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Old 04-24-2012, 01:28 AM
Location: Duluth, Minnesota, USA
7,639 posts, read 18,132,790 times
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One difficulty I've noticed when speaking to people from other countries is the different names we have for schools and levels of education. What are your educational levels, from age 5 to the maximum educational achievement, called?

(and yes, much more concise explanations are welcome as well)

In the United States, schooling is decentralized, and we do not have rigid, national planning for curricula nor for school buildings themselves. The individual states vary on how much say they have over their educational systems. It's mostly at the local, or "district" level that decisions about primary and secondary education are made.

One thing that is standardized across the country, though, is the grade system. The normal time for starting kindergarten is at age 5 (except if you have a summer birthday, in which case you will start when you are 6); then it's 1st grade (age 6-7), 2nd grade (age 7-8), all the way up to 12th grade, or the senior year of high school (age 17-18).

Education at the primary and secondary level (known as "K-12") here is normally organized into three age tiers: elementary school, middle or junior high school, and high school, which in a school district of sufficient size, have their own physical buildings. What grades they comprise vary from district to district, although their chronological order remains fixed.

Elementary schools always encompass at least kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades. They often, but not always, also include 4th, 5th, and sometimes 6th grade. 4th and 5th grade (ages 9 - 11) are known as "Upper Elementary", and sometimes are included in the Middle School facility.

Middle schools are usually composed of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade (ages 11 - 14); junior high schools, of 7th, 8th, and 9th grade (age 12 - 15). The two terms are not synonymous and correspond to different educational philosophies.

Some parochial / religious schools, as well as those public schools in small districts, have kindergarten through 8th grade in one building.

High school normally consists of the 9th through the 12th grade (ages 14 - 18); however, in some districts, which use the "junior high school" system, only have 10th through 12th grade in their high schools.

High school students, in ascending grade order, are known as freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

Once a person graduates high school, they have the option to pursue training for a specific trade or vocation, or follow the university ("college") path.

During the first two years of university, most student's course load consist of classes to fulfill "general education requirements", which everybody must take. You'll see nursing students taking a Philosophy course and Art History majors in an Intro to Physics classroom. The intent of the general education requirements is to produce well-rounded students.

"Generals" can often be taken at a community college (which specializes in technical and vocational career training) in place of one's first two years of university. This is a cheaper route, as university tuition is famously expensive while tuition at a community college is at most moderately priced. The degree yielded is called an "associate's degree".

Once students complete their college's general education requirements (or matriculate with an associates degree completed) and finish their major's (specialization) requirements, they earn a bachelor's degree: most often B.A. (humanities-oriented fields: anthropology, English, Women's Studies, etc.) or B.S. (science-oriented fields: physics, math, biochemistry, etc.). Students who follow their school's graduation guidelines and do not fail any classes or change their major, or study abroad (unless the credits earned thereby contribute to their major requirements) will graduate in an average of 4 years.

Traditionally, only a small percentage of Americans proceeded beyond this stage, considering a bachelor's degree a pass to a bountiful career. With college graduates becoming ubiquitous, many distinguish themselves from the competition by obtaining a Master's Degree. Also, certain occupations - physician and lawyer chief among them - require post-graduate education. Here the divide is between professional school and graduate school.

Professional schools include law schools - which prepare students to become attorneys - and medical schools - which prepare students to become doctors. Law schools are famous for their rigorous curricula, which last 3 years, at the completion of which students take a bar exam. If they pass it, they become able to practice law. Medical school lasts 4 years. Aspiring surgeons must apply to (paid) residencies for an additional 3-7 years upon completion of their degree in medicine before they are able to practice independently.

One needs to take the LSAT prior to applying to law school, and the MCAT before medical school. The scores on these exams help medical and law schools sort and exclude applicants.

"Grad school" is the umbrella term for the stage of university students attend with a view of obtaining a master's degree, and if they go further, a Ph.D. Graduate school is far more rigorous and research-oriented than undergraduate coursework ("undergraduate" is a term used to refer to the first four years of university). Master's degrees generally take 2 to 3 years to earn; Ph.D's can take anywhere from three to ten or more additional years to earn and require the production of original research.

