EDUCATION IN THE USA

 

The system of American education includes pre-school education, elementary, intermediate, secondary and higher education.

a) Pre - school education

In the United States there is a variety of pre-school, nursery school and kindergarten programs. The majority of American educationalists consider that the aim of pre-school education is the child’s individual development rather than the mastery of particular skills or academic subjects. Nursery schools and kindergartens are regarded as means of helping children make the transition from home to school.

b) Elementary schools

The elementary school course is from six to nine years in length, the ordinary period being eight years. The pupils enter at about six years of age. In the cities the elementary schools are usually in session for five hours daily, except Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 9 a.m. Classes are frequently divided into A, B and C groups according to speed of learning.

The program of studies in the elementary school includes English (reading, writing, spelling, grammar, composition), arithmetic (sometimes elementary algebra also, or plane geometry in the upper grades), geography, history of the USA, and elementary natural science including human physiology and hygiene. Physical training, vocal music, drawing and manual training are often taught. Sometimes a foreign language (Latin, German or French) and the study of general history are begun.

Religious teaching is officially not permitted, although the exercises of the day are often opened with a reading from the Bible and the singing of a hymn.

Corporal punishment is forbidden by law in New Jersey, and in many states may be used only under restrictions.

In the traditional system the 30 youngsters in a first grade classroom have been treated as a unit, given the same assignments and expected to cover the same work in the same amount of time. Nowadays American educationalists consider that trying to move 30 separate individuals along together over the same material, at the same speed has been a frustrating task for teachers.

With the non-graded system, instead of formal first, second and third grades, there might be 21 different achievement levels in one classroom. In non-graded elementary school, a youngster might be studying six grade science, fifth grade arithmetic, and perhaps only third grade English. (Today roughly a third of the public secondary schools have become “non-graded”.

c) Intermediate Education - the Junior high school

The junior high school is a sort of halfway point between elementary and secondary school. It comprises grades seven, eight and nine.

d) Secondary education

The typical high school is comprehensive in nature. The objectives of the comprehensive high school are to provide: 1) general education for all students; 2) subjects useful to those who will leave high school for employment or marriage, and 3) necessary preparatory education for those planning to enter colleges and universities.

There are public and private high schools. Some schools might have modern laboratory equipment for science instruction or very limited facilities.

In some private schools there are strict rules about the dress of students, and no choice in the curriculum. In contrast, there are very permissive private schools with no examinations and little supervision. Public secondary schools offer the same contrast.

e) Higher Education

There is no national system of higher education in the United States. Instead, there are over 2.100 separate institutions ranging from two-year “junior” colleges to complex universities and from technical institutes to classical liberal arts colleges. These institutions may be small or large, rural or urban, private or public, religious or secular; highly selective or open to all.

The combination of English collegiate and university instruction under one corporation and one executive administration is distinctive of higher education in the United States.

The crowning honour of the University students is the degree of PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) although that of M.A. (Master of Arts) - obtainable in less time and much easier condition. The degree of Master of Arts is conferred upon students, who pass certain prescribed examinations. The minimum period of study accepted for the degree of Ph.D., is two years after obtaining the bachelor’s degrees, but in practice, three, and even four years of study are found necessary. In addition to carrying on an investigation in the field of the main subject of study, the candidate for the degree of Ph.D. is usually required to pass examinations on one or two subordinate subjects, to possess a reading knowledge of French and German, and to submit the dissertation which embodies the results of his researches.

Each college or university determines its own entrance policies. Some consider themselves “open door” institutions, giving everyone an opportunity to learn. Others are highly selective and competitive.

Most public colleges and universities charge tuition, as do private institutions.

The academic year is usually of nine months duration, or two semesters of four and a half months each. Classes usually begin in September and end in June.

