As it was already mentioned in the other article in this section, the American education system can boast a huge diversity, and so it is not different about schooling. Yet, it appears to be definitely difficult to understand how the American school system functions and what are its specialties. This guide aims to give you basic information about the American school system and provide important tips in regards to this matter.
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Overview of the American School System
The majority of American children start their education at the age of 6 – the time when they are supposed to go to the kindergarten and the time when compulsory schooling begins. The maximum number of years of compulsory schooling is 13, even though it appears to be lower in certain states. Besides, in rural areas children tend to study less than in metropolises. The formal compulsory education is divided into grades: kindergarten and 12 grades.
Usually, children start attending the kindergarten or the first grade at the age of 5/6, whereas one grade stands for one year of studying. The majority of children reach the 12th grade after turning 17. Yet, some children may be asked to repeat a year in case if they fail to deliver good/satisfiable marks or did not attend the school for a prolonged period of time, but such cases occur pretty rarely.
After a year in the kindergarten, children enroll in a school and follow the plan which is known as “6-3-3” in the United States. That means that the first six years in the school are marked as “elementary school,” while the following two periods (three years long each) are labeled as middle and high school respectively. However, the United States are known for the diversity of their education system, and so the plans may vary as well: different options include “6-6,” “8-4,” “6-2-4,” and “5-3-4.”
Within the American school system, it typically happens so that students have one teacher to lecture all the subjects during the elementary school, while it dramatically changes in the middle and high school. In the middle/high school, each subject is lectured by a particular teacher.
In the majority of American schools, children are not taught a foreign language in elementary school
When it comes to the period of studying, school classes in the United States typically begin in September and end in May or beginning of June. Depending on the state, they can be structured either into quarters or into semesters. If it works in the latter way, there will be two periods then: autumn (from September until December) and spring (from January until May). Otherwise, it comprises three periods: autumn, winter, and spring.
The dates of school holidays are typically published in advance, which gives to the children’s parents plenty of room to plan anything. Typically, parents are not allowed to take the children anywhere during the classes – the only exception is visiting a doctor after informing a teacher about it in advance. If a child must be taken somewhere really urgently, parents must obtain a permit from the principal (yet, such permits are rarely given by the principals).
The American School System: Elementary School
Elementary school is typically attended for 6 years: from the age of 5/6 until the age of 11. However, it sometimes happens that children have to attend the elementary school for 8 years in some American districts. The school’s curriculum largely varies, depending on the educational goals of particular schools.
The goal of elementary schooling is to provide children with fundamental skills in art, science, music, crafts, social studies (geography and history), maths, writing, reading, physical education and gym. Foreign languages are usually taught in the high school, though certain schools introduce a foreign language in the last year of the elementary school. Some schools, however, don’t provide teaching a foreign language at all (even in the high school).
The American School System: Secondary School
In the United States, secondary schools tend to be much larger than in many developed countries, whereas some school may have as many as 2,000 students enrolled. Every state determines what “core” curriculum courses must be taught during the secondary school terms and how for how many hours each course should be lectured. Typically, those courses include social sciences (they usually include social problems, world history, geography, and the American history), physical education, health, general science, maths, and English.
In the secondary school, “bright,” outstanding students are typically helped to proceed within the school faster than ordinary students (for example, leaping over one year of studying). Apart from the mandatory subjects listed above, students are also able to choose so-called “electives,” which may vary depending on the future plans for career and education. Usually, there are 4 optional subjects per quarter, thus they are equal to the half of the student’s work.
The American School System: High School
American high schools offer a large variety of subjects to the students, which gives them plenty of room to receive proper educational background for the career in business or further education they plan to achieve. Large schools offer electives in three fields to the students: vocational, academic, and general.
The first program can train students in four fields: trade and industrial education, career about the children and sick people, home economics, and agricultural education. The academic program typically focuses on such subjects like foreign languages, social sciences, composition, advanced English language and literature, higher mathematics, and academic sciences (physics, chemistry, and biology). The general program comprises features of the both programs mentioned above, thus being somewhat a mix of both programs (students who tend to pursue a college diploma are likely to enroll here as well).
The American School System: International Schools
There are also international and foreign-language schools that function alongside the American schools. They accept students of all backgrounds and nationalities, though they must be educated in English (intensive learning of English is provided for the struggling students). Yet, you must keep in mind that tuition fees in the international schools are higher than in the American private schools.
After completing education in the international schools, students have to prepare for the two-year long IB (International Baccalaureate), which is an examination needed for entering a college. Once a student has passed such an examination, he/she receives the IB diploma, which is an internationally recognized document that allows the student to enter a college/university almost anywhere in the world.