The power of the United States can be justified by many reasons, mainly its educational system. Indeed, this federal country has one of the best education systems in the world. In fact, most of the most influential people in the world (Barack Obama, George Bush…) began their studies in prestigious American universities. How does the American education system work and what makes it different from other countries?
General education in the United States: the primary school
The American education system is divided into two categories: general education and higher education. The latter requires a strong knowledge of the English language, if you want to prepare for your English proficiency tests, you can visit Global-Exam for example.
General education is divided into two parts: primary school and secondary school. Called “Elementary School”, the primary school lasts about 6 years, not counting the nursery school, which is an optional passage. These 6 years are divided into 5 grades and one year in Kindergarten school.
The “Kindergarten school” is reserved for children aged 5 or 6. During this first year, the pupils will mainly learn to write, read and do simple calculations. There is no exam until then. They will also learn to behave well with others. In the United States, it is mandatory for children to eat lunch at school. They have to bring lunch boxes with them.
The five grades start at age 6 and end at age 10. They are the equivalent of CP to CM2 in France. During this period, students will learn many subjects such as history, geography, maths… Classes are taught in English and technology is very present in the classroom. As far as grades are concerned, they are evaluated in 4 levels.
From an early age, the American student learns the value of patriotism. This is one of the greatest characteristics of the American educational system. Every morning, students must gather to raise the flag. They must also repeat the Pledge of Allegiance before going to class. Even institutions serving the country, such as the military, come to the schools regularly to pass on this value to the children.
General Education in the United States: The Middle School
High school in the United States lasts 7 years and is divided into two cycles: middle school or junior high school and high school.
Middle school is the equivalent of secondary school in France. It usually lasts 3 years, but sometimes the first year is provided by the primary school itself. While secondary school in France operates by class, it is more flexible in the United States. Elements such as grade can, in fact, determine a student’s grade. Thus, a student in 2ᵉ grade may take a subject destined for 3ᵉ grade, if he or she has a higher level. Another peculiarity of the American education system is its optional subjects. In addition to compulsory courses, students can also take other non-compulsory subjects such as a foreign language or computer science.
General education in the United States: High school
The High School extends over 4 years, more precisely from the third to the final year. These 4 years are divided into 4 grades, each of which has its own name: freshman, sophomore, junior and senior. As for the Middle shool, the courses in the high school are more individual. Students choose certain subjects themselves, according to their orientation and their needs. It should also be noted that there is no baccalaureate in the United States. Students can take an international baccalaureate, but this is optional and not very common. In exchange, they receive a graduation diploma in Terminales, in order to validate their studies at the Lycée. Finally, the American High School is also recognized for its prom nights, which take place at least twice a year.
Higher education in the United States: university or college
American universities are among the best institutions in the world. Harvard, Yale, Princeton… millions of students struggle each year to get into these prestigious universities. They offer many scholarships, especially for international students. For domestic students, admission procedures begin as early as the senior year of high school.
Higher education in the United States takes place in three cycles: undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate. The undergraduate cycle allows the student to obtain a Bachelor’s degree and lasts 4 years. The second cycle leads to a Master’s degree. Finally, the postgraduate is intended for students who want to continue their studies up to the Doctorate and Phd level. Before entering university, students are invited to join a sorority. Most of them live on campus.
Students can also choose college or community college instead of universities. The difference lies mainly in the length of study, which is shorter for the first two cases.