American System of Education
образования Саратовской области
Лицея № 37
American System of Education
Учащейся 11 «А» класса
МОУ Лицея № 37
Шилиной Ксении Андреевны
Учитель английского языка
Батушанская Ольга Михайловна
Саратов, 2009 г
2.1 Historical Background
2.2 A Brief Account of American Education: Differences
2.4 American School from the Point of View of Russian
2.5 What American Students think of their Educational
2.6 Alumni’s Experience
List of Literature
Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of English gives the following definition of
education: “A process of teaching, training and learning, especially in schools
or colleges, to improve knowledge and developing skills”.
To serve their
citizens and help the country prosper all countries in the world without
exception provide public education to children and teenagers as one of its main
goals is to prepare students for productive citizenship, work and adult life.
All this makes the notion of education universal while each country has its own
system of education determined by its history, political system, culture,
traditions and so on. The collapse of the iron curtain, modern technological
developments like the Internet and ability to travel the world enable Russian
students and educators to get more or less good idea of educational system of
English speaking countries. The expansion of American culture, dominance of
American movies on television familiarizes Russian viewers and movie-goers with
life of American teenagers and American school. However a survey conducted
among the high school students of Lyceum 37 proved that their awareness of
American educational system leaves much to be desired.
So we have
decided to examine the system of American education from different angles; that
of the official sources such as Close up Foundation publications, American
students and Russian participants of exchange programs and compare it to the
opinions of Russian high school students.
above mentioned publications and public survey our research is based on the
comments on American school system made by the students of the Sun Prairie High
School, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
always valued education. They have shown great concern for it since early
colonial times. Among the first settlers, in fact, there was an unusually high
proportion of educated men. In the Massachusetts Bay colony in early 1600s, as
the British historian Rouse pointed out, “there was an average of one
university man to every 40 or 50 families – much higher than in Old England”.
Massachusetts passed the law which required all towns with more than 50
families to provide a schoolmaster at public expense. It ran like this:
“It is being
one chief project of that old deluder Satan to keep men from the knowledge of
the Scriptures… by persuading from the use of tongues…that learning may not be
buried in the graves of our fathers in the church and common wealth, the Lord
assisting our endeavors: It is therefore ordered that every township in this
jurisdiction, after the Lord has increased them to the number of 50
householders, shall then forthwith appoint one within the town to tech all such
children as shall resort to him to write and read, whose wages shall be paid
either by the parents or masters of such children, or by the inhabitants in
And it was
further ordered that “where any town shall increase to the number of 100
families or householders, they shall set up a grammar school, the master
thereof being able to instruct youth so far as they may be fittest for the
also made provisions for free public schools. In the course of the 17th
century, for instance, free schools were established in a number of places such
as New Haven, Hartford, New London and Fairfield. Many academies (schools
offering a classical education) opened throughout the next century, including
the one established by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia in 1751.
It is seen
from the above mentioned that the Puritans viewed education as an important
means of passing on religious teachings. However many Americans hoped that
publicly supported schools would wipe out the legacy of the British system,1 Anderson E.A., Anderson N. J. Let
Freedom Ring, a United States History. Silver Budget Company, 1977, p. 276
in which the
ability to read and write separated the economic classes.
of education in American life was also reflected in the Ordinances of 1785 and
1787 which set guidelines for organizing the new lands to the west. They
provided for one square mile of land in each township to be reserved for public
schools. By 1859, every state had provided for a system of free public schools
open to all and paid by public taxes.
inception in the mid-1800s the nation’s public school system has also helped
millions of immigrant children learn the language and skills necessary to
succeed in their new country. It goes without saying that a great deal of the
economic, political, scientific, and cultural progress America has made in its
relatively short history is due to its commitment to the ideal of equal
opportunity. In this respect one can’t but mention the landmark case of Brown V
Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954) in which the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled that racially segregated public schools were unconstitutional. Later
court decisions ordered schools to desegregate. To comply, many school
districts began bussing students to schools outside their neighborhoods to
bring together children of different races and ethnic backgrounds.
