British education enjoys enormous prestige all over the World owing to the high quality of knowledge that can be acquired in schools, colleges and universities. Majority of English children go to schools financed by the state. The general structure of educational system keeps to common standards; however there may be some local features reflecting historical and cultural peculiarities.
Historical development of British education
Historically the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge universities appeared in the 12th and 13th centuries. The universities of Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh are known from the 14th and 15th centuries. The system of free school education appeared in the 19th century and had as its goal the improvement of educational possibilities for children from poor families. To the end of the 19th century these schools got increasing state support reflected by the Education Act that promoted the idea of obligatory elementary education for children aged between 5 and 10. According to this act the country was divided into school districts. These school districts were administered by school boards empowered to institute schools in mandated areas. In this way, free elementary education became universally available. Interesting is the fact that British educational structures became to some extent the prototype of school districts in the United States of America.
Organization of educational process in the United Kingdom
The education in England is supervised by the secretary of state, who is responsible to Parliament and the Department of Education and Science. In Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, departments of education are governed by ministers. The secretary of state institutes a national curriculum for the schools. Elementary and secondary education is financed by local school districts and this makes them comparable to the school districts in the USA. Local education authorities are the major contributors to educational process. The main part of financial support for education is granted from governmental sources. Funding also comes from local governments and local taxes. Schools have the right to manage their own organization and finance.
The role of primary and secondary schools in British education
Primary education is obligatory and comprehensive. Children with mental or physical problems and particular educational requirements may attend special schools. The general trend, however, is to incorporate these children into common schools. The school governing institutions include elected parents and representatives of teachers. These institutions are responsible for budget, expenses, and staff policy such as appointments and dismissals. Schools carry out open admission in their activity.
Private schools in the United Kingdom
Private schools are small in number and are attended by a rather small number of children. The attitude to these schools among various people is different. On the one hand, private schools deflect teachers and financial resources from state schools contributing to social partition. On the other hand, private schools offer the high quality education, favor healthy competition, and allow parents and children to realize their freedom of choice.
Advanced levels of British education
After the age of 16, education in Great Britain becomes voluntary. Students take the examinations for the General Certificate of Secondary Education and can continue their education in school or college. Learners may study for vocational training. The General Certificate of Education is necessary for continuing the study in teacher-training college or university.
British universities are entirely autonomous and independent. However, a considerable amount of their funding comes from governmental sources. The financing of education and research passes through special councils appointed by Parliament. Numerous universities also enjoy considerable endowments. Several decades ago Great Britain knew important growth of the number of newly created universities. To the end of the last century polytechnics and some other educational institutions were transformed into universities. An unusual event in higher education activity was the creation of the Open University providing education for adults by means of radio, television, and study programs.
Students’ life in British universities and colleges
Higher education also may be acquired in colleges. The selection of students for further studying is very careful and is carried out by means of examinations. Many students enjoy grants funded by the state to help them to pay the tuition. Numerous students may use loans to cover their expenses. Universities are funded by means of grants, tuition fees, and different private resources.