The paramount product of a master's student is his or her thesis; Ph.D. students write dissertations, which can be several hundreds of pages in length.

The current requirement for a university professor post at most institutions is a Ph.D.

Graduate students are also much more diverse in terms of age than
undergraduates, who usually flock to university the fall after high school graduation. They come from all walks of life: a high school teacher who wants to be paid more will enroll in a master's program for education; a nurse who wishes to have a higher salary and more responsibility will enroll in a master's program for nursing; an ambitious student of geography or linguistics or anthropology will apply for programs in their chosen fields the fall before they get their bachelor's degree and start in it the fall after.

Most graduate school programs require applicants to take the GRE, which serves the same purpose the SAT or ACT does for college or the LSAT or MCAT for professional school. Some programs will have applicants take other tests.

Both graduate and professional schools are usually part of the same institutions that confer bachelor's degrees. The same facilities and staff are often used for post-graduate education, and having many post-graduate programs is the pride of large research universities.
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Old 04-24-2012, 01:45 AM
Location: Canada
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That's quite different from the education system we have in the Canadian province of Quebec. Here, elementary school goes from Kindergarden to grade 6. After this, students matriculate to high school which goes from grade 7 to grade 11, there is no such thing as middle school. This is the end of universal education, but students may choose to go to CEGEP if they have the grades, which is also free to attend but for minor school fees. CEGEPs offer two year long pre-university programs in general fields like science, liberal art, and commerce which one must graduate from before being eligible to attend a university, so you can't go straight to a university from a Quebec High School. The CEGEP also offers three year long work technology programs in many disciplines for students who want to learn a profession. The one I attended had a police academy, an aircraft maintenance program, a dental hygienist program, a professional theatre school, and many others. These vary depending on school and region, but the pre-university degrees generally do not. I found the CEGEP system invaluable in determining what to do with my life as there was a bit of flexibility to explore different fields through electives without having to worry about the expense. There are both English and French language CEGEPs, and anyone is allowed to attend either, which is not the case for elementary and high schools which are governed by language laws which prohibit Francophones and immigrants from attending the English system. After graduating from a two year pre-university degree, one goes to get bachelor's degree which is only three years long instead of four, due to the CEGEP having fulfilled what would be first year credits elsewhere. After this, University is as it is in the US and the other provinces. University tuition in Quebec, as in all other provinces, is subsidized and the universities are public institutions that are not for profit.
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Old 04-24-2012, 01:46 AM
Location: Eindhoven, Netherlands
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Elementary School: Age 4/5 - 11/12 (Group 1 to 8)

Secondary School: Age 12/13 - 16/17/18 (Class 1 to 4/5/6)

High School/University: Age 17/18/19 - ?????
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Old 04-24-2012, 02:27 AM
Location: Tricity, PL
61,745 posts, read 87,217,162 times
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Explained here ( with diagram)
The Polish School System
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Old 04-24-2012, 05:36 AM
Location: Leeds, UK
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Primary school 4 - 11 (varies on birth date)
High School 11 - 16

It's now compulsory to be in some form of education until 18 though for people leaving school this year. So when you leave high school at 16, sometimes 15 if you're born later, you start college or sixth form.
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Old 04-24-2012, 12:12 PM
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  • Primary school (age 6-13)
  • Lower Secondary School (age 13-16)
  • Upper Secondary School (age 16-19) [not mandatory]
  • Higher education at universities or university colleges:
    Bachelor (3 yrs)
    Master (5 yrs)
    PhD (8 yrs)
Source: Wikipedia
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Old 04-24-2012, 01:29 PM
Location: The Netherlands
2,866 posts, read 5,245,536 times
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Originally Posted by Davy-040 View Post
Elementary School: Age 4/5 - 11/12 (Group 1 to 8)

Secondary School: Age 12/13 - 16/17/18 (Class 1 to 4/5/6)

High School/University: Age 17/18/19 - ?????
I'm not sure what you mean by the last category. There is no high school or University in the Netherlands at those ages. There is only primary school and secondary school (assuming you are from the NL as well).

