Explore this article to know about the education system in UK (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Island).

Education System in UK

Education in United Kingdom is a well established and a tried and tested system that is largely managed by the the Department of Education and to some extent by the Department of Business, Innovation, and Skills. However, it is the former that is committed to creating a world-class state education system that works to improve the opportunities and experiences available to children and the education workforce by focusing on “giving greater autonomy to schools”, “improving parental choices”, “offering more support to the poorest”, “providing great quality provision for children”, and “working towards the whole system improvement”. Moving further, full time education in England and Wales is compulsory for children from when they are 5 years old until they are 16. After the age of 16, it is optional for the child whether he/she wants to move on to further and higher education or not. In Northern Ireland however, children must start at the age of 4. Statistics suggest that over 8.5 million children attend one of the 30000 public schools across England and Wales. Around 830,000 children attend one of the 5000 schools in Scotland, and around 350,000 children attend one of the 1300 state schools in Northern Ireland. The State Schools in England are publically funded and therefore are free for all children. The schools are mostly co-educational, almost always in the case of primary schools. It is during the secondary schooling that one can come across single sex schools.
National Curriculum
  • UK introduced a National Curriculum in the year 1992, comprising of subjects like English, Mathematics, Science, Design & Technology, Information & Communication Technology, History, Geography, Modern Foreign Languages, Music, Art & Design, Physical Education, and Citizenship. In addition to these core subjects, Religious Education, Career Education, and Sex Education are also there but may be subject to withdrawal.
  • As per the law, all children in England and Wales between ages 5 and 16 must receive a full-time education, while children in Northern Ireland must begin at age 4. For children under age 5, publicly-funded nurseries and pre-schools are available for a limited number of hours each week. After the age of 16, students can attend sixth form colleges or other further education institutions. Both options offer general education courses in addition to more specific vocational or applied subjects.
Education System in UK (England, Wales, and Northern Ireland)
Four Stages
Key Stage 1 – 5 to 7 years old
Key Stage 2 – 7 to 11 years old
Key Stage 3 – 11 to 14 years old
Key Stage 4 – 14 to 16 years old
Primary Education
Children attend primary school for 6 years, from the age of 5 to 11, comprising of Key Stages 1 and 2. The primary school may be housed in a single building with two departments: Infant or juniors or in separate schools; Infants (5-7) and Juniors (7-11).
Secondary Education
After the children are done with the primary schooling, they begin secondary school for 5 years, from the age of 11 to 16, comprising of Key Stages 3 and 4. In secondary schooling, the promotion to a higher class doesn’t depend upon the result of the examination but is automatic.
General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) Examination
After a student is done with 5 years of secondary education, he/she is required to appear in the GCSE examination, passing which marks the end of the compulsory education. It is a single subject examination set and marked by independent education boards. Although there is no lower or upper limit to the number of subjects, a student may choose up to ten GCSE examinations in different subjects, including mathematics and English language.
Education System in Scotland
The Education System in Scotland is however a little different from that of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland and has its own qualification framework. It’s after 7 years of primary schooling and 4 years of compulsory schooling that the students, usually by the age of 15 to 16 take the Scottish Certificate of Education (SCE) usually in 7-9 subjects. This certificate is recognized throughout UK and is equivalent to GCE Advanced levels examinations and acts as entry level qualification for university admission.
Further Education
After taking the GCSE examinations, students may choose to leave secondary schooling altogether or may choose to either continue at vocational and technical colleges or pursue Advance Level of secondary education followed by an examination at the end of 2 years of studying, passing, which makes the student eligible for University Entrance in UK.
Higher Education in UK
The higher education in UK in further divided into three parts:
Undergraduate Courses - A bachelor’s degree in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland is usually of 3 years at a university or a higher education college, whereas in Scotland it takes 4 years to complete. However, there are also 4 year degrees in England, Wales, and Northern Island that have 1 year dedicated to gaining of work experience.
Postgraduate Courses - Only after successful completion of the undergraduate course are students eligible for applying for the postgraduate course, which are usually one or two years in duration.
Doctorate Programs - These programs generally require a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree as eligibility fulfillment and usually are of duration from 3 years to 5 years at a university where students are required to work on single research project or dissertation.
Recent Developments
An education bill was introduced in the House of Commons in January 2011 and was later passed on to House of Lords in June 2011 for further reading. This education bill is believed to be an important step in implementing the UK government’s educational reform program to create and education system that delivers ever higher standards for all children. The legislative proposals and measures suggested by the Department of Business, Innovation, and Skills are taken forward by this education bill that aims at helping teachers maintain good discipline, providing freedom for schools and colleges, fostering accountability, and using the resources fairly.

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