independent.

The tutorial is the basic mode of instruction at Oxford and Cambridge, with lectures as optional extras.

The normal length of the degree course is three years. After which the students take the Degree of Bachelor of Arts (B. A.). Some courses, such as languages or medicine, may be one or two years longer. The students may work for other degrees as well. The degrees are awarded at public degree ceremonies. Oxford and Cambridge cling to their traditions, such as the use of Latin at degree ceremonies. Full academic dress is worn at examinations.

Oxford and Cambridge universities consist of a number of colleges. Each college is different, but in many ways they are alike. Each college has its name, its coat of arms. Each college is governed by a Master. The large ones have more than 400 members, the smallest colleges have less than 30. Each college offers teaching in a wide range of subjects. Within the college one will normally find a chapel, a dining hall, a library, rooms for undergraduates, fellows and the Master, and also rooms for teaching purposes.

Oxford is one of the oldest universities in Europe. It is the second largest in Britain, after London. The town of Oxford is first mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 911 A.D. and it was popular with the early English kings (Richard Coeur de Lion, or Lion Hearted was probably here). The university's earliest charter is dated back to 1213. There are now 24 colleges for men, five for women and another five which have both men and women members, many from overseas studying for higher degrees. Among the oldest colleges are University College (founded in 1249), All Souls (founded in 1438) and Christ Church (founded in 1525).

The Cambridge University started during the thirteenth century and grew until today. Now there are more than twenty colleges.

On the river bank of the Cam willow trees weep their branches into the water. The colleges line the right bank. There are beautiful college gardens with green lawns and lines of tall trees. The oldest college is Peterhouse, which was founded in 1284, and the most recent is Robinson College, which was opened in 1977. The most famous is probably King's College (founded in 1441) because of its magnificent chapel, the largest and the most beautiful building in Cambridge and the most perfect example left of English fifteenth-century architecture.

The University was only for men until 1871, when the first women's college was opened. In the 1970s, most colleges opened their doors to both men and women. Almost all colleges are now mixed.

Many great men studied at Cambridge, among them Desiderius Erasmus, the great Dutch scholar, Roger Bacon, the philosopher, Milton, the poet, Oliver Cromwell, the soldier, Newton, the scientist, and Kapitza, the famous Russian physicist.

The universities have over a hundred societies and clubs, enough for every interest one could imagine. Sport is part of students’ life at Oxbridge. The most popular sports are rowing and punting.



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