British School System vs US School System

British School System vs US School System

British School System vs US School System

What are the actual differences between the British School System and the American School System?

Before we begin the topic”British School System vs US School System,” let us hear a short story.

When Tracy Whitney, an American mother of 3, moved to England, the changes she found between the systems were very overwhelming. Almost two years ago, the whole family moved from Washington D.C., to England, and the kids started attending school in a new environment. Tracey confessed that the English schools transformed her kids into students. To her utter amazement, her kids were eager to go to school.

The surprising reason is the change in curriculum and activities in British secondary schools. So when Tracey and her family of five members moved to England, all of a surprise, in the summer of April 2014, they were sure that they would be experiencing many new changes. Little did they know that the thing that would make the most significant change in all their lives.

When they lived in the United States, my four children attended the best public school in the area. The schools were great, and the children loved the U.K. school system. But, unfortunately, the parents had all the typical complaints like so many other families had. The parents claimed to have not enough activity in the school curriculum budget cuts every year from the Government greatly affected arts programs, exhibitions, debates, and extracurricular activities and clubs. Plus, the authority was serving poor-quality food for lunches.

After moving to England, Tracey put her kids in an independent prep school. It would be considered a private school in the U.S, although the tuition is much lower than private school tuition in the States. The difference the school made was truly remarkable.

The change Tracey noticed in her kids within a short while of starting was simply unbelievable. But, overall, the result was positive. The kids were happier, more proactive, and smarter about learning new lessons at school.

English is the language taught in institutions in both the U.K. and the U.S. It can be regarded that there are huge similarities between the English education system and the United States school system. However, in reality, they are quite different.

Let us explore the different aspects of the British School System vs US School System.

uk vs us education system

An Early Start

English children start primary school after they turn four, usually in September. The English Government provides 15 hours of free nursery education 38 weeks a year.

However, getting an American child into kindergarten takes psychological testing and other clearances. It establishes a habit of early learning. The expert believes that quality education before the age of five has many benefits. This includes increased future salary, decreased chance of repeating grades, a better chance of homeownership, and even longer marriage.


In the case of the British curriculum, it can be found that in primary/secondary school, the level of learning in the U.K. school system was considerably higher. This is because the students have in-depth knowledge of each topic taught in each stage.

The U.K. education system or British education system year starts from early September to mid-July. This provides a scope of a summer break of about six weeks. The United States school system puts less pressure on examinations. However, the students have to study general subjects until the end of secondary school. They graduate with a high-school diploma at the end of Grade 12 finally. That is equivalent to Year 13 in the U.K.

This is a relatively short season because American schools provide three summer vacation months. Students tend to forget their academic skills over the long summer vacation. Statistics show that students score lower on the same standardized test in June than in September. This proves they lose two months of learning in the summer break before the next school year starts. Therefore, keeping the summer break short can prevent the loss.

In contrast, English children are put into academic studies in the early years. And Examinations. There is a heavy emphasis on socialization, interactive learning, and Basic English, Mathematics, and Science development.

On the other hand, it can be noticed that American schools pick up a pace slower than the U.K. system.

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This is worth noticing and most remarked upon, British schools emphasize wearing uniforms. While students in most other countries can wear more or less what they want, British secondary and primary school students are usually required to wear something traditional. This includes school blazers and ties.

Experts suggest that wearing a uniform creates discipline. A uniform symbolizes herd mentality, and more specifically, it gives out a spirit of unity. It helps to diminish the barrier between different classes of students.

Students have to buy their bags, uniform, pencils, pens, and other stationeries in the U.K. school system. But they do not need to buy their Textbooks and exercise books because the school provides them for free.

Besides, British students get free school lunches in the first three years of primary school. This is a very significant initiative undertaken by the British Government.

Since everyone wears the same uniform and uses the same textbooks and exercise books, it helps maintain student equity. However, different schools have different uniforms to create a brand identity.

Meanwhile, in the American school system, students wear casual clothes, and more modern schools might only insist on a polo shirt or sweatshirt with neutral trousers.

The Curriculum

Students can start their semi-formal education at the age of 5. They begin with coloring and storytelling. However, they are taught to manage the daily school time from 9 am to 3.30 pm.

There is a mixture of state and private schools in the British curriculum. In-state schools, it is mandatory for students to attend primary school until 11. After that, they can participate in secondary school afterward. In the case of private schools, the first school is referred to as a prep school.

In prep school, students do not leave until the age of 13. The possible subsequent division is that at 16, some students go on to a six-form college after leaving their secondary school. This can be for the last two years of their education.

Do you know which is better American or British curriculum? Let’s see the difference between American and British curriculum:

American Curriculum Vs British Curriculum

american curriculum vs british curriculum

If we want to discover more differences between the two systems, there are more unity and study plans among British Students. Students in the English education system have to follow the National Curriculum strictly.

