Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Differences (1): School Systems

Welcome to my Differences series!

First up is school systems... and I want to know how it's all organised (and "labeled") in your country.

When I watch American television I hear words like junior and sophomore... and it took me a long time to figure it all out (and I might actually be wrong!). Here's how it is where I live:

Pre-Primary School - 3 years
Grade 000 (3 year olds)
Grade 00 (4 year olds)
Grade 0/Grade R (5/6 year olds)
the R stands for Readiness

Primary School - 7 years
Grade 1 (6 year olds) to Grade 7 (12/13 year olds)

High Scool - 5 years
Grade 8 (13 years olds) to Grade 12 (17/18 year olds)
Grade 12 is also called Matric

Private vs Public and School Uniforms
Where you come from is there any kind of stigma attached to going to a public school? In South Africa it's generally accepted that most private schools are "better", but there are still a lot of good public (or state) schools.

As for uniforms... I could be wrong, but I don't think there are any schools in South Africa where the kids don't have a school uniform. Some schools (like the one I went to) may have a more relaxed uniform, but it's a uniform nonetheless.
Is there any kind of pattern with uniforms and private/public schools? Like do most private schools have a school uniform and most public schools not have a school uniform? Or is that not the case at all?

School Holidays
(added based on a comment below)

We have four terms (we don't use the words quarters or semesters). The first term starts in mid-January and the fourth term ends at the beginning of December. So we have four holiday periods: two weeks in March/April, three weeks in June/July, one week in September, and six weeks in December/January.
Also, we call them holidays and not vacation :-)

I'm curious! Tell me how it is where you live.


Michael Offutt said...

I live in the U.S. Not anything really to report that you don't already know.

Cherie Reich said...

Yep, it's definitely different here in America.

I've only seen private school kids with uniforms. Public school kids can wear about anything (within reason). At least, this is for the most part. Every so often they bring up uniforms in public schools, so it's possible some have them.

As for the schools:
Preschool (4-5 year olds; not required)

Kindergarten (Age 5) to 5th grade (Age 10/11)

Middle School (some places have a Junior High)
6th grade (11/12) to 8th grade (13/14)

High School (Ages 14-18)
9th grade - Freshman
10th grade - Sophomore
11th grade - Junior
12th grade - Senior

There is some wiggle room when it comes to middle/junior school. For example, I was the last sixth grade class attending my elementary school because the next year they moved sixth grade to the middle school and ninth grade to the high school, but as far as I know what I have above is the general standard at least for Virginia, USA.

It's fascinating how different things can be between cultures. :)

Rachel Morgan said...

Cherie, thanks SO much for this detailed breakdown!

Okay, I actually thought Kindergarten was equivalent to our pre-school, so thanks for clearing that up for me!

And another difference that's small but weird... we always say Grade 1, Grade 2 etc, whereas you guys say 1st Grade, 2nd Grade etc.

Elena Solodow said...

Wow, weird grading system with the 0s. I grew up in New York. Private schools were usually seen as snobby (I say this is a public school attendee), and yes, they usually wore uniforms. Most, if not all, public schools do not enforce that rule. But I know in my middle school, the boys could not wear hats in class, but they could in high school.

L.A. Colvin said...

Cherie pretty much covers it. The only thing I would put is that sometimes the schools grades are all together on the same campus and sometimes the schools are seperate. My boys' school houses K-8 in the same building but in seperate hallways and they never come into contact with a different grade unless it's at lunch or snack. Our high school is on the same grounds but in a different building.

Also it depends on if you live in the city or not. The city schools tend to be seperated completely.

We do not have uniforms in our county but there are public schools that do wear them. Just not many. There is no stigma to going to a public school in the South where we live (US) mainly due to the dominance of public schools.

Also our kids attend school from August to May with breaks at Christmas and in the Spring. With many long weekends sprinkled throughout. The grading system is broken into 9 week periods and the students recieve grades by letter and number. Some schools attend year round and some do a 6 week grading period.
We also have summer school is someone is failing a subject.
Generally the grades are below:

90-100% is an A Above ave
80-89% B Above ave
70-79% C Average
60-69% D Below ave
69-below F Failing

L.A. Colvin said...

sorry on the grades I meant 59 and below is failing.

D U Okonkwo said...

In the UK public schools are known as state schools. Private schools are the ones parents paid for. And yep, private schools are naturally better, but many, and I would say up to maybe 80& of kids in the UK attend a public school.

Doesn't always mean that a child will do better in paid for private school, though. I went to college with a girl who went to a posh private school and failed every single subject. She was at college to retake those exams before moving up to the subjects that I was doing. She was esentially at college for an extra year because of it.

Rachel Morgan said...

LA Colvin - That's interesting about the grade symbols. Ours are:

90 - 100 is A+
80 - 89 is A
70 - 79 is B
60 - 69 is C
50 - 59 is D

The fail mark is slightly different for different subjects. For my subject (maths), from Gr 8 to Gr 9 a pass is 40%. In Gr 10 to Gr 12 a pass is 30%. This still bugs me. How can you "pass" if you only know 30% of the work?!

