Lecture. Theme: The System of Education in the UK

Plan:1 Schooling in Britain, its running and financing. Primary education.

2 Secondary Education

3 Higher Education


The aim of the lecture:To get acquainted with the System of Education in the UK, its running and financing; primary education; secondary schools; universities and colleges.


The content of the lecture:


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. Let's 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 country’s 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 is also a considerable number of public schools. Parents have to pay fees to send their children to these schools. The fees are high. As a 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 don't 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 (or Humanities) and Sciences, which determine the division of the secondary school pupils into study groups: a Science pupil will study Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics (Maths), 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 (PE), 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 Education Act of 1944 provided stages of education: primary, secondary and further education. Compulsory schooling in England and Wales lasts 11 years, from the age of 5 to 16. British schools usually have prayers and religious instruction. The National Curriculum which was introduced in 1988 sets out in detail the subjects that children should study and the levels of achievement they should reach by the ages of 7, 11, 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 student 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 career 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 speciality which one chooses.

Primary.In some areas of England there are nursery schools for children under 5 years of age. Some children between two and five receive education in nursery classes or infants’ classes in primary schools. Many children attend informal pre -school play-groups organized by parents, in private homes. Nursery schools are staffed with teachers and students in training. There are all kinds of toys to keep the children busy from 9 o'clock in the morning till 4 o'clock in the afternoon – while their parents are at work. Here the babies play, lunch and sleep. They run about and play in safety with someone keeping an eye on them. For day nurseries which remain open all the year round the parents pay according to their income. The local education authority's nurseries are free. But only about three children in 100 can go to them: there aren't enough places, and the waiting lists are rather long. Most children start school at 5 in a primary school. A primary school may be divided into two parts - infants and juniors. At infants school reading, writing and arithmetic are taught for about 20 minutes a day during the first year, gradually increasing to about 2 hours in their last year. There is usually no written timetable. Much time is spent in modeling from clay or drawing, reading or singing. By the time children are ready for the junior school, they will be able to read and write, do simple addition and subtraction of numbers. At 7 children go on from the infants’ school to the junior school. This marks the transition from play to 'real work. The children have set periods of arithmetic, reading and composition which are all Eleven Plus subjects. History, Geography, Nature Study, Art and Music, Physical Education, Swimming are also on the timetable. Pupils are streamed, according to their ability to learn, into А, В, С and D streams. The least gifted are in the D stream. Formerly towards the end of their fourth year the pupils wrote their Eleven Plus Examination. The hated 11+ examination was a selective procedure on which not only the pupils’ future schooling but their future careers depended. The abolition of selection at Eleven Plus Examination brought to life comprehensive schools where pupils can get secondary education.



After the age of 11, most children go to comprehensive schools of which the majority are for both boys and girls. About 90 per cent of all state-financed secondary schools are of this type. Most other children receive secondary education in grammar and secondary modern schools. Comprehensive schools were introduced in 1965. The idea of comprehensive education, supported by the Labour Party, was to give all children of whatever background the same opportunity in education.

At 16 students in England and Wales take GCSE examinations. In 1988 these examinations replaced the GCE and O-levels which were usually passed by about 20 per cent of school students. GCSE examinations are taken by students of all levels of ability in any of a range of subjects, and may involve a final examination, and assessment of work done by the student during the two-year course, or both of these things. Some comprehensive schools, however, do not have enough academic courses for sixth-formers. Students can transfer either to a grammar school or to a sixth-form college to get the courses they want. At 18 some students take A-level GCE examinations, usually in two or three subjects. It is necessary to have A-levels in order to go to a university or Polytechnic. But some pupils want to stay on at school after taking their GCSE, to prepare for a vocational course or for work rather than for A-level examinations. Then they have to take the CPVE examination which means the Certificate of Pre- Vocational Education. In Scotland students take the SCE examinations. A year later, they can take examinations called Highers after which they can go straight to a university. Secondary education in Northern Ireland is organized along selective lines according to children's abilities. One can hardly say that high quality secondary education is provided for all in Britain. There isa high loss of pupils from working-class families at entry into the sixth form. If you are a working-class child at school today, the chance of your reaching the second year of a sixth-form course is probably less than that for the child of a professional parent. Besides, government cuts on school spending caused many difficulties.