The aim of
American education to educate as many Americans as possible to the best of
their abilities is proved by recent legislation, including school voucher
program, which enables students attend a public school outside their
neighborhoods, and No Child Left Behind law passed by Congress in 2001. The
latter reflects many of President George W. Bush’s education initiatives, and
aims to close achievement gaps among students from different ethnic and
socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as among those with special needs or
learning disabilities. The belief that the future of society depends on the
quantity and quality of its educated citizens makes it clear why a great many
Americans are still willing to give more money to education.
2.2 A Brief
Account of American Education: Differences and Similarities
is entitled to an education. School attendance is compulsory for all children.
Students attend school five to seven hours a day, five days a week for nine
months each year, from September to June. Public education from kindergarten
through grade 12 is tax-supported; no tuition is required.
About 85 per
cent of American children attend public schools. The other 15 percent choose to
pay tuition fees to attend private schools. The latter ones are mostly run by
religious organizations and generally include religious instruction.
In spite of
the above said the United States do not have a national system of education.
Education is considered to be a matter for the people of each state. Although
there is a Federal Department of Education, its function is merely to gather
information, to advice, and to help finance certain educational programs.
Education, Americans say, is “a national concern, a state responsibility, and a
local function”. As a result, each of the 50 state legislatures is free to
determine its own system for its own public schools.
however, state constitution gives the actual administrative control of the
public schools to local communities. There are some 16000 school districts
within the 50 states. School boards made up of individual citizens elected from
each community oversee the schools in each district. They, not the state, set
school policy and actually decide what is to be taught.
result of the decent realization is that there is enormous amount of variety
and flexibility in elementary and secondary education throughout the nation. In
public schools, decisions about school curriculum, teacher certification, and
student achievement standards are made by Boards of Education at the state
and/or district level. For example, although all states today require that
children attend school until a certain age, it varies from 14 to 18 years. Or,
as another example, in about 60 per cent of the states, local schools are free
to choose any teaching materials or textbooks which they think are appropriate.
In the remaining states, only such teaching materials may be used in public
schools which have been approved by the state boards of education. Some school
systems require that a high school student completes three years of
mathematics, before graduation. The national average however is lower.
schools is another source of difference. Communities and states that are able
or willing to pay more for school buildings, materials, and teachers, almost
always have better educational systems than those that cannot or do not.
Because of the
great variety of schools, and the many differences among them, no one
institution can be singled out as typical or representative. Yet there are
enough basic similarities in structure among various schools and systems to
permit some general comments.
start at the kindergarten level. There are some school districts that do not
have this beginning phase, and others which have an additional “pre-school”
(primary) and secondary (high) schools are organized on one or two bases: eight
years of elementary school and four years of secondary school, or six years of
elementary, three years of junior high school and three years of senior high
is no national curriculum there are almost always required subjects at each
level. Primary school children in the United States learn much the same things
as do children of the same age in other countries.
elementary school instructs children in penmanship, science, mathematics,
music, art, physical education, language arts (which include reading, writing
and grammar), and social studies (which include geography, history, and
schools require students to take English, mathematics, science, social studies,
and physical education. In addition to this “core” curriculum, students choose
“elective” courses in their areas of interest.
curriculum offerings more similar is a growing trend to adopt certain types of
educational programs and competencies by state legislatures across the country.
For instance, since 1985 nineteen states have passed legislation requiring
students from schools throughout the state to pass a minimum competency test
before they receive their high school diplomas. This, plus the fact that an
additional twenty-three states have some form of minimum competency testing,
creates strong pressure for curricular uniformity. Course content is also
similar because expressed social goals are quite uniform throughout the United
States. Additionally, much of what is taught in schools is influenced by the
books and materials that are used. Because the large textbook companies sell
books and series of books from state to state and from coast to coast,
commonalities are further emphasized.
for similarity is the general uniformity of schooling procedures. For instance
the number of hours of instruction and days in the school year is practically
the same throughout the United States. Other similarities in schooling
procedures include the length of classes, the time between classes, the use of
bells, the number of pupils in each class, the awarding of credits (Carnegie
units) for the completion of courses, the requirement of a fixed number of
Carnegie units for graduation, the bureaucratic structure within the school
systems. Also similar are the school rituals, such as book fairs, pep rallies,
and graduation ceremonies.