During one term a student will study four or five different subjects. The student’s progress is often evaluated through quizzes (short tests), term papers, and a final examination in each course. Each part of a student’s work in a course is given a mark which helps to determine his final grade. A student’s record consists of his grade in each course. This system is unlike that of most European countries.

College grades are usually on a five point scale (A, B, C, D, E). “A” is the highest mark, E or F denotes failure. Normally, a minimum grade-point average is required to continue in school and to graduate.

The methods of instruction are the lecture, discussion and work in laboratory or seminary.

3.6. AN EDUCATION FOR LIFE?

Read through the passage and answer these questions:

1. What are the two traditional reasons for education?

2. What changes might occur in future?

3. What might make it difficult for us to adjust to any changes?

4. What evidence does the writer give to suggest that we will succeed in adjusting?

 

There is a problem that will touch us all — men, women and children — in the not too distant future, a problem that resolves itself into a question: what is education for? At the moment most of us can answer that fairly practically and without too much soul-searching. On the lowest level education is for enabling us to cope in an adult world where money must be added up, tax forms filled in, numbers looked up in telephone directories, maps read, cur­tains measured and street signs under­stood. On the next level it is for getting some kind of job that will pay a living wage.

But we are already peering into a future so different from anything we would now recognise as familiar that the last of these two educational aims may become as obsolete as a dodo. Basic skills (reading, writing and arithmetic) will continue to be necessary but these, after all, can be taught to children in from one to two years during their childhood. But education with a view to working for a living, at least in the sense of earning daily bread, may well be on its way out right now for the majority of us. Then the question 'what is education for?' becomes much more complex. Because what the future proclaims is: an education is an education is an education.

In other words, our grandchildren may well spend their lives learning as, today, we spend our lives working. This does not simply involve a straightforward substitu­tion of activity but a complete transform­ation of motive. We work for things basically unconnected with that work — usually money, prestige, success, security. We will learn for learning's sake alone: a rose is a rose because it is and not what we can get out of it. Nor need any cynic doubt that we shall not wish to work without there being any obvious end in view. Already, adult education classes are overcrowded - one friend of mine teach­ing French literature says she could have had 10 pupils for every one she has.

Nevertheless, we still live in a very competitive society and most of us will need to reshuffle the furniture of our minds in order to gear our children towards a future in which outer rewards — keeping up with the Joneses – become less relevant than inner and more individ­ual spurs. The existence of competition has always meant doing things because they win us some essentially unconnected advantage but the aim of the future must be to integrate the doing with its own reward, like virtue.

Oddly enough it is in America, that citadel of competitiveness, that the first experiments in this change of mind are taking place. In that New World, there are already organisations set up to exam­ine ways in which competitiveness can be replaced by other inner-directed forms of rewards and pleasures. Take one inter­esting example in a Foundation whose aim is to transform competitive sport. A tug-of-war, as we all know, consists of one team pitting its strength against another team. The aim is to tug the opposing team over a line and, by doing so, win.

In the brand-new non-competitive ver­sion, things are very different. There are still two teams on either end of a rope but now the aim is not to win but to maintain the struggle. As the two teams tug, any individual on either team who senses a coming victory must let go the winning end of the rope and rush over to lend his weight to the other side, thus redressing the balance, and keeping the rug-of-war going as lone as possible. If you actually imagine doing this, the startling fact that emerges is that the new game offers more possibilities of individual judgement and skill just because victory is not the aim and the tug-of-war is ended only by defeat of those judgements and skills. What's more? I think most people would get more pleasure out of the neo-tug than the old winners-take-all concept.

So could it be for learning. Most of us, at some time or another, have glimpsed one of the real inner pleasures of education - a sort of one-person chase after an elusive goal that pits You only against You or, at the very most, against the dis­coveries of the greatest minds of other generations. On a more humble level, most of us have already got some pleasur­able hobby that we enjoy for its own sake and become expert in for that enjoyment. In my own stumbling efforts, since last year, to learn the piano, I have seen the future and it works.








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