Comparing the G7 Educational Systems Part-1

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The term G7 sounds like a computer chip, but it is actually a nickname for the “Group of 7” countries: The U.S., Japan, France, Germany, Italy, U.K., and Canada. Famous for their higher levels of economic development compared to other nations, these countries also have highly developed educational systems. If you want to work in one of these nations, you would do well to familiarize yourself with their educational systems, since a degree from one of these systems will improve your odds of being able to work in these countries.

                In the United States, schools exist in three main forms: primary, secondary, and post-secondary (or tertiary). Primary generally runs from kindergarten to around grade 8. Then, all students go to secondary, commonly known as high school, which is usually grades 9-12. The states have wide latitude for outlining their requirements, and there is a significant amount of standardized testing, which varies based on the city, state, and national mandates at the time. Due to the No Child Left Behind Act, all states must test children, but there is no major national test required. You have probably heard of the SAT or ACT, but these tests are generally given to assess college readiness – they are not school-leaving requirements. Upon leaving high school, students who want to continue their educations have a wide range of options [[LINK TO BLOG ABOUT IVY vs COMMUNITY COLLEGE}.  Most areas have community colleges, or junior colleges that allow students to take prerequisite courses. All states have public institutions funded in part by the state (though nationwide, state appropriations have been declining rapidly). Two-year degrees are called Associate’s degrees, and four-year degrees are usually called bachelor’s degrees. While these degrees are often completed in 2 or 4 years, many people may take longer due to changing their area of study. The area of study a student chooses is usually called a “major,” and he or she can have the option of supplementing it with a “minor.” The type of degree a school can award is based on its accreditation. Private schools are the same, although the majority offer four-year degrees. These schools, generally far more expensive than public ones, are not generally funded by the state, although they may receive federal student funds for students eligible for financial aid. After the four-year degree, some institutions offer master’s or doctoral degrees. Master’s degrees are usually two to three years, and doctoral degrees vary widely. Education in the United States is highly diverse and politicized, and changing rapidly. Citizens of the United States are largely very dissatisfied with the cost of higher education and the diminishing job opportunities available to college graduates. The situation may change rapidly in the next few years.

                Meanwhile, across the pond in the United Kingdom, the higher education system is fed into by the national education system. Students in the UK achieve further education qualifications like the A-levels, the International Baccalaureate, Scottish Highers, or qualifications from abroad that allow them to enter university. There are two main forms of higher education in the UK: Undergraduate and postgraduate. Undergraduate education includes bachelor’s degrees, which are similar to those of the U.S. except they generally take three, not four years to complete. Degrees also have distinctions such as ordinary or Honours. Undergraduate degrees are classified as follows: First class honours (a “first”), second class honours, upper division (2:1), second class honours, lower division (2:2), third class honours (a “third”), or an ordinary degree (a pass). The higher the class of honours, the greater one’s academic distinction. The honours system is generally used for three-year undergraduate degrees.

Another UK degree is the Foundation degree, which is awarded after the first two years of an Honours degree. However, it includes work-based learning sponsored by an employer. A student’s area of study is known as a course. A DipHE (or Diploma of Higher Education) course is roughly akin to the American Associate’s degree in that it is a two-year, foundational degree (though not a Foundation degree) and can be used to transfer into a four-year course. These, too, are often job-related. Common fields for this degree include nursing and social work. A certificate of Higher Education is equivalent to the first year of an Honours degree, and are considered the most basic post-secondary educational qualification. They can be used to transfer into university-level studies, or for career changes. Finally, a Higher National Diploma (HND) is a two-year course that can, with enough success, lead to a third-year of the degree. These different diplomas comprise the various offerings at the undergraduate level, but the postgraduate level has its own opportunities. For example, there are master’s degree courses, MBA courses, PhD’s / doctorates (only available for those who achieve at least a 2:1 result), and numerous postgraduate diplomas and qualifications. Professional and vocational qualifications are available, as are conversion courses. Although the UK is smaller than the US, there are still numerous educational opportunities in a variety of topics.

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