In addition to
curricular offerings and schooling procedures, actual teaching methods provide
another element of uniformity in schools today. Verbal explanations,
presentations and questioning, and assigning seatwork and drill on new material
are among the main tools of the teaching trade.
believe that American schools are more play than work overlook an important
fact: a high school diploma is not a ticket that allows someone to
automatically enter a university. Standardized examinations play a decisive
role at almost every level of education, especially in the admission to
colleges and universities. Students, who wish to go to a good university but
only took high school courses that were a “snap”, or who spent too much time on
extracurricular activities, will have to compete with those who worked hard and
took demanding courses.
There are two
widely used and nationally-administered standardized tests for high school
students who wish to attend a college or university. One is the SAT (Scholastic
Aptitude Test), which attempts to measure aptitudes in verbal and mathematical
fields necessary for college work. The other is the ACT (American College
Testing program), which attempts to measure skills in English, mathematics, and
the social and natural sciences. Both tests are given at specific dates and
locations throughout the U.S. by non-profit, nongovernmental organizations. The
tests are used by universities as standards for comparison, but are not in any
American School from the Point of View of Russian Teenagers
objective of our research is to view American system of education from
different angles. Firstly we tried to find out what Russian teenagers, in our
case senior students of Lyceum 37, know about their peers overseas. We made up
a questionnaire containing a number of questions to conduct a survey among the
students of the 10th and 11th grades. The results gave us
much food for thought.
Out of 86
students who participated in the survey more than a half believe that education
in the USA is free, 22 per cent, however, are sure it is paid and 17 per cent
do not know anything about it.
As far as the
minimum school age is concerned opinions differ. Among those 50 per cent of
respondents who think that education in the USA is compulsory 26 per cent
believe that American children begin to go to school at the age of 5, 13 per
cent suggest 6 and 11 per cent consider children start school at the age of 7.
The age at which students graduate from school caused even more controversy. 18
per cent of the respondents think high school students leave school at the age
of 18, 15 per cent believe they do it at the age of 17, 8 per cent mention 16
years of age, 2 per cent – 15 years of age. The rest are not aware of the fact
chapter of our research deals with the differences and similarities in American
education. As for Russian students 35 per cent are not able to answer the
question, 39 per cent think the system of education is uniform and only 26 per
cent of the respondents know that in spite of many similarities one can hardly
speak about a unified national educational system.
opinions differ when Russian students are asked about the system of
examinations in American schools. Although the majority of the respondents
(89%) know that examinations and tests are conducted in the written form, 24
per cent consider that high school graduates are required to take examinations
in all subjects on the curriculum. 76 per cent, nevertheless, assume that
students of the 12 grade can choose the subjects and the number of
Even less is
known about enrollment in college. 74 per cent of the questioned believe that
school graduates are admitted to college or university according to the results
of school examinations.
It turned out
that Russian students know more about the possibility to choose subjects
according to one’s aptitude and level of proficiency. 74 per cent of the
students believe that American teenagers can choose classes within a certain
to a great number of American movies on Russian television and DVD’s 63 per
cent of the respondents know that in most public schools students are not
required to wear a uniform, although the rest 37 per cent either do not pay
attention to what American teenagers wear at school or do not see American
movies at all.
The results of
the survey prove that Russian students are well aware of sports and
extracurricular activities in American school. 71 per cent believe that Sports
is one of the most important subjects on the curriculum and much heed is paid
to physical development of students. 98 per cent of the respondents think that
American students are provided with excellent opportunities to join clubs and
participation in all kinds of organizations, alliances and clubs is very
popular among (with) American teenagers.
