The U.K. school system vs. the U.S. school system (why we’re losing)

Sarah Lorsch

Math, Science, English, History. The four core classes that everyone got more than enough of in High School. Although it is quite doubtful that you held a place in your heart for all of these subjects, you were still forced to take them, all in hopes of giving you a rounder education that you would “appreciate someday.”

Well, someday has come and yes, the statistics class you dreaded or the biology class you barely passed are helpful for General eds, but now what? Unless science is your forte, Journalists don’t use it. The vocabulary test you took on Macbeth is no help to an Engineer.

Perhaps if U.S. High Schools focused a little more on what we wanted to learn and a little less on what was “best for us” high school dropout rates would decrease and College graduation rates would increase. Students could use less of their college time and money figuring out what to major in and instead know as soon as they got there.

The U.K. versus the U.S.’s primary and secondary education system is a prime example of why our system should emulate theirs.

Let’s start with the basic facts. While 91% of students graduate High School in the U.K., a measly 77% of students graduate in the U.S. according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operations and Development (OECD).

Not that this is a competition (we are doing great in comparison to Portugal with a 63% graduation rate and Turkey with a 26% graduation rate) but this means the U.K. is doing something we obviously, as the inferior school system, haven’t tapped into yet.
What might that be?

Due to my love of fighting the system, I’ve been looking into the differences between these two methods for some time now and can tell you, there is a lot we can learn from the people that once inspired the evolution of rock and roll.

You know the U.S. system. Elementary school goes from ages 5-11. Middle school goes from ages 11-14 and High School from ages 14-18. High school may offer some electives but with all of the requirements that have to be met to graduate, most students only have enough time to explore a few topics they are truly interested in.

The U.K. separates school by four stages in a different fashion from the U.S. Stage one covers ages 5-6, stage two covers ages 7-10, stage three covers ages 11-13 and stage four covers ages 14-15. The 16 and 17 year olds’ spend time in something called a sixth form.

The sixth form is an optional portion of school meant to prepare students for college or allow them to spend two years in a college that offers courses for the sixth form.

While we are spending our last two years of High school with 13 year olds finding their way around the school and pretending to be in college with AP classes, U.K. students are getting college experience and figuring out exactly what they want to do.

Again, the difference in this type of education shows up in the numbers. 46% of college students in the U.S. graduate college. Guess how many graduate in the U.K… 65%.

To top it off, they are given more freedom in class choices in the last two years because it is optional.

So what can we do about this? Not much. The education budget is in the toilet and the government has no intention of changing the school system. We don’t have to worry about High School; we’ve already graduated High School and are at some point in our college careers. But, for the future potential unenthusiastic High Schoolers, do extra curricular activities and scrounge for the maximum amount of electives, or maybe, just transfer to the U.K.