On television and in films, American and British education appear to be very different. With contrasting images of Mean Girls’ social hierarchy and Hogwarts students feasting in great halls, you may wonder what the differences between American and British education actually are. Here are a few of the most common ways UK schools are at odds with our friends’ across the pond.
1 – Term Time
American students receive an average of about ten to twelve weeks of Summer holidays! Schools can let out any time between May and June and generally recommence at the beginning of September. While British students typically get only six weeks of Summer holidays, they do receive more in term breaks. Most schools in the UK offer half-term in October, February and May and are more likely to offer students longer, two-week holidays at Easter and Christmas compared with American schools.
2 – Dress to Impress
While many private schools in the US require students to don uniforms, state (or public as they’re known across the pond) schools normally have dress-codes but no formal uniform. This is one of the biggest physical differences between British and American schools seeing as most UK institutions, whether state or private, require uniforms. Brits also appear to have a general consensus of school uniforms with many schools asking students to wear a tie; shirt; jumper and blazer, differing only in colour from one another.
3 – The Magic School Bus
While students across the UK may have school-arranged transportation, London lacks school buses. Whether hopping on the tube, grabbing a bus or braving rush-hour traffic with parents, most students in the capital find their own way to get to school. At the end of the day, it’s only too common to see migrating groups of students chat in their uniforms while navigating the London Underground.
In the USA, whether you live rurally or in a big city, every public school student is entitled to a ride to and from school every single day.
4 – What’s the Plan?
The National Curriculum is enforced at every UK school meaning that students at different schools more or less all follow the same lesson plans. Although needing to adhere to national and state education requirements, American teachers are granted more freedom when it comes to creating their curriculums. This however has a tendency to create a national education bias that is uneven and favours students who’ve gained private and more liberal educations.
While UK students face both O-Level and A-Level exams, American students only take national exams in their final years of schooling. This results in British students tending to be far more familiar and experienced when it comes to standardised testing.
5 – Brain Food
While both American and British school lunches are dependant on the school itself, the attitude towards food differs enormously. Most UK schools do not allow students to consume food or sugary beverages in class while it is perfectly common to see students across the US chow down on a bag of Cheetos and a red bull in homeroom.
British school canteens usually also offer a wider variety of food options on a day to day basis while American cafeterias only offer students one or two choices a day, although milk is almost always on the menu.
6 – Outside the Classroom
Although both US and UK students can take advantage of extra-curricular activities, Americans have the British beat when it comes to the options available. With huge sports teams, pep-rallies and on-campus driver’s ed, American schools have everything that would keep a student to stay past the last bell.
Whilst it’s debatable which country offers better education, clearly both the American and British systems have a lot to offer students.