How does your school system work?

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Giallo
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How does your school system work?

Postby Giallo » Thu Sep 08, 2011 1:46 pm UTC

I live in Switzerland and i often have problems understanding what do you mean when you speak about 'college', 'major' and such... :?
Could somebody explain to me how those work?
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Re: How does your school system work?

Postby Bakemaster » Thu Sep 08, 2011 2:57 pm UTC

In the US, children are expected to attend school up until a certain age, or until they have completed certain amount of study, both of which vary from state to state. Following kindergarten, there are twelve grades corresponding to years of study which most children are expected to complete. Grades 9-12 are referred to as "high school" and finishing grade 12 earns the student a high school diploma. This is the most traditional way to complete the mandatory education requirements in the US, though certainly not the only way.

"Higher education" refers to education after high school. A college is a 2-year or 4-year school which grants a degree after completion. 2-year colleges are often called "community colleges" or "junior colleges" and grant an Associate's degree. 4-year colleges grant a Bachelor's degree, also called an undergraduate degree. They may also contain within them graduate schools which offer advanced programs for students who have completed a Bachelor's degree.

The term "university" is often used interchangeably with "college" but they are not really the same thing. A university always includes at least one college and generally grants both undergraduate and graduate degrees. However, exactly what constitutes a university varies from state to state. When students first apply to enter a university, depending on the structure of the institution, they may apply to the university as a whole or they may have to apply and be accepted into one of several colleges within the university.

"Major" refers to a student's major course of study. This is the area or subject a student is focusing on particularly at a school. Some schools use different terms like "concentration" or "option" to describe basically the same thing. Each school may have a slightly different way of organizing the many majors they offer, but generally a student must have a major in order to graduate. Each major will come with a set of required coursework, and usually a larger set of elective coursework from which the student may choose a certain number of topics. Large schools may offer over 100 different majors. Sometimes new students are not expected to choose a major until their second or third year of study, while other times they must choose their major in their first year or right away in their application. Usually a student can go through some process to change from one major to another while at a school.

What else did you want to know?
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Re: How does your school system work?

Postby KestrelLowing » Thu Sep 08, 2011 3:47 pm UTC

To elaborate a bit more on some additional terms, there are different meanings occasionally for major, minor, and concentration.

Your major is the main thing you're learning about in college. A minor is not required but is another area of study. A minor requires fewer classes. A concentration can (but doesn't always) mean a specific subset of your major. For example, you could be a mechanical engineering major with a concentration in manufacturing. A concentration usually means that your higher level electives that deal with your major are all in a specific area (for example, manufacturing). A concentration isn't a separate degree when used in this manner.

Not all colleges have the concentration option. Some will use it when the college doesn't have the specific major you want, but instead has something closely related (for example, my college used to have a biomedical concentration in mechanical engineering before they had a separate biomedical engineering major).

And finally, a bit about the lower grades.

Kindergarten typically starts at age 5. In some states, kindergarten is not required. Often, kindergarten is only a half day.

Breaking up the K-12 grades is done differently in many school districts, but here are the more common ones:

Option 1
K-5 is called Elementary School
6-8 is in a different school called Middle School
9-12 is in a different school called High School (9th grade is a freshman, 10th is a sophomore, 11th is a junior, and 12th is a senior)

Option 2
K-6 is called Elementary School
7-9 or 7-8 is in a different school called Junior High School
10-12 or 9-12 is in a different school called High School

Option 3 (usually in smaller school districts)
K-8 is in one school - the name isn't standard but I've heard "Primary School" used as well as simply "K through 8"
9-12 is in a different school called High School

Finally, there are also preschools. These are not publicly funded and are paid for by the parents. Therefore, there are many people who do not attend preschool. The typical age for preschool is 4, but 3 year olds can also attend some as well. Preschools are often only a few days a week for a few hours at a time. Depending on the preschool, they can simply be more or less daycare with a focus on socialization with other children or they can focus on teaching how to count and the alphabet.

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Re: How does your school system work?

Postby Bakemaster » Thu Sep 08, 2011 5:12 pm UTC

I would add that there are, in some areas of the country, quite a few publicly-funded preschools.
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Re: How does your school system work?

Postby Giallo » Thu Sep 08, 2011 5:27 pm UTC

Thank you :D it was exactly what I wanted to know.
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Re: How does your school system work?

Postby yurell » Thu Sep 08, 2011 10:11 pm UTC

In Victoria (Australia), you have non-compulsory Pre-school and Kindergarten, followed by P-6 (Primary School), 7-12 (High School, also called Forms 1-6). From there you can go to tertiary education (such as universities, colleges (colleges are generally for non-academia subjects, but not universally so) etc.).

In Canberra, Years 7-10 are High School, and Years 11&12 are College.

A Major here is the same thing as it is in the US, only at a University.
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Giallo
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Re: How does your school system work?

