English-Speaking Countries in a Nutshell - The education system in the UK

English-Speaking Countries in a Nutshell - The education system in the UK

Education is an important part of British life. There are hundreds of schools, colleges and universities, including some of the most famous in the world. Education is generally free and compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 and 16. Most students (93%) attend state schools which are free and run by the government. Some children are educated in the so-called public schools, which are in fact private. 

Basically, there are two systems of education in the UK: one covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and one covering Scotland. Across the UK there are five stages of education: early years, primary, secondary, Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE). 

In the UK, the level of education for kids aged 5 - 11 is known as primary education. These are almost always mixed sex (coeducational), and usually located close to the child's home. 

Most children go to secondary school at the age of 11. About 88 % of secondary school pupils in England go to comprehensive schools which take children of all abilities and provide a wide range of secondary education for all or most of the children in a district from the age of 11 to 16 or 18. 

Grammar Schools are selective, they offer academically oriented general education. Entrance is based on a test of ability, usually at the age of 11. Grammar schools are single sex schools i.e. children either go to a boys Grammar School or a Girls Grammar School. 

About 7% of the children in England go to independent or fee-paying schools. Independent schools are known as private schools or public schools, and they are often boarding schools where students live and study, usually with excellent facilities and a lot of extracurricular activities. Parents pay for their children to attend these schools, and they are usually very expensive.

Public schools in England are not run by the government. The entrance exams used by most public schools are known as Common Entrance exams and are taken at the age of 11 (girls) or 13 (boys). The most famous public schools are Eton, Harrow and Winchester. The system in private education is a little different than in state schools. Scotland also has a different system of education

Further education covers all non-advanced courses taken after the period of compulsory education. It is different from the education offered in universities. It may be at any level from basic skills training to higher vocational education. Vocational education provides practical experience and skills needed to do a job in a particular field, such as agriculture or industry.

Around 30% of the 18 to 19-year-olds enter full-time higher education. University education in the UK is not free like in Poland. The annual cost of tuition for British citizens is about GBP 9250. Many international students apply to British universities because of their high level of education. Students study for 3 years to get their bachelor’s degree, and then they can continue studying for one or two years to get their master’s degree. A PhD is the highest degree and it takes up to 7 years to get it.