Great Britain

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The 20th century brought education and its possibilities for social advancement within everybody’s reach, and new, state schools naturally tended to copy the features of the public schools. So today, in typically British fashion, learning for its own sake, rather than for any practical purpose is still been given a high value. As distinct from most other countries, a relatively stronger emphasis is on the quality of person that education produces rather than helping people to develop useful knowledge and skills. In other words, the general style of teaching is to develop understanding rather than acquiring factual knowledge and learning to apply this knowledge to specific tasks.

What’s a “public school”? A public school in Britain is not open to everyone; the ordinary, local schools where most people go are called “state” schools. Public schools are schools where parents have to pay money if they want their children to attend. Public schools are old, often traditional and prestigious institutions. Most of the kinds who go to them have very rich parents. Public schools are often single-sex, which means they don’t permit girls and boys to be educated together. There are sometimes boarding schools, that mean that kids live at school during the week. Some famous public schools for boys are Eton college, Harrow and Malvern, and for girls, Benedon and Cheltanham Ladies College. Prince William was educate at Eton and his brother Harry is still a pupil there. Eton is renowned for its academic excellence and some of its traditions. The school was founded by Henry VI in 1440 – 1441 and was intended for 70 highly qualified boys who received scholarships. This dates back to the death of George III. The school wore mourning clothes but this later became established as the official uniform. Weblink: www.etoncollege.com.

This traditional public-school approach, together with the above-mentioned dislike of central authority, also helps to explain another thing: the NC, the purpose of which was to do away with the disparities in the type and quality of education, was not introduced until 1989 – much later than in other countries.

§2. Pre-school and primary education.

There is no countrywide system of nursery (or pre-primary) schools. In some areas there are nursery schools and classes (or, in England, reception classes in primary schools), providing informal education and play facilities, but they are not compulsory and only 25% of 3-4 year-olds attend them. There are also some private nurseries and pre-school playgroups organized and paid by parents themselves where children are brought twice a week for an hour or two.

The present Labour government is working to expand pre-school education and wants all children to begin school with basic foundation in literacy and numeracy, or what is know as ‘the three Rs’ (Reading, wRiting, and aRithetic). From September 1998 it is providing free nursery education in England and Wales for all 4-year-olds whose parents want it.

The average child begins his or her compulsory education at the age of 5 starting primary school (infant schools are for children between at the ages of 5 and 7 and junior schools for those between the ages of 8 and 11).

LEAs, in the partnership with private nurseries, playgroups and schools, have drawn up ‘early years development plans’ of providing 4 year olds with basic skills of reading, writing and arithetic. The plans are designed to show how co-operation between private nurseries, playgrounds and schools can best serve the interests of children and their parents. In addition, the government aims to establish ‘early excellence centres’ designed to demonstrate good practice in education and childcare.

§3. Secondary education.

The majority of state secondary school pupils in England and Wales attend comprehensive schools. These largely take pupils without reference to ability or aptitude and provide a wide range of secondary education for all or most children in a district. Schools take those, who are the 11 to 18 age-range, middle schools (8 to 14), and schools with an age-range from 11 to 16. Most other state-educated children in England attend grammar or secondary modern schools, to which they are allocated after selection procedures at the age of 11.

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