Postby Giallo » Thu Sep 08, 2011 10:49 pm UTC

In Switzerland we have:
- kindergarten (age 3-6)
- elementary school (6-11)
- middle school (11-15)
- high school (15-19)
- university and such
I'm in the ETHZ, eidgenössische teknische Hochschule of Zürich, and IDK if it is proper to call it a university... :?
Anyway it is an university-level school (and a good one, too: Academic Ranking of World Universities in Natural Sciences and Mathematics - 2011, 8th place :) )
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Re: How does your school system work?

Postby D.B. » Fri Sep 09, 2011 8:09 am UTC

And in the UK:

Nursey school (age ~3-5) - Essentially the same as Kintergarten, though with a more twee name.
Years 1-6 (age ~ 5-11) - Primary school education.
Years 7-9 (age ~ 11-14) - Secondary school. Takes place in a different school, ends with some kind of assessment (exam, etc).
Years 10-11 (age ~14-16) - Secondary school (usually the same school as before, but there is some shuffling around), studying for GCSEs (a series of exams/coursework which result in your first actual qualifications. There is some choice in what you study). Once these are done, that marks the end of your compulsory education.
Years 12-13 (age ~17-18) - Sixth form, studying for GCEs (also known as A-levels). Lots of people move school here to specialist 6th form colleges, which are more relaxed and informal. During this time those who want to go to university apply, and are told what GCE scores they need to get to be offered a place. GCEs are marked on a mixture of exams/coursework.

Aside from 6th form there are no special names for any of the years (sophomore, etc). Students tend to refer to them as I have here, e.g. "Year 8". There was an older system where years 1-6 were called P1 - P6, years 7-11 were 1st Form - 5th Form, and years 12-13 were 6th Form, but only the latter is still commonly used.

