UNDERSTANDING THE UK EDUCATION SYSTEM

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Education in the UK is split into various levels, from primary education to PhD.

Below, we've broken down the system and how it works.

PRIMARY SCHOOL

The UK elementary school system, or the primary school system, is suited for students aged 5-11. Subjects include the languages, math, sciences, reading/writing, physical education, religious studies and music.

Note that the UK has strict age requirements and students starting year 1 must be at least aged 5 and no more than 6 and so on.

SECONDARY SCHOOL

The UK Secondary School System contains several types of schools, including:

 Public/Independent/Private Schools 
(e.g. Boarding Schools),

 

State Schools (incl. Grammar Schools),

 

Academies

UNIVERSITY

The UK has some of the top-ranked universities in the world, including Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London.

Most undergraduate programs are 3 years in length (except degrees such as Medicine which is 6 years in length). However, you may see that certain programs are 4 years in length, but these usually include a masters qualification after graduation, which is completed in the fourth year of study.

PHD programs are usually 3 years in length and often require some working experience and a relevant masters degree.

THE SECONDARY SCHOOL SYSTEM

The UK Secondary School System contains several types of schools, including:

 Public/Independent/Private Schools (e.g. Boarding Schools), State Schools (incl. Grammar Schools), Academies

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PRIVATE SCHOOLS

The terms 'public/independent/private schools' are often used interchangeably and may be a bit misleading. Boarding schools locate in this category since they are usually funded by the UK government and are funded by school fees charged to parents.

In a boarding school, the school may be further separated into two categories, where one group of students, called "boarders", reside in the school (i.e. dormitories), and a second group of students that simply stay during the day, in which these students are known as attending the "day school".

Boarding schools are typically very expensive but are preferred by most parents, since students are often undergo vigorous academic training and extra curricular activities training self-discipline. Classes are smaller in size and there is often a more intimate bond between the teacher and the student/parent. 

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STATE SCHOOLS

State Schools are fully funded by the UK government, hence they do not charge anything from the parent. More than 90% of UK students attend these schools. These schools often have larger class sizes than boarding schools.

Grammar schools are part of state schools, but admissions are usually differentiated by an additional selection process, in which applicants are required to take a 11+ exam testing verbal reasoning and logical thinking. Applications to grammar schools must usually be made 1 year in advance before entry.

All state schools must follow the national education curriculum.

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ACADEMIES

Academies are state-funded schools that do not have to follow the national education curriculum, but its curriculum must be broad and balanced. Its curriculum must also contain the compulsory subjects of English and Maths, and be designed in such a way that focuses on or specialises in one or more areas, such as Science and Technology.

THE SECONDARY SCHOOL SYLLABUS

Most secondary school students take the GCSE exam in year 11, and the A-levels or International Baccalaureate (IB) exam in year 13.

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GCSE

Year 9 to Year 11

Students normally start studying the GCSE exams from year 9 and sitting the final GCSE exams in year 11.

GCSE exams are offered for every school subject and students normally take 10-12 GCSE exams of their choice, which includes two languages, maths, sciences, humanities and the arts.

Grades are awarded ranging from A* to U or 1-9 (9 being highest).

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A-LEVELS

Year 12 to Year 13

The A-levels syllabus starts from year 12, with students sitting the final A-levels examinations in year 13.

Most students take 3 or 4 exams and they can choose any subject combination they like, but subject choices are often influenced by what degree they plan to pursue at university. Students may drop a subject if they have chosen 4 subjects in year 12 (commonly known as the AS-level in the past) since universities often base their selection criteria on the best-3 subject grades.

Subjects include The Languages, humanities, The Sciences, Maths, IT and The Arts

Grades range from A* to U

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INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE

Year 12 to Year 13

The IB Diploma is a 2-year program aimed at 16-19 year-olds that is recognised around the world. Students that don't wish to study the A-levels will study the IB Diploma program instead.

The IB Diploma program is unique in a way that the student is required to take 6 compulsory subjects across at least 5 of the 6 areas in the IB Diploma Syllabus.

 

The 6 areas are: 

Group 1 - Language and Literature

Group 2 - Language Acquisition

Group 3 - Individuals and Societies

Group 4 - Experimental Sciences

Group 5 - Mathematics

Group 6 - The Arts

Additionally, students are required to take the Extended Essay (EE), Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and Creativity,Action,Service (CAS) courses.

The IB Diploma program uses a points system to calculate a student's overall score. The maximum amount of points available is 45, with 7 points being the maximum for each compulsory subject from the 6 areas and 3 points being the maximum for EE + TOK.

UNDERGRADUATE, MASTERS AND PHD

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UNDERGRADUATE

The UK has some of the top-ranked universities in the world, including Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London.

Most undergraduate programs are 3 years in length (except degrees such as Medicine which is 6 years in length). However, you may see that certain programs are 4 years in length, but these usually include a masters qualification after graduation, which is completed in the fourth year of study.

A typical year in university starts in September/October and is often separated into three terms, one fall term, one spring term and one summer term. Christmas, Easter and Summer breaks are in between. Term lengths are usually 10 weeks long and the summer term in particular is usually reserved for revision and examinations.

All university applications must be submitted into the nation-wide UCAS system.

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MASTERS AND PHD

The UK is one of the hottest destinations for pursuing masters programs, which are often only 1 year in length, including a dissertation in the summer term. UK employers value masters programs significantly, which is why there is an increased number of students taking a masters degree in recent years.

PHD programs are usually 3 years in length and often require some working experience and a relevant masters degree.

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THE UK EDUCATION SYSTEM
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THE US EDUCATION SYSTEM
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THE CAN/AUS EDUCATION SYSTEM

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