On education and teaching

How to Be More English?

(7) On Education & Teaching

In England , the education sector is traditionally independent from the state, and the idea of a state owned school is relatively recent. These are the underpinnings of the divide between the state schools and the public schools, which finds its most vivid expression in the ever present controversies about the percentage of students from the two types of school gaining entry into Oxford and Cambridge universities.

Public schools (Eton is the most famous one) are the independent schools: they are called 'public', because they are for the public, which has to pay quite a lot to send their children there. Foreigners often think they should be called private. However, they are not owned by a private person and are registered as charities. And that is what they are. They also are one of the things most characteristic of England, and enjoy many international students.

As they cost quite a lot, public schools are populated mainly by children of the upper-classes, whereas the state schools in reverse. Some people believe that public schools provide better education than the state schools, others believe the opposite, yet others do not care. Obviously that depends on the particular schools concerned, as the standard in both groups is quite varied.

You always know why you learn. You learn for exams. From the age of 14 to 16 you learn for the GCSE's, and between 16 and 18 for the A-levels, the counterpart of the Polish matura, but completely different in character. This is because you choose the subjects you want to study and you study them in greater depth. Until recently, it was usual to take 3 or 4 A-levels, or say 2 A-levels and 2 AS-levels, which are something like half an A-level. However, the system is being changed now at some schools and people might choose to do, say, 6 AS-levels, thus covering a wider range of subjects.

The profile of teaching and education is quite different then in Poland. Teachers usually teach and rarely examine your knowledge with surprise tests or by asking you questions in class. As the exams like GCSE's and A-levels are set by the external boards, one feels that the teacher wants to help him or her to prepare for them.

Sport is a very important element of the school life, especially within the public schools. However, while being obligatory, it is rightly treated as an activity in its own right, rather than yet another, and unimportant subject.

Finally, one takes his or her career decisions earlier on, as the choice of A-levels limits in some sense the possible courses one might take at university. Also the percentage of people studying at university is greater and amounts to about 40%. It is, however, poplar to take a gap year before you enter a university, which is just a year off that you might wish to spend travelling to exotic places and teaching English, gaining work experience at a company, or just staying home, which is the most boring possibility.

Put the words into action

Do yourself good and sign up for some language exam at the nearest possible time. This will sure motivate you to learn the language or at least lead to nervous breakdown. Organise careers service at your school, or workshops to teach teachers how not to get annoyed by apparently stupid questions. Other than that, stay positive and relax.

Good luck! Connect next week to check a fresh instalment  of our guide and get excited about taps, tubs, and tubes.

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