I will elaborate a bit.

Primary school in the Netherlands starts at age 4 or 5 (4 if your birthday is in the summer, before the 1st of October). Primary school is from group 1 (age 4/5) to group 8 (age 11/12).

After primary school, students go on to secondary school. The years in sec. school are called classes and it starts at class 1. This often creates confusion because Dutch students often translate "class" as "grade", so a 16-year-old student will say he's in fourth grade

Secondary school is divided into several levels:
- VMBO (age 12-16): the lowest level, subdivided into 4 levels from mostly practical to mostly theoretical.
- HAVO (age 12-17): the medium level.
- VWO (age 12-18): the highest level, subdivided into atheneum and gymnasium (= atheneum + Latin and Greek).

All students are obliged to attend school until the age of 18. Therefore, it is not possible to "drop out" unless you're a VWO student in your final year (but you'd have to be crazy to drop out at that point). Students who finish secondary school before the age of 18 (i.e. those that do VMBO/HAVO) are required to continue their education, either at a higher level of sec. school or at the tertiary level, at least until they've turned 18.

At the tertiary level, there are three options:
- MBO: the continuation of VBMO (the "V" stands for "preparatory"). Most VMBO studies take 2 to 3 years.
- HBO: the continuation of HAVO. Most HBO studies take 3 to 4 years.
- University (WO): the continuation of VWO. Most University studies take 3-6 years, depending on the field of study.

Students who complete the highest level of MBO can go on to HBO if they want, and HBO students can go on to University if they successfully complete the first year. Likewise, at the secondary school level, students who complete VMBO can go on to HAVO (starting again at year 4, to overcome the difference in level) and HAVO students can go on to VWO (starting again at year 5).

It is highly common for University students to get a Master's degree.
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Old 04-24-2012, 03:43 PM
Location: Eindhoven, Netherlands
10,646 posts, read 16,042,856 times
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Originally Posted by LindavG View Post
I'm not sure what you mean by the last category. There is no high school or University in the Netherlands at those ages. There is only primary school and secondary school (assuming you are from the NL as well).
My cousin did HBO from 17 to 21.
Hoger beroepsonderwijs = Hoge School = High School
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Old 04-24-2012, 04:16 PM
Location: Duluth, Minnesota, USA
7,639 posts, read 18,132,790 times
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Some other notes about the American school system:

> In grades K-5, students generally stay with one teacher in one room the whole day who teaches science, math, social studies, and other standard academic subjects. They only leave the room for "special subjects", such as music, physical education, and computer classes, in which the teacher's class is instructed by a specialist in a purpose-built room.

Except in rare, very small schools, students acquire a new set of classmates each grade.

Class size is an important metric when comparing schools, as smaller class sizes are thought by parents to facilitate more individualized interaction. My public school elementary classes generally had 20 - 25 students; during two years of parochial school, I had 12 kids, with the class ahead of me having FOUR.

> In middle school (grades 6 - 8), the school day is divided into "periods". Students change rooms, teachers, and classmates for each subject. The pool of possible students in each class are generally those that are in the student's grade: examples of classes would include "Life Sciences 7" (the science class almost all seventh-graders go to), "Algebra 8" (a math class for 8th graders), or "Spanish 6" (6th-grade Spanish). My school offered an "advanced math" class for 7th graders which was really Algebra (rather than the standard pre-algebra), but it was attended only by 7th graders.

Electives start to be offered in middle school, although the only choice in mine was between band, choir, and "general music".

For one of the periods, students meet in a home room (sometimes called "advisor/advisee"), which acts as a study hall, break room, place for class announcements, as well as an instrument to articulate the school rules at the beginning of the year. Students identify with their home room in addition to grade at school assemblies.

Except for the home room, the schedule is switched around between semesters.

