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  • Education in the USA

    Education in the USA

    General Pattern of Education in the USA

    The general pattern of education in the USA is an eight-year elementary

    school, followed by a four-year high school. This has been called 8—4 plan

    organization. It is proceeded, in many localities, by nursery schools and

    kindergartens. It is followed by a four-year college and professional

    schools. This traditional pattern, however, has been varied in many

    different ways. The 6—3— 3 plan consists of a six-year elementary school, a

    three-year junior high school, and a three-year senior high school. Another

    variation is a 6—6 plan organization, with a six-year elementary school

    followed by a six-year secondary school.

    American education provides a program for children, beginning at the

    age of 6 and continuing up to the age of 16 in some of the states, and to

    18 in others.

    The elementary school in the United States is generally considered to

    include the first six or eight grades of the common-school system,

    depending upon the organization that has been accepted for the secondary

    school. It has been called the "grade school" or the "grammar school".

    There is no single governmental agency to prescribe for the

    American school system, different types of organization and of curriculum

    are tried out.

    The length of the school year varies among the states. Wide variation

    exists also in the length of the school day. A common practice is to have

    school in session from 9:00 to 12:00 in the morning and from 1:00 to 3:30

    in the afternoon, Monday through Friday. The school day for the lower

    grades is often from 30 minutes to an hour shorter. Most schools require

    some homework to be done by elementary pupils. Elementary Schools, High

    Schools and Institutions of Higher Learning

    Elementary Schools, High Schools and Institutions of Higher Learning

    There are eight years of elementary schooling. The elementary school is

    followed by four years of secondary school, or high school. Often the last

    two years of elementary and the first years of secondary school are

    combined into a junior high school.

    The school year is nine months in length, beginning early in September

    and sometimes a shorter one in spring. There are slight variations from

    place to place. Students enter the first grade at the age of six and

    attendance is compulsory in most states until the age of sixteen or until

    the student has finished the eighth grade.

    The elementary schools tend to be small. The high schools are generally

    larger and accommodate pupils from four or five elementary schools. A small

    town generally has several elementary schools and one high school. In some

    rural communities the one-room country school house still exists. Here may

    be found from five to twenty-five pupils in grades one through eight, all

    taught by the same teacher.

    Admission to the American high school is automatic on completion of the

    elementary school. During the four-year high school program the student

    studies four or five major subjects per year, and classes in each of these

    subjects meet for an hour a day, five days a week. In addition, the student

    usually has classes in physical education, music, and art several times a

    week. If he fails a course, he repeats only that course and not the work of

    the entire year. Students must complete a certain number of courses in

    order to receive a diploma, or a certificate of graduation.

    Institutions of higher learning supported by public funds are not

    absolutely free. The state colleges and universities charge a fee for

    tuition or registration. This fee is higher for those who come from outside

    the state. Working one's way through college is commonplace.

    Usually there is no admission examination required by a state

    university for those who have finished high school within the state.

    Sometimes a certain pattern of high school studies is necessary, however,

    and some state universities require a certain scholastic average, or

    average of high school grades.

    Private colleges and universities, especially the larger, well-known

    ones such as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, have rigid scholastic

    requirements for entrance, including an examination.

    It usually takes four years to meet the requirements for a Bachelor of

    Arts or Bachelor of Science degree.A Master of Arts or Master of Science

    degree may be obtained in one or two additional years.The highest academic

    degree is the Doctor of Philosophy.It may take any number of years to

    complete the original research work necessary to obtain this degree.

    Higher Education Institutions

    It has become common for the college program to be divided into broad

    fields,such as languages and literature,the social sciences,the sciences

    and mathematics, and the fine arts.Many colleges require all freshmen and

    sophomores to take one or two full-year courses in each of three

    fields.Certain Courses,such as English or history,may be required for

    all,with some election permitted in the other fields.

    Higher educational institutions usually are governed by a board of

    regents or a board of trustees.

    The executive head of a college or a university is usually called the

    president. The various colleges or schools which take up a university are

    headed by deans. Within a school or college there may be departments

    according to subject matter fields, each of which may be headed by a

    professor who is designated as department head or chairman. Other members

    of the faculty hold academic ranks, such as instructor, assistant

    professor, associate professor, and professor. Graduate students who give

    some part-time service may be designated as graduate assistants or fellows.

    Professional education in fields such as agriculture, dentistry, law,

    engineering, medicine, pharmacy, teaching, etc. is pursued in professional

    schools which may be part of a university or may be separate institutions

    which confine their instruction to a single profession. Often two, three,

    or four years of pre-professional liberal arts education are required

    before admission to a professional school. Three to five years of

    specialized training lead to professional degrees such as Doctor of

    Medicine, Bachelor of Law, etc.

    Private and State Colleges and Universities

    Harvard College was established in 1636, with the principal purpose of

    providing a literate ministry1 for colonial churches. It was a small

    institution, enrolling only 20 students in 1642 and 60 in 1660. It soon

    became more than a theological training school2 and established itself as a

    liberal arts college. The next institution of higher learning established

    in the American colonies was the College of William and Mary, which opened

    in 1693 at Williamsburg, Virginia. Other colleges were founded in the next

    century, but all of them remained small schools for long periods. Students

    entered at the age of 14 and remained until they were 18, and the

    curriculum, while rigidly academic and classic was by modern standards

    rather secondary in nature.

    Private colleges and universities were established in various states.

    The first state university was the University of Virginia, founded in 1819.

    Some state universities have large endowment funds1 which provide a

    substantial portion of their support. Other sources of income are student

    fees, gifts and endowments.

    In general, higher education in the USA may be divided into two broad

    fields: liberal arts and professional. Each of these fields may be further

    subdivided into undergraduate and graduate levels. The liberal arts

    program, on the undergraduate level, may be a two-year junior college

    course, or a four-year course leading to a degree of Bachelor of Arts or

    Bachelor of Science. The four-year course is usually subdivided into a

    lower division (which may be called the junior college), consisting of the

    two first years, and the upper division, which is the last two years. The

    first two years continue the general education and specialization begins in

    the third year.

    Teaching Profession in the USA

    Requirements for teachers' certificate vary among 50 states. Usually

    the state department of education, or a state certification board, issues

    certificates which permit teachers to be employed within the state. Forty-

    four of the 50 states require at least the completion of a four-year

    course, with the bachelor's degree, as a minimum for high school teaching:

    the tendency to require a fifth year beyond the bachelor's degree is

    increasing. Graduation from a two-year normal school or at least two years

    of college education is the minimum requirement for elementary teaching in

    36 states; others demand the completion of a four-year course and the

    bachelor's degree.

    Because of the decentralization of school control in the USA teachers

    are employed by local districts rather than by the national government. The

    American teacher does not have the absolute security of tenure which the

    French or Australian teacher enjoys. A higher proportion of the teaching

    force are women than in some other countries.

    The teacher-training institutions have not been able to provide

    sufficient numbers of fully trained teachers to replace those retiring and

    dropping out of the profession and at the same time to meet the

    requirements for new classes each year. The problem of recruiting and suply

    of teachers remains a serious one. In general the problem of shortage of

    teachers has not been met by lowering certification standards.


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