Great Britain

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Most common departments are:

Humanities Department: geography, history, economics, English literature, drama, PE, social science;

Science Departments: chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics;

Language Department: German, French, English;

Craft Design and Technology Department: information and communications technology, computing, home economics, and photography.

The latter (often as CTD) brings together the practical subjects like cooking, woodwork, sewing and metalwork with the new technology used in those fields. Students can design a T-shirt on computer using graphics software and make-up the T-shirt design. Students can also look at way to market their product, thus linking all disciplines. This subject area exemplifies the process approach to learning introduced by the NC.

It is worth mentioning here the growing importance of PSE (Personal and Social Education). Since the 1970s there has been an emphasis on ‘pastoral’ care, i. e. education in areas related to life skills such as health (this includes looking at drug, discussing physical changes related to poverty, sex education and relationships). There are usually one or two lessons a week, from primary school through to sixth form, and they are an essential part of the school’s aim to prepare students to life in society.

Education in Britain is not solely concentrated on academic study. Great value is placed on visits and activities like organizing the school club or field trips, which are educational in a more general sense. The organization of these activities by teachers is very much taken for granted in the British school system. Some teachers give up their free time, evenings and weekends to do this ‘unpaid’ work. At Christmas teachers organised concerts, parties and general festivities. It is also considered a good thing to be ‘seen’ to be doing this extra work since it is fairly essential for securing promotion in the school hierarchy.

Classes of pupils are called ‘forms’ (though it has recently become common to refer to ‘years’) and are numbered from one to six, beginning with first form. Nearly all schools work a five-day week, and are closed on Saturdays. The day starts at or just before nine o’clock and finishes between three and four. The lunch break usually lasts about an hour-and-a-quarter. Nearly two-thirds of pupils have lunch provided by the school. Parents pay for this, except for the 15 per cent who are rated poor enough and have it for free. Other children either go home for lunch or take sandwiches.

Schools usually divide their year into three ‘terms’, starting at the beginning of September:

Autumn term

Christmas holiday (about 2 weeks)

Spring

term

Easter holiday (about 2 weeks)

Summer term

Summer holiday (about 6 weeks)

Passage from one year to the next one is automatic. At the age of 14 pupils are tested in English, maths and science, as well as in statutory subjects. At that same age, in the 3rd or 4th form pupils begin to choose their exam subjects and work for two years to prepare for their GCSE qualifications. The exams are usually taken in the 5th form at the age of 16, which is a school-leaving age. The GCSE can be taken in a range of subjects (usually five in number). The actual written exams are set by independent Examination Boards, and are marker anonymously by outside examiners, but they must be approved by the government and comply with national guidelines. There are several examination boards in Britain and each school decided which board’s exam its pupils take. Most exams last for two hours, marks are given for each exam separately and are graded from A to G (grades A, B, C are considered to be ‘good’ marks).

16 is an important age for school-leavers because they have to make key decisions as to their future lives and careers. There is a number of choices for them.

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