Also, we never say we're "grading papers", we say we're "marking papers" :-)

Oh, yes, school holidays. I'll add that into the post... Thanks!

Deborah Walker said...

We're not that good looking in the UK.

Rachel Morgan said...

DUO - wait, so in the UK if you go to a state school you don't pay school fees?

Deborah - hahahaha... thanks for the laugh :-)

The Golden Eagle said...

I've always been curious about the differences between schools! Especially the UK system--it's fascinating to read all the comments.

Don't forget the homeschoolers. ;)

dr3am3r said...

Home schooling.
Is this an option in other places and how is it handled?

In the United States, every state has different rules and regulations. For the state that I'm from, students were required by law to make up a portfolio that contained samples of a student's work. This portfolio was then shown to public school's principal and another individual licensed to say that the home schooled students were being well-schooled.

for the record, I didn't do my homework in my pajamas. That's a common stereotype of homeschoolers.

Rachel Morgan said...

Golden Eagle - So how does it work for homeschoolers?

Where do you get your tests/exams from? And who marks them? And do you have to do your exams when normal schools are doing them, or can you do them early if you've completed the syllabus early? And can you take a holiday whenever you want?!

dr3amer - Hahaha! I used to get home from school and the first thing I'd do was put pajama bottoms on! I liked to be comfortable while doing my homework :-) I actually don't know anything about the home schooling system in South Africa... It would be interesting to find out.

Devin Bond said...

Also, there are differences between schools in America. I'm on the West Coast and we generally go

Preschool/Kindergarten: age 4-5yrs (not required)

Elementary School: Grades 1-6, age 6-12

Middle School: Grades 7-8, age 13-14

High School: Grades 9-12, age 15-18

As for home schooling, my best friend went to see a teacher once a week to get assignments, turn in things and take tests. Other than that, she was at home (in her pjs :P (but that's cause she's too lazy to get out of them)). Other people get home schooled by their parents.

NiaRaie said...

I live in the US.
5 yrs old: Kindergarten
6-11 yrs old : 1st-5th grade (Elementary school)
12-14 yrs old: 6th-8th grade (Middle School/Jr. High)
15-18 yrs old: 9th-12th grade (High School)
Some public schools do have uniforms but I do not know of any private schools that do not wear uniforms.

erica and christy said...

What Cherie posted about Virginia is the same in Wisconsin. There is what we call 4-year-old kindergarten, but it is not required and not all school districts even offer it (and many that do actually collaborate with a daycare center to offer it). I teach 3-year-olds in a public school, but we have stringent guidelines as to who we serve (labelled low-income and/or at-rish accoring to the federal Head Start standards).

Shallee said...

Everyone else pretty much summed my school system up. Thanks for sharing yours!

Nas Dean said...

Our schoolings;
Kindergarten - preschoolers 4 yr olds
Primary - 6 to 12 yrs (known as Class 1 to 6)
Secondary - teens- Known as Form 1 to 7
University after that!

BTW, I'm hosting Roland D Yeomans today, who self-published his book THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS and is sharing his journey with us as well as a four book giveaway!

Liz said...

I need to slightly disagree with Devin. 6th grade is for 11 year-olds, 7th for 12, 8th for 13, 9th for 14, etc. (Although, 12th graders turn 18 during their senior year, 8th graders turn 14, etc.)

The reason there are so many different US responses as to middle school/junior high school is because this varies depending upon area. Where I am, they have "middle school" for 7th & 8th grades (12 & 13-year-olds), but in some parts of the country this grouping may contain 6th grade. (When my parents were in school, junior high school was 7th, 8th, and 9th grade.)

Confused yet?

I work as a substitute teacher. The district I work for does not have uniforms (public district). The district for the city I live in does require uniforms (also a public district). So, that also depends on area more than anything else.

Christine Tyler said...

Most public/private students don't know that their credits are based on hours in class. This is why if you get a lower grade on a test, you don't earn less credits, as long as you pass.

In an American high school, 180 hours =1 credit.

This is called the "Carnegie Unit," and is used by almost all public and private schools in the US.

Most students don't know about this. Three months of one class gets them .5 credits. It takes forever. When students do figure this out, many of them supplement by taking college classes at the same time, which can earn them 3-5 credits per three-month class. Many of them graduate early this way.

Public and Private highschoolers graduate with at least 24 credits.

I graduated from this homeschool program:

My classes consisted of me researching what classes colleges looked for, writing up a syllabus for myself, sending it in to a counselor for approval, and then recording my hours. I didn't have tests. Tests are for teachers to make sure students studied, and my recorded hours already showed that. I was able to make up activities, plan my own "field trips" and look up information I was actually interested in. I graded myself according to an honor system. I gave myself the grade I felt I earned through my personal efforts.

After earning enough hours/credits, I graduated by putting together a portfolio of my best work, a final essay, and a test.

