British School System Vs. American School System

British School System Vs. American School System

What are the actual differences between the British School System and the American School System?
Before we begin, let us hear a short story.

When Tracy Whitney, an American and also a mother of 3 kids, 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, the kids started attending school in the new environment. Tracey confessed that the English schools totally 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 the activities in school. 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 a lot of new changes. Little did they know, though, that the thing that would make the biggest 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 their schools, 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 that 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. In the U.S. it would be considered a private school, although the tuition is actually 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. Overall the result was positive. The kids were happier, more proactive, and smarter about learning new lessons at school.
English is the language that is taught in the institutions in both the UK and the US. It can be regarded that there are huge similarities between the two systems. However, in reality, they are quite different.
Let us explore the different aspects of both the systems.

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, it takes psychological testing and other clearances to get an American child into kindergarten. It establishes a habit of early learning. Expert believe that quality education before the age of five has a great number of benefits. This includes increased future salary, decreased chance of repeating grades, the better chance of home ownership and even longer marriage.


In the case of British curriculum, it can be found that the in primary/elementary school, the level of learning at British schools was considerably higher. The students have in-depth knowledge of each topic they are taught in each stage.
The English school year starts from early September to mid-July sometimes. This provides a scope of a summer break of about six weeks. The US system puts less pressure on examinations. The students have to study the general subjects and students all the way till the end of secondary school. They graduate with a high-school diploma at the end of Grade 12 finally. That is equivalent of Year 13 in the UK.

This is a relatively short season because American schools provide a summer vacation of about 3 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 they do in September. This proves that 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, in the early years, English children are put into academic studies. And Examinations. There is a heavy emphasis on socialization, interactive learning as well as developing Basic English, Mathematics, and Science.

On the other hand, it can be noticed that Americans schools pick up pace slower than the UK system.


This is worth noticing, and most remarked-upon, British schools emphasis on wearing uniforms. While students in most other countries can wear more-or-less what they want, students in Britain are usually required to wear something that traditional. This includes schools blazers and ties. Experts suggest that wearing uniform created discipline. A uniform is a symbol of herd mentality, and more specifically it gives out a spirit of unity. It helps to diminish the barrier between different classes of students.

In the UK, students have to buy their own bags, uniform, pencils, pens, and other stationeries. But they do not need to but their Textbooks and exercise books, because they are provided by the school for free. Besides, for the British students, in the first three years of primary school, all students get free school lunches as well. This is a very generous initiative undertaken by the British Government.

Since everyone wearing the same uniform and using the same textbooks and exercise books, it helps to maintain equity among students. However, different schools have different uniforms to create a brand identity.

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

The Curriculum

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

In the British curriculum, there is a mixture of state and private schools. In state schools, it is mandatory for students to attend primary school until the age of 11. They can participate in secondary school afterward. In the case of private schools, the first school is referred to as prep school. In prep school, students do not leave until the age of 13. The next possible division is that at the age of 16 where some students leave their secondary school and go to a sixth form college. This can be for the last two years of their education.

If we want to discover more differences between the two systems, there are more unity and study plans among British Students. British students have to follow the National Curriculum strictly.
British secondary curriculum mainly puts more importance on the GCSE subject exams and the A Levels. But in America, the students have more freedom of choice. Basically, they pursue the SAT and ACT, which are the only real standardized tests that student’s take at a national level.

The SAT is mostly popular among student in America, and it consists of three sections: math, critical reading, and writing. It is a four hours test, 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 for universities.

Most American expat students in London tend to receive their education at 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 Grade 9. They go on studying these subjects for the next 2 years.

Another difference between the two systems is that in the USA students are relocated at the secondary level. This means subjects like math and science are taught sequentially one after the. In the British curriculum, subjects are taught 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 the following year. Likewise, the same goes for mathematics. Students are taught algebra one year, followed by geometry to trigonometry to pre-calculus, in the coming years.

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 particular school year will simply be required to do the whole thing again. Plus, he will have to repeat the whole syllabus for that specific 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. For lunch, kids have to wait in a long queue where they are served soggy pepperoni pizza and applesauce.

The Teaching Method

In the UK, the relationship between teachers and students is in the UK is friendly enough. Students in the vast majority of British schools address their teachers by title and surname, probably ‘Sir’ or Miss’. For instance, in a traditional manner, 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 need to pay attention when the teacher is speaking and explaining the lesson. If the teacher makes a mistake of some kind, someone in the class will point it out for the teacher.

The traditional method of teaching includes students to 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 speaking up independently say their opinion. Teachers encourage having the opinions of students heard. This is considered a major part of the educational process.

So you expect students sitting around working in groups, and discussing their lesson with one another.

The unique thing about English Curriculum education is the form tutor. Usually, a senior student is assigned to all the students in one particular grade. The responsibility is similar to a homeroom teacher.

They monitor progress, solve the problems, apply discipline, counsel, and deliver news to parents. 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 interesting. British schools have put more emphasis to develop idea and skill about the outside world, rather than bookish knowledge. The school day proper may run from 9 am to 3.30pm. They include more activities afterward. The after-school session, there are clubs that might run until 4.30 or 5 pm.

Choir practice takes place during lunchtimes 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 kinds of extra-curricular activities are usually and are an inseparable part of British school life. 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. If a student wants to be a doctor, they can take Science at A-levels, then apply directly to medical programs. Same goes for law school, and pursue their career likewise.


This is different to the American system where the students have much more flexibility when applying for any subject. The specific 4-year degree the student got basically allows the student to apply anywhere.

In the UK, if a student wants to go to Oxford for Business, it might be good to have some great extracurricular.

Most importantly, the authority is looking for good scores. At the interview, they will generally ask you about business. Harvard, however, will be looking at everything. Try getting 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 whole United Kingdom is the home to four of the world’s top six universities, which includes Cambridge, Imperial College of London, Oxford and University College of London fall along with MIT and Harvard.

The UK aggressively recruits students from around the world in its universities and colleges. The British Council provides great facilities and welcomes students to come from your home nation to study in the United Kingdom.

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