Middle school is also the beginning (at least in my school district) of school-sponsored sports. While soccer, hockey, baseball, and the like are very popular for elementary school students, these sports are generally organized by community groups (xxx Youth Soccer Association, xxx Area Hockey Association), in middle school, some sports are sponsored by the actual school. This will increase to almost all youth athletics by high school.

> High school operates much the same way as middle school, except in high school there is far more flexibility when it comes to classes. Certain classes are required each year (in my case, 4 out of 7 possible in 9th grade and 1 out of 7 possible in 11th grade), and the rest are a la carte, though some are only available to 11th and 12th graders. This flexibility leads to having students from multiple grades in the same classroom, working and learning together. For example, in my 9th grade desktop publishing class, which I took in the spring semester, there were students from all grades.

Almost all popular youth athletics are sponsored by the school at the varsity (high school) level. Varsity football, basketball, and hockey games are often televised, and play a major role in the American high school social atmosphere. For the boys' teams, there is often a separate, school-sponsored group of girls who lead cheers and foment school spirit at school assemblies and games, not surprisingly called "cheerleaders".

Competition among students to get into the best universities and a demand for more rigorous curriculum (perhaps that primarily for the first reason; to "weed" students out) has led to the creation of honors and IB (International Baccalaureate), AP (Advanced Placement), and CITS (College in the Schools) courses. Schools list with pride how many AP or IB offerings they have. CITS and AP courses are essentially university-level classes taught in a high school environment. In AP courses, there is a anxiously-awaited test at the end of the semester which is graded on a 1 to 5 scale. (Most classes use the A-F scale for all their tests and assignments)

This can create segregation among the academic achievers, who attend mainly IB and AP courses, and "normal" kids who attend "normal" classes.

In Minnesota, qualifying high school students can attend college (university) courses in a university or community college with other university students. The tuition is paid by the state, as long as the student has a qualifying GPA (grade-point average; the average of course grades).

College admissions vary in competitiveness depending on the institutions one applies to. Most colleges require that students take either the ACT (Midwestern schools) or SAT (East Coast and West Coast schools), although today either is accepted at most universities. When I took it (seven and a half years ago), the ACT was a multiple-choice test of mathematical, grammatical, oratorical, reading, and scientific reasoning skills; the SAT was a simpler (though not easier) test consisting of a verbal and a mathematical portion. Today, the SAT also requires students to write an essay, which is graded and standardized; the ACT may also do the same.

Apart from course flexibility, I would like to add that American high schools seem to place far more restrictions on their students than their counterparts in Europe. In the suburbs and rural areas, most schools have parking lots, and most students drive to school upon getting their license and car; yet we could not go to the parking lot during lunch hour, not even to get something, without special permission, much less go off-campus or on the nearby nature trail. Likewise, do not even think about leaving a class, even when the teacher is not speaking, for the bathroom or library without asking permission and getting a pass. Even though my high school was small (about 650 students), we had a police liasion officer on duty, among whose many duties was to patrol the parking lot to catch errant or absent students.

> I've said my piece about general education requirements in college. What I still must explain is that course selection in college, for many programs, is more flexible than in high school; no single class other than our freshman seminar was required at my college, and I would suppose others work the same way. Depending on what you major in, you may have near-total flexibility in choosing your classes, or restricted by a rigid schema of required courses, which are prerequisites to other required courses.

The flexibility of certain majors allows one to dual-major in four or five years in two fields: for example, Global and Cultural Studies and Spanish, or Applied Economics and Marketing.

Last edited by tvdxer; 04-24-2012 at 04:29 PM..
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Old 04-24-2012, 05:20 PM
Location: The Netherlands
2,866 posts, read 5,245,536 times
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Originally Posted by Davy-040 View Post
My cousin did HBO from 17 to 21.
Hoger beroepsonderwijs = Hoge School = High School
That's not a correct translation. High school in English is like secondary school. Hoger beroepsonderwijs = higher professional education (in French they call it a "Haute Ecole"). I believe it's called "vocational University" in English.
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