Very little is
known about education for mentally and physically challenged students or
students with disabilities. The USA is known throughout the world as the land
of equal opportunities, thus children of various abilities (or disabilities)
are given equal chances to get their education. So one can find students in
wheelchairs, partially blind or deaf sitting in the same classroom as other
students. They are approached differently and are taught under individualized
syllabus adapted to their skills and abilities. The progress they make is
supervised by specialists and coordinators who are in charge of teaching
special students. The main idea is that interacting and socializing with other
students develop their social skills and as a result they are more likely to
get adjusted to life in modern society. However 89 per cent of Russian
respondents believe that students with disabilities in America are taught in
controversial issue is that of school discipline. In spite of the fact that in
most American schools very strict measures are taken to prevent and fight
truancy and school violence the majority of Russian students think that the
atmosphere in American high school is more relaxed and little is done to
maintain “law and order”. Despite the introduction of “zero-tolerance” policy
in most schools and, as a result, a considerable decrease of crimes committed
within school precincts. American school is still viewed by most Russian
students as a place where teenagers are free to do whatever they want.
American students think of their educational system
without saying that to get information “straight from the horse’s mouth” is
better than take it from the reference books/ Modern technology and one year
stay in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin made it possible to conduct a survey not only
among the students of Lyceum 37 but also among the students of Sun Prairie High
asked only two questions: what they appreciate in American system of education
and what they do not approve at all.
Nearly all the
questioned believe that the main advantage of the system is its freedom. As Amanda
Collier puts it: “The advantages are that you get a choice as to what you are
able to take and the freedom to be able to do what you like and/or are good
at”. A wide range of extracurricular activities and excellent sports facilities
are also mentioned by all the respondents. However some students hold the
opinion which contradicts the one. For example, Jaimee Neerland says: “The
disadvantages I think are the limitations that some people encounter. Even
thought we get to choose what we want to take, there are only so many courses
in a day and in my personal case, I had to drop a course that I loved and was
good at because there simply wasn’t enough room in the schedule”. Besides
sometimes classes get filled up and you can’t take the class you want.
undoubtable advantages of the American system of education as being free of
charge and being aimed at providing equal education for all students (or
providing all students with equal educational opportunities) turn out to be
debatable. My former co-student Clarisse Tobia says that sometimes their
educational system can be expensive: “Sometimes you have to pay for materials
in a certain class if you want to take the class. Sometimes school will have
you pay for each individual class you are taking.”
In spite of
great variety of classes to choose there are not enough advanced classes, too
much emphasis is placed on sports and not enough on academics. Carl Peterson
says: “Too often we are limited as to what classes we can take, because with
some schools they cannot afford certain things that other schools can. Some
schools do not even offer honors or AP classes”. As a result high school
graduation requirements don’t match up with college class entrance requirements
“like you might need 3 years of History to graduate but 4 years of History to
get into a specific college”.
A couple of my
former schoolmates blame their educational system for mediocrity which they
believe to be the reverse side of equality. Michal Hartung says: “I feel like
this educational system is designed to create a mentally equal population. It
suffocates creativity and does not allow for going above and beyond. Because
you are forced to take as many as 8 courses at a time you are never able to
become great at one subject, just mediocre at all of them. There is simply no
need to try to excel in any subject because it is easy to succeed in this
system without being truly great”. However the majority think that all schools
should offer the same things no matter what. “Every school should be o prep
school minus the uniforms”.
There are some
more things American high school students are not happy with: too many classes
in one day, the time school day starts, and overcrowded classes in big cities.
in general American teenagers seem to be quite content with their educational
system and do not want to change it.
few changes they would like to make an introduction or further development of
the so-called block scheduling in all schools, more funding for academic things
and less for sports, more freedoms with educational careers.
or to be more exact our outlook on the American system of education would be
incomplete if we didn’t take into account the opinions and conclusions of
alumni, the numerous participants of the Russian-American Exchange program
Freedom Support Act – Future Leaders Exchange. Thanks to ‘perestroika’ and
policy of peaceful co-existence the opportunity to go to the USA and stay there
for a year being accommodated in a host family became quite plausible for
hundreds of Russian teenagers 15 years ago. Since the geography of the program
covers the entire country, from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast and from the
Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico, the alumni’s opinions appear to be
questioned 38 alumni who stayed in the USA from 2003 to 2008. In spite of the
fact that all of them come from different backgrounds and studied in different
schools their points of view proved to be quite similar (nearly the same).