The British secondary curriculum mainly emphasizes the GCSE subject exams and the A-Levels. But in the United States school system, the students have more freedom of choice. So they pursue the SAT and ACT and the only standardized tests students take nationally.

The SAT is mostly popular among students in America, and it consists of three sections: math, critical reading, and writing. It is a four-hour test, and students are judged to answer questions based on lessons they study in school each day. However, the results of this test are used to apply to universities.

Most American ex-pat students in London attend International Baccalaureate schools because the work is transferable in all countries and universities.

According to the British curriculum, British students can select their desired subjects before Year 10. Then, they go on to study these subjects for the next two years.

Another difference between the American vs British curriculum systems is that students are relocated to the secondary level in the USA. This means subjects like math and science are taught sequentially, one after another. In the British curriculum, subjects are conducted simultaneously.

In the USA, an ordinary student in Grade 9 might be taught to study only physics that year, followed by a year of chemistry. Likewise, the same goes for mathematics. Students are taught algebra for one year in the coming years, followed by geometry, trigonometry, to pre-calculus.

In the British school system, students do not repeat a year. While in other countries, it is seen that if a particular student fails to meet the requirements, a student in a specific school year will be required to do the whole thing again. Plus, he will have to repeat the entire syllabus for that year in the company of a new set of classmates a year younger than them.


British school cafeteria serves healthy food for students. But they are forbidden to eat in their classroom. However, they are allowed to drink water or fruit juices.

American school cafeterias do not serve healthy and tasty food. Instead, for lunch, kids have to wait in a long queue where they are served soggy pepperoni pizza and applesauce.

The Teaching Method

uk vs us teaching method

In the U.K., the relationship between teachers and students in the U.K. is friendly enough. Students in most British secondary schools address their teachers by title and surname, probably ‘Sir’ or Miss.’

For instance, traditionally, the students are expected to stand up when a teacher enters a classroom. The class will be expected to be quiet and polite. The students must pay attention when the teacher speaks and explains the lesson. If the teacher makes a mistake, someone in the class will point it out to the teacher.

The traditional teaching method includes students patiently writing down everything that their teacher says. For one thing, teachers try to keep their lessons lively and helpful. They arrange an interactive session where, more importantly, students speak up independently and say their opinion. Teachers encourage having the views of students heard. This is considered a significant part of the educational process.

In the English education system, students are expected to sit and work in groups, discussing their lessons.

The unique thing about English Curriculum education is the form tutor. The responsibility is similar to a homeroom teacher. They monitor progress, solve problems, apply discipline, counsel, and deliver news to parents. In addition, they follow the class syllabus and instructions from year to year. This forms a relationship that is beneficial for the students.

The Extracurricular activities

The British curriculum is immensely interactive and exciting. British schools have emphasized developing ideas and skills about the outside world rather than bookish knowledge. The school day proper may run from 9 am to 3.30 pm. They include more activities afterward. In the after-school session, some clubs might run until 4.30 or 5 pm.

Choir practice takes place during lunchtime and after school. Sometimes, there is after-school sports practice; and there may even be the option of picking up an extra qualification with after-school lessons.

These extracurricular activities are usually inseparable from British school life and the English education system. Most students enjoy getting involved in one or more of them.

Since British kids specialize and start their education early, they finish their curriculum early and apply directly to programs. For example, if a student wants to be a doctor, they can take Science at A-levels, then apply directly to medical programs. The same goes for law school and pursuing their career likewise.


This differs from the American school system, where the students have much more flexibility when applying for any subject. The specific 4-year degree the student gets allows them to use it anywhere.

If a student wants to go to Oxford for Business in the U.K, having some great extracurricular activities might be good. Most importantly, the U.K. education authority is looking for good scores. At the interview, they will generally ask you about business. Harvard, however, will be looking at everything. Trying to get into Harvard with just good grades is not possible.

British students have access to apply to 5 universities. Therefore, the acceptance rates for even top universities are substantially higher. Plus, England and the United Kingdom are the home to four of the world’s top six universities, including Cambridge, Imperial College of London, Oxford, and University College of London.

The U.K. aggressively recruits students worldwide in its universities and colleges. The British Council provides excellent facilities and welcomes students from your home nation to study in the United Kingdom.

Final Words

In conclusion, the British and US school systems have distinct differences in structure, curriculum, and teaching methods. While the British system focuses on specialization and standardized testing, the US system emphasizes a well-rounded education and extracurricular activities. Both systems have their strengths and weaknesses, and the choice between them depends on individual preferences and goals.

If you have any queries about the “British School System vs US School System,” just comment. We will be happy to discuss more.

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