Each of the fifty US states has its own Department of Education, and the US does not have a national curriculum as such. This has not prevented its independent schools from gaining world-wide recognition for the quality of their academic programmes, the variety of subjects on offer, and the number of extra-curricular activities available.
Similar to schools in the United Kingdom, the US system places a special emphasis on the students’ all-round development. Not only do they concentrate on the academic side, but they also look to strengthen character and social skills. For this reason great emphasis is placed on extra academic activities.
Types of Schools
The majority of schools in the US are co-ed, although it is possible to find single-sex schools and almost all are multi-faith.
Education is divided into three levels; Elementary School (6 to 11 years old), Middle School (11 to 14 years old) and High School (14 to 18 years old).
Students can study up to six subjects per day; some are taught in different ability groups. The tutors along with the students devise a study plan tailored to the individual needs of each student. There is a wide variety of courses including painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, drama, music and dance. The further the student progresses through the education system, the more optative subjects are available for study.
During the final year of High School, students sit SAT and SAT II (Scholastic Assessment Tests). Most universities rely on these tests to evaluate the student’s level in mathematics, language, science and humanities.
Sport has a special place in American schools. There is a wide range from which to choose although the most popular are American football and basketball. In addition to sports there are a great number of clubs and activities including orchestras, dance groups, theatre, student newspapers, science fairs, debating teams and societies whose focus may be either academic or cultural. Being involved in clubs within the school is of vital importance for a student’s future; universities place great merit on these activities when evaluating an individual candidate’s application.
Almost all independent schools possess extensive campuses. In the New England area they are especially impressive due to their beautiful natural surroundings.
Schools are modern with great facilities; latest technology, large halls used for assembly, concerts and theatrical productions, and the sports facilities are unbeatable – these include football pitches, tennis courts, athletics tracks and gymnasiums, some schools even possess their own ice hockey rink and/or stables.
The ideal age for enrolment is fourteen plus years when High School begins.
In the US the academic year lasts approximately 180 days and is usually divided into trimesters. It begins in September and finishes in June although the exact dates vary depending on the school.