The Northern Irish and Scottish school systems jiggles all these year about a bit, but the similarities outweigh the differences.

~~~

University - Most commonly a Ba course, lasting three years. Very few 2 year courses. Masters courses (MEng, MSci, etc) are somewhat more common, and last 4 years (essentially a 3 year Ba + one extra year at the end). Some degrees like medicine will have a very different structure and last much longer.

New students for the first term or so are often called 'freshers', but there are again no general names for any of the years after that. People tend to refer to themselves as 2nd year physicists, 4th year medics, etc, when required.

There is no major/minor split, and courses seem less flexible than their American equivalents, with your field of study specified when you make your initial application. So if you apply to study English, say, then you will spend 3 years studying almost solely English. There may be a small number of slightly broader modules available, but students are often quite limited in how many of these they can cover. Some courses offer a 50:50 mixture of subjects (Edinburgh used to offer "Mathematics and Dance" I recall) but these are not especially common.

College systems are quite rare. Students typically apply to, and deal directly with, the university at all times. Some older universities have a college system but they are very much the exception. Usually when a UK student refers to 'going to college' they mean they are going to a 6th form college they attended prior to university (I see so many mixups about this online...).

Fraternities/sororities don't really exist. The closest equivalent are usually drinking clubs of some description. Some are well known (e.g. the Bullingdon club in Oxford) but most are just groups of students who play on the same sports team, etc, that like to go drink together.

University terminates with the student being awarded some kind of grade - Pass, 3rd, 2.2 (pronounced 'two-two'), 2.1 (pronounced 'two-one'), and 1st, in ascending order of difficulty. Some offer grades above 1st (1st with Merit, 1st with Distinction) but again these are fairly uncommon, and many employers will not really be sure how much extra these are worth.

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Re: How does your school system work?

Postby Windowlicker » Tue Sep 20, 2011 4:50 pm UTC

And in Scotland (Sorry DB, there were a few points in your post where I just had to think to myself "nononono"):

Nursery is probably the same.
Then we go on to primary school - this is P1-7.
Then a different school, secondary school - S1-6. S1 and 2 are just a piss-about, then S3 and 4 have the first set of exams (Standard Grades, and more recently Intermediate 2's), S5 is Highers (this is what Scottish universities look to for admittance), and then S6 is optional and is normally used for Advanced Highers (for Scots going to English universities - my AHs were exactly the same as my first year of uni).

University is where Scotland is most different to England, I feel. Our courses are generally 4 years for a bachelor's (to make up for S6 being optional), although I think I've seen a few Master's going in 4 years too. The courses are waaay less strict than the English ones: most Scottish unis use a module system, which lets you choose what you want to study when. The first year will generally force you to take modules that aren't related to your "major", because there won't be enough available (at the end of my first year for example, I could have gone on to do either Maths, Physics or Computer Science for my degree). It means changing and combining degrees is very easy: all I'd have to do to go for a degree in CS and Maths is talk to a guy in the maths department and ask if it's cool. And because I got good grades last year, it shouldn't be a problem.

In Scotland, College and University are two different things. Colleges are generally where you go to learn a trade: building, joining, plumbing, that sort of stuff. I believe education is only required up to age 16, which leaves 3 paths most people take - drop out of school at 16 and get a job, drop out at 16 and go to college, or stay on till ~18 and go to university. Of course, I went to a private school for secondary so my viewpoint on it is very university-centric (No-one from my year at school didn't go to a university, even the thick as shit ones).

I think the degrees given at the end of uni are exactly the same as those given in England (and I'm not sure how different they are from those given in the US). I've been told by my dad that when they're hiring at his office, the 'official' line is that they don't discriminate between a 2.1 and a 1st, and won't hire someone with a 1st simply because of that.

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Re: How does your school system work?

Postby Adacore » Wed Sep 21, 2011 4:35 am UTC

One thing I'm curious about is how the specialisation/generalisation balance in school (pre-university) years is handled in other countries' education systems. In England, you do ~10 subjects for GCSE at age 16, then specialise quite heavily (if you continue at school) to 3-4 subjects at GCE level: I did A2-level maths, physics and chemistry and AS-level geography (which is worth half the credit of the others). Do other countries have more focus? Less? At what ages?

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Re: How does your school system work?

Postby eSOANEM » Wed Sep 21, 2011 6:07 am UTC

D.B. wrote:Years 7-9 (age ~ 11-14) - Secondary school. Takes place in a different school, ends with some kind of assessment (exam, etc).
Years 10-11 (age ~14-16) - Secondary school (usually the same school as before, but there is some shuffling around), studying for GCSEs (a series of exams/coursework which result in your first actual qualifications. There is some choice in what you study). Once these are done, that marks the end of your compulsory education.


It's also worth noting, that some parts of the country have slight variants of it, with some on a middle school system (where the first few years of what would be secondary school are split off and in a separate middle school.

Also, the private school system is slightly different again although it follows the same basic model:

Years 1-8 (age 5-13) - Prep School
Years 9-13 (age 13 - 18) - Public school if it's a boys school, otherwise, I'm not sure. GCSEs and A levels are still taken at 16 and 18 respectively.
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Re: How does your school system work?

Postby Joren » Wed Sep 21, 2011 10:53 pm UTC

Adacore wrote:One thing I'm curious about is how the specialisation/generalisation balance in school (pre-university) years is handled in other countries' education systems. In England, you do ~10 subjects for GCSE at age 16, then specialise quite heavily (if you continue at school) to 3-4 subjects at GCE level: I did A2-level maths, physics and chemistry and AS-level geography (which is worth half the credit of the others). Do other countries have more focus? Less? At what ages?


In the Netherlands you go to highschool at the age of 12, you will get around 10 to 12 courses. Later on you can chose a profile with the subjects of your interrests, which holds a minimum of 8 courses. One you've chosen your profile you will go much deeper in the subjects. The age on this depends on what level you study. Here in the Netherlands you finish primary school at the age of 12 and then go to a different highschool. The highschool holds three different levels for you thinking capabilities so to speak. These are known as VMBO, HAVO and VWO. Each lasting respecively, 4, 5 and 6 years. I'm not sure but if I remember correctly, you can chose your profile at the 3rd grade for VMBO and HAVO and the 4th grade for VWO.

Which bring me to your next question, Only if you got a degree in VWO you've the right to instantly go to the university after highschool. How is that in England, and Scotland? Do you have different levels of 'highschool', or do they look at your grades and out school activities?

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Re: How does your school system work?

Postby Adacore » Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:06 am UTC

In general, there are no different 'levels' of highschool (secondary school) in the UK. In order to go to university, you merely need to get the requisite GCE (A-level) grades. A good course at a top university might demand, for example, 3 A's at GCE, a reasonable-level course might look for ABB, and some of the lower ranked universities will ask for lower grades, or give unconditional offers with no grade requirements at all. These A-levels can be taken at any secondary school with a sixth form, or at a sixth form college, or - for some courses - by distance learning or homeschooling.

Now, there are a few minor wrinkles in that. There is a type of school with a different 'level' in the UK, called a Grammar school. These only exist in certain counties, and take a percentage of the top students at age 11 (the standard secondary school starting age) based on an exam. In Essex, where I grew up, the top 3% of students are elligible to go to Grammar schools; in some counties it's as much as 10-20%, and many counties don't have grammars at all. This has (theoretically) no impact on your ability to go to University, but it is true that grammar schools will be expecting 100% of their students to do A-levels in preparation for university, whereas at other schools this is definitely not always the case. As was previously stated, many 'normal' secondary schools do not offer A-levels, and you need to move on to a further 'sixth form college' in order to complete them; there is no real impediment, as such, there, but I can see that psychologically it might make it harder to do A-levels than it is for those simply staying at the same school for another two years with all their friends.


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