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Education in Great Britain

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The British system of education has a very long history, but in the recent years there have been many changes in it. Now the Educational Reform Act has led to a compulsory National Curriculum for pupils aged 5 to 16 in state schools. It consists of English, Mathematics, Science, History, Geography and some other subjects. The Act also aims to give parents a wide choice of schools for their children. Non-selective comprehensive education is available for children of all abilities, though 7% of children attend private fee-paying schools, called public schools. The well-known ones are Eton and Harrow. The education system in the UK is divided into four main parts: primary education, secondary education, further education and higher education. Children in the UK have to attend primary and secondary education which runs from about 5 years old till the student is 16. School starts in September and finishes in late July. There are 3 terms, a two-week break between terms and 6 weeks summer holidays. The most important examination is the assessment at the age of 16 which is called GCSE or General Certificate of Secondary Education. Once students get their GCSEs, they have the choice whether to go to further education or go into the working world. Pupils can continue studying for two more years, concentrating on three main subjects, and then at 18 they take the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level exams. There is also a Certificate of Pre-Vocational Education, for those staying at school from 16 till 17. Further education (FE) is the term used to describe education and training that take place after the school-leaving age of sixteen. FE takes place in colleges, of which there are over 600 spread across the UK. These colleges provide education and training services for the whole of the community that they are part of. They will also run courses for people who are in work and wish to continue their training. Students who are admitted to English universities take part in ‘undergraduate studies’ which leads to a bachelor’s degree in a main field of study known as a ‘major’. The most common degrees are Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BSc), although there are others. There are also sandwich courses which offer students work places for a short period of time in a relevant industry before completing their studies. Taking a sandwich course may make the degree last a year longer than otherwise. Graduate study, conducted after obtaining an initial degree, leads to a more advanced Master’s degree. The Oxbridge universities (Oxford University and Cambridge University), which are amongst the world's oldest universities, are generally ranked at or near the top of all UK universities. These universities denote an elite education. They consist of a number of colleges, each self-governing and independent.

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