The education system
Below is an outline of the UK education system and subjects studied, although the way the curriculum is taught varies between schools. Many will make exceptions for overseas pupils depending on their level of English and educational requirements of the home country. It is possible to enter some schools at any age (NB not in the middle of years 10 & 11 or 12 & 13) whilst other schools restrict admittance to certain academic years.
National Curriculum Years 4-9 (ages 8 to 13)
A broad range of subjects are studied, always including English, Maths and Science (Physics, Chemistry and Biology), and these are supplemented by subjects such as English literature, History, Geography, Design & Technology, IT, Religious Education, Art, Music, Drama, Physical Education and at least one modern foreign language (usually French). Many schools also offer a second modern language and Latin.
National Curriculum Years 10 & 11 (GCSE years, age 14 plus)
Pupils whose English is very competent will usually choose 8 to 10 subjects in which to take their national GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams. In addition to compulsory English, Maths, Science and a Humanity subject, pupils usually take a language and a practical subject and also may select other subjects which they enjoy and for which they have shown an aptitude. Some subjects have coursework during the two year period and all have national exams at the end of the second year.
National Curriculum Years 12 &13 (Lower and Upper Sixth Forms, age 16 plus)
1) AS and A Levels (Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth)
Most pupils in independent schools take traditional British AS (Advanced Subsidiary) and A (Advanced) Levels as their end of school exams and as qualifications for entry into university or other higher education institutions. This system is aimed at specialisation; pupils study an average of four AS subjects in the Lower Sixth and then continue with three of these at A Level in the Upper Sixth. In addition to the subjects already listed, AS and A Level courses may be offered in such areas as Economics, Business Studies, Law, Politics, Economics, History of Art, Electronics, Psychology and Sociology. There is also a Further Maths A Level for advanced mathematicians.
These courses will be supplemented by General Studies to provide a broader education.
2) International Baccalaureate
The IB Diploma Programme, which is studied in 140 countries, is growing in popularity in the UK with over 300 independent and state schools offering IB for its variety in subjects and prestige world-wide.
Students study six courses at higher level or standard level. This ensures a breadth of experience in Languages, Social Studies, and Experimental Sciences and Mathematics. Furthermore, the programme has three core requirements:
• The Extended Essay, a requirement for students to engage in independent research through an in-depth study of a question relating to one of the subjects they are studying;
• Theory of Knowledge, a course designed to encourage each student to reflect on the nature of knowledge by critically examining different ways of knowing (perception, emotion, language and reason) and different kinds of knowledge (scientific, artistic, mathematical and historical);
• CAS, (Creativity, Action, and Service), requires that students actively learn from the experience of doing real tasks beyond the classroom.
PLEASE NOTE: A number of the larger senior schools are able to offer students the choice of studying either A Levels or the International Baccalaureate.
Some schools have recently introduced the Cambridge Pre-U which is a new post-16 qualification. To qualify for the Diploma, students study at least three Principal subjects from a choice of 26. They also complete an Independent Research Report and a Global Perspectives Portfolio. Students may take more than three Principal subjects if they wish.
English as a Foreign Language
Your child should receive extra lessons if his or her English needs further improvement. Most schools also offer pupils the opportunity to take the Cambridge English exams and then IELTS (International English Language Testing System) which universities may also require in addition to final school exams. These lessons usually incur an extra cost.
Many schools (especially senior schools) are able to provide a tutor so your child can continue to study his or her native language. It should also be possible to take UK exams in the language as well (e.g. A Level Russian for a Russian speaker).
Extra courses & lectures
All independent schools supplement their regular classes with a programme of outside speakers and lecturers with specialist subjects in order to broaden the students’ education and also to introduce them to the world of work. Beginner courses in languages such as Mandarin or Japanese may be offered. Critical Thinking or General Studies, as examined courses, may also be part of the curriculum.
All students will receive expert advice on university placements and career choices. The schools manage the application procedure for all its students for UK and overseas universities. Certain students may be encouraged to apply for Oxford, Cambridge, Durham or one of the Russell Group Universities (a group of top academic institutions), but entry to any university is not guaranteed and is based on not only academic results but also on potential, interests, further tests set by the institution and performance at interview.
← Secondary education in the UK
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