US area studies
UNITED STATES EDUCATION SYSTEM:
Though the Federal government contributes
almost 10% to the national education budget, there is no such thing as
a national education
system in the USA. Within a general national framework,
state is responsible for its own education system, is largely
for financing it, and determining how much money it is willing to
In recent years, some states have been spending more than twice as much
per pupil on education as other states; in 2005, budgets varied from
per pupil in Utah to $14,119 per pupil in New York.
States also determine the number of years
of compulsory education: in most states, education is compulsory from
or six to sixteen; but in some states teens have to stay on in school
In most places, the public education system
is divided into local school
districts, which are managed by a school
board, representing the local community. School districts
can be small,
covering just a small town or rural county, or enormous, covering a
large city; according to their local policy, they will delegate a
amount of freedom or independence to each individual school within
In some states, the system is very bureaucratic,
with state education authorities playing a major role. Generally,
education is run by "school district" boards, who are responsible for
education policies, planning for changing educational needs in the
and often even establishing programs and curricula.
in an attempt to improve
standards among the city's many temporary teachers, recently introduced
a rigidly structured curriculum which tells the city's 27,000 teachers
exactly what to teach in each lesson. The program is voluntary, but
teachers are strongly encouraged to adhere to it.
Many things, nevertheless,
are standard throughout the
USA. Everywhere, pupils enter 1st Grade at age 6, and go up one grade
year until either leaving without "graduating", or else going right
to 12th Grade, and then graduating from high school. Generally
"high schools" cover the last three or last four grades, i.e. they
either with 9th Grade or 10th Grade.
During their high school years, pupils are given "grades"
for all their courses, and these are recorded. At the end of 12th
the pupil's grades are averaged out to provide a "GPA"
or Grade Point Average, which will often be used as a selection
when they apply to college or university. Students in 12th Grade also
Scholastic Aptitude Tests.
These are the second principal tests used as criteria for admission to
college or university; but they are not exams in the same way as their
European or Japanese equivalents (French baccalauréat,
English "A" levels),
and are generally less demanding. In recent years
they have been much criticized.
SAT I is a 3-hour test composed of
two sections, Verbal and Math, and consists mainly of multiple-choice
by design, most candidates do not have enough time to finish the test
the time given. SAT II's are one-hour subject-specific "achievement
tests", and again are almost entirely MCQ's, though the "writing" test
contains a twenty minute essay.
in need of reform?
Successive American governments, including the Clinton and Bush
have been determined to reform education in the USA, and bring it up to
standard. President Bush launched a major new education reform bill in
President Obama has pledged to make a major overhaul of the
US education system.
When it comes to international comparisons, the
education system is not one of the best.
surveys of educational
achievement show that the United States of America performs
than many, if not most, other developed countries, particularly at high
school level. In recent years, surveys have shown that the average
high school student is less numerate than teenagers in Japan or most
The Bush administration developed the system of "charter schools",
schools that are run under contract by private companies or
organizations - a system that has so far produced rather mixed results
in the USA, with many real successes but also some notable failures.
By 2009, over 3,000 charter schools had been set up across
the USA. Charter schools are funded by the state, but operate without
the constraints of the state system. They must be free.
While most junior and high schools in the USA are public,
the same is not true at university level, more than half of all
universities, and most of the more famous ones including Harvard, Yale
and Georgetown, are private. However, public "state" universities tend
to be much larger, and in fact provide over half of all university
in the USA. American universities are intensely competitive, a fact
is seen as being one of the main causes for the very high quality of
best among them.
of studying in a US University can vary enormously; from nothing at
all, to over $50,000 a year, if you take into account
tuition, board and lodging, and other living expenses. In a
lot of good universities, tuitiion fees are between $20,000 and $30,000
a year – though there are a lot of bursaries, remissions and
other ways of reducing the costs for students with modest resources or
In 2005, the average income of people in America who
took their education no further than 9th grade (about age 16) was
In the same year, college graduates (bachelor's degree )
on average $45,400, and those with an advanced degree earned $72,824.
Ph.D's had an average income of over $81,000, according to US
Census bureau figures.
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