I also attended Advanced Placement English classes and after-school drama at the local public highschool. I didn't start the Clonlara program until my Sophomore year, so pretty much all of my friends went to the public highschool.

Jemi Fraser said...

We're a little different in my area of Canada

Elementary School:
Junior Kindergarten (JK) - 4 year olds
Senior Kindergarten (SK) - 5
Grades 1 to 8 - ages 6 - 13

High School:
Grades 9 to 12 - ages 14 - 17

We ONLY have public schools - there are no private schools at all.

The Catholic high schools in our area have uniforms - public schools do not.

We start in September - break for 2 weeks at Christmas, 1 week in March & 8 weeks over the summer.

Great topic - it's fun to see how different the areas are!

Chris K. said...

My info is pretty much the same as Jemi's - I believe that there are some private schools in my area, but I really know very little about them, don't know anybody who went to one.

Grades 1-5 were 'primary school' and 6-8 'middle school.

The public schools I went to did have a 'dress code' - not a uniform, just a list of what was so bad that you weren't allowed to wear it to school, basically.

I remember primary school as breaking the school year up into 3 roughly equal terms, and high school as having 2 semesters per year - can't remember which system my middle school used.

There's a bit of mild Canadian controversy over the public funding of Catholic schools - originally it was a compromise, as the public schools were nominally Protestant, but since the system was setup they've become much less faith-based. There are lots of people who want to eliminate the separate school system, and some who want other religions to be able to get public funding for schools.

Kari Marie said...

Everyone else has answered well enough. I went to a private school from 3rd to 8th grade and we didn't have uniforms.

Rachel Morgan said...

Thank you so much, everyone, for adding to this discussion! I've certainly learned a lot :-)

L'Aussie said...

Well I'm not sure if that was a wrap up, Rachel, but if you're interested we do actually attend school in Australia too and like most Western countries it is much the same as in US and UK but we have a thriving alternate school set of systems, like Monteressi, Steiner, all sorts of hippy-type schools, which all must have a strong curriculum approved by the state.

We have 6 states and 2 Territories. All vary slightly but there is a current move for a National Curriculum as Aussies are very mobile, always moving from state to state.

School usually follow this system:

Pre School, 3 - 4 y.o.
Primary - Years 1 - 7
High School - Years 8 - 12

ALL public schools wear uniforms. Very strict on this, no trotting out the latest trends. ALL private schools also wear uniforms. Private schooling is very popular with a high percentage of students using this system, especially in High School as many of our State schools are declining in standards. Many people spend a huge amount of money (our Private schools are very expensive) to educate their children.

BTW I believe in the UK that they like watching our schoolie-type soaps so much (like Home and Away) that some schools in the UK have copied their school uniform. This is a state school.

The only schools not to use a uniform are some of the alternate schools.

Grading system varies. In high schools we talk VHA (Very High Achievement - A)
HA (High Achievement - B)
S (Sound - C)
LA (Limited Achievement - D)
VLA (Very Limited Achievement - E)

Some schools just use A, B etc. There are 9 levels on each achievement. VHA 1 - 9 for e.g.

There you have an idea of our system. As I said it varies state to state and even within states.


Cally Jackson said...

This is a GREAT idea, Rachel. I can't wait to see what comes next in the differences series! Denise has pretty much summed up the situation for Australia, so I'll just add a few things that she hasn't covered.

In terms of school holidays, we have:
* about 10 days in April (always around Easter) (Autumn)
* 2 weeks in June/July (Winter)
* 2 weeks in Sep/Oct (Spring)
* 6 weeks in December/January (Summer)

Private schools get longer holidays than public schools, so boarders can visit their families.

During the day, most schools have a morning tea break (sometimes called little lunch) and a lunch break, and go from 8.50am to 3.10pm.

Henry James said...

I am confused... I understand the differences and the grading system... But all this talk of public, private , and state schools is doing my head in... In the UK where i live.... Public schools are the historic traditional boarding schools like eaton ,rugby, and repton, and are super expensive... State school are run by the state and are therefore free, private schools are the middle ground... They offer more specialized teaching than state... At a much more affordable price... The year is split in 3 terms... Each term is split in 2 half terms... 1st term is longest, around 10 weeks first half and slightly less in second, and spring and summer terms get shorter and shorter... Depending on the county you live in you could go from a pre-school (2/3-4 yrs old) to a primary (either 4-9 if going to a middle school... Or 4-11 if going straight to high/secondary school) then either to a middle school at 9 or 10 and leaving at 13 you then go to a high or secondary school till 16.. when you do GCSEs is you come striaght from primary you start at 11... And leave at 16, niw u could go into the world of work at this stage, but most stay on to get better qualifications. usually the secondary school may have a sixth-form on the same site or next door... Where u go to do A Levels.. till age 18 where the student either goes onto college/university to get a degree
Henry James

Rachel Morgan said...

Hi Henry

Two years later and I'd forgotten all about this blog discussion! Thanks for adding your comments ... It all sounds rather confusing to me!