Nearly all of them think that one of the biggest advantages of American schools
is freedom to choose and ability to make your own schedule.
advantage which is mentioned practically by all the alumni is their sport
system. Dmitry Dubovic, the alumnus of the year 2007-2008 from Rostov shared
his opinion: “I would say that sports is a very important issue in American
education and I believe we need to do the same thing here”. Every school has
its own teams in different kinds of sports, modern gyms, weight rooms and of
course football field. It is great when high school kids are so healthy and fit
and determined, and sports also help develop team work which is very important
in every area in life.
(and in this case the opinions of those who study or once studied in American
schools and those who have never been there co-inside) is extracurricular
activities. Sonia Lomp (2006-2007, Novosibirsk) says: “It is awesome that
American schools have such subjects as choir, leadership, drama and stuff that
help talented kids and also keep them busy with their hobbies”.
already mentioned that the respondents (participants of the survey) have a very
vague idea of maintaining discipline in American schools. As for alumni they
find it strict enough, sometimes even too strict. There is no way you can skip
your classes, or get in a fight at school, or even be late without being
punished. Luba Romanova (2005-2006, Novgorod) complains about too much control,
corridor passes, sending your grades to parents, calling home if you miss any
class. Alina Berdiaeva (2007-2008, Omsk) recollects: “There is no such thing
like “may I turn in this paper tomorrow instead of today”. There is no
tomorrow. There is discipline. That makes students respect the teachers.” At
the same time Ksenia Lenshina (2006-2007, Samara) and other alumni find the
school atmosphere more informal, it provides more confidence: the teacher will
never yell your grade out, no matter if it is good or bad.
good points are the teacher’s possibilities to use modern technologies, sitting
alone at the desk, having study halls to do your homework, an ability to work
As for such
possibilities as the Internet at school or having access to all sources of
information they are available to Russian students even in the most distant
regions of the country.
As far as the
disadvantages of American system of education are concerned nearly all the
alumni we have questioned name a low level of knowledge schools give their
student, especially in math. For example Evgenia Bogatova (2005-2006,
Volgograd) was shocked when she saw juniors and seniors having troubles solving
quadratic equations and identities.
is related more to the mentality or national set of mind rather than to the
system of education. Many citizens of the USA admit that America is mostly
concerned with America. Young people put it in a more rigorous way. Nastia
Peshina (2004-2005, Ekaterinburg) says: “The bad part that Americans are crazy
about the USA and pretty much don’t know tons of stuff about the world. I would
add Geography at least one required year.” She is echoed by Ekaterina Kononova
(2007-2008, Saratov): “A very big part of Americans don’t care about what goes
around somewhere farther than their own American nose. So negative but it is
true. I seriously like their motto: “There is the US, and there is the rest of
the world”. You can see it pretty often in their foreign policy. But again it
is a national part of their character. But the educational system could change
disadvantages the alumni mention are low level of teaching foreign languages,
12 grades which some of them think to be too long.
which is viewed by some alumni as a plus and by others as a minus is that in
every class you meet new students. On the one hand it helps you to meet a lot
of new people, but on the other hand it doesn’t give you a chance to feel as
part of the group as the result students meet each other at school every day,
but sometimes they don’t even know each other’s name. “They don’t become
friends because every 45 minutes in school you are going to class with
different people and there is nothing that can unite you all together.”
we can say that the main goal of our research, to examine the system of
secondary education from the inside and outside, seems to be achieved. We have
made a brief outline of American school from the point of view of those who are
within the system, the onlookers and exchange programs participants, who are
able to compare and contrast.
without saying that there is no system of education which can be called
perfect. The National Commission on Excellence in Education which worked in the
USA at the end of the previous century asserted: “The education foundations of
our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity”. The
commission’s recommendations for improving student achievement included the
Strong academic curricula, with a
back-to-basic emphasis on reading, writing, math and science;
standards for students, including a heavier homework load and higher grading
salaries to attract and keep talented, well-qualified teachers.
prove that in spite of all differences education all over the Globe faces
similar problems and to solve them joined efforts of all those who make up the
system are required.
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Ryan. Those Who Can Teach. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994.
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Encyclopedia. Funk and Wagnalls, 2001.
D.K. American Life and Institutions. Barrons Educational Series, 2003.
E., Jansen R. America in Close Up. Longman, 2001.
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