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UK

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Free education for all

 


Within the UK, there are some differences between the different countries in terms of the curriculum taught as well as some of the exams taken. For example, in Scotland young people take Highers at the age of 17, whereas in England and Wales, A Levels are taken at 18.

However, there are several common features. Throughout the UK, the government provides free education for 5 to 18 year olds, and school is compulsory between the ages of 5 to 16. However, parents can always choose to send their children to private (fee-paying) schools if they wish.

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Lessons and exams
Schools can be mixed or single sex – this depends upon the local education authority. In mixed schools, most lessons are taught to mixed classes, although some subjects such as physical education are taught to single sexes.

All students must study Maths, English and Science until the age of 16; they are also encouraged to study at least one Modern Language.

Lessons encourage students’ active participation, including open discussion of ideas and feelings. Currently, SATs are taken at ages 7, 11 and 13. GCSE exams are taken when most students are 16, in their last year of compulsory education.

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Post-school education
For young people who wish to go to university or college, they have to study for ‘A’ Levels and GNVQs, which usually take two years to complete.

At present, students do not have to pay course fees for university or college, but they do have to pay their living expenses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Many students have to take out bank loans to pay for this.

There is currently some discussion about the subject of fees, with rumours in the press suggesting that the government favours introducing them for university places.

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Practical training
Many young people still leave education at 16, and start working. For those people who choose to leave school at 16, but are unable to find a job, there are a range of training schemes available which offer the chance to learn practical skills.

However, some young people have said that these schemes are not always helpful in giving them practical training for technical jobs – whereas in the past there were clear apprenticeship schemes, these are now less common. For this reason, the government is reviewing its approach to vocational courses.

 

 
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