The school year is divided into terms, three months each, named after seasons: autumn term, winter term and spring term. The autumn term starts on the first Tuesday morning in September. In July schools break up for eight weeks. Life at school is more or less similar everywhere. Each group of 30 pupils is the responsibility of a form tutor. Each schoolday is divided into periods of 40 - 50 minutes, time for various lessons with 10 - 20 minutes breaks’ between them. On important occasions such as end of term or national holiday, called in English schools speech-days pupils are gathered in the assembly area or hall. Most of the pupils' time is spent in a classroom equipped with desks and a blackboard, nowadays often called chalkboard because normally it is brown or green. The desks are arranged in rows, the space between the rows is called an aisle. In addition to classrooms there are laboratories for Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Technical rooms are for Woodwork, Metalwork, and Technical Drawing. There are rooms for computer studies. Many young people use them for school exercise. They are now able to write their own games as well. The Physical Education lessons are conducted at the gymnasium, games-hall or at the playground in front of the school building. There are also language laboratories and housecraft rooms. Every school has a library and a school canteen. In student common room boys and girls can relax during the breaks and lunchtime. The Staff common room is for teachers. In case of illness a schoolchild may go to the sick room. Pupils at many secondary schools in Britain have to wear a school uniform. This usually means a white blouse for girls (perhaps with a tie), with a dark-coloured skirt and pullover. Boys wear a shirt and tie, dark trousers and dark-coloured pullovers. Pupils also wear blazers - a kind of jacket – with the school badge on the pocket. They often have to wear some kind of hat on the way to and from school - caps for boys, and berets or some other kind of hat for girls. Shoes are usually black or brown. And no high heels! Young people in Britain often don't like their school uniform, especially the hats and shoes. Sometimes they do not wear the right clothes. Schools will often give them warning the first time that this happens but then will punish them if they continue not to wear the correct uniform. Senior student don't have to wear their school uniform. It sounds logical to say that the school's function is to train a pupil's mind and his character should be formed at home. Teachers would be pleased if the problem could be solved so easily. But children don't leave their characters at home when their minds go to school. Many of them have personality problems of one kind or another. The pupils who violate various school regulations may be punished in the following ways: for lateness, truancy they may be reported to the Headmaster or named in school after assembly. They may be detained in school after ordinary hours.

Corporal punishment has recently been banned in state schools. But in most public schools it is still allowed. Caning is the usual punishment for serious misbehavior in class, damage and vandalism. Many teachers remark that standards of discipline have fallen since corporal punishment was banned by the government. You may want to know whether there are any rewards and prizes for the best pupils. Of course, there are. Each school has its system of rewards: medals and prizes.



The academic year in Britain's universities, Polytechnics, Colleges of Education is divided, into three terms, which usually ran 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. There are about one hundred universities in Britain. The oldest and best-known universities are located in Oxford, Cambridge, London, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Southampton, Cardiff, Bristol, and Birmingham. Good A-level results in at toast two subjects an necessary to get a place at a university. However, good exam passes alone are not enough. Universities choose their students after interviews. For all British citizens a place at a university brings with it a grant from their local education authority. English universities greatly differ from each other. They differ in date of foundation, size, history, tradition, general organization, methods of instruction, and way of student life. After three years of study a university graduate will leave with the Degree of Bachelor of .Acts, Science, Engineering, Medicine, etc.Later he may continue to take a Master's Degree and then a Doctor's Degree. Research is an important feature of university work.

The two intellectual eyes of Britain—Oxford and Cambridge Universities - date from, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Scottish universities of St. Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh date from 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 early seventies sonic" 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. During these years the Government set up thirty Polytechnics. The Polytechnics, like the universities, offer first and higher degrees. Some of them offer full-time and sandwich courses. Colleges of Education provide two-year courses in teacher education or sometimes three years if the graduate specializes in some particular subject. Some of those who decide to leave school at the age of 16 may go to a further education college where they can follow a course in typing, engineering, town planning, cooking, or hairdressing, full-time or part-time. Further education colleges have strong ties with commerce and industry. 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. Some 80,000 overseas students study at British universities or further education colleges or train in nursing, law, banking or in industry.

Oxbridge. Oxford and Cambridge are the oldest and most prestigious universities in Great Britain. They are often called collectively Oxbridge. Both universities are independent. Only the education elite go to Oxford or Cambridge. Most of their students are former public schools leavers. 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 the dreaming spires of Oxfordlanguages 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 Latte at decree ceremonies. Full academic degrees 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 larger ones have flow than 400 members; the smallest colleges have less then 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 room 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 was probably here). The university's earliest charter is dated to 1213. There are now twenty four 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, All Souls and Christ Chirch.The local car industry in East Oxford jives an important addition to the city's outlook. There is a great deal of bicycle traffic both in Oxford and Cambridge. Cambridge University started during the 13th century and grew until today. Now there are more than thirty colleges. On the banks of the Cam willow trees drown 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 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. Its choir of boys and undergraduates is also very well known. 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.


Speak about:

1. Stages of education in the educational system of the UK.

2. Different Types of schools in Britain

3. The system of examinations used in schools

4. University education in the UK.


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