E-learning jako vzdělávací nástroj školy 3. tisíciletí

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Education in the UK – Reading and speaking

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1 Work in 3 groups – each group deals with one section (I/, II/ or III). In your group read together your section and make notes (each one). You will need them to be able to present what you have read later without looking at the original text.





The UK does not have a single educational system, though the systems in individual countries share certain common features(e.g. full time education is compulsory for all children in the UK until they are 16).

 Organisation of schools and school life

There is little uniformity or central control over state education as it is administered by the Local Educational Authorities (LEAs): individual schools decide numerous things, including some aspects of the teaching programme. The National Curriculum (NC), which was introduced in 1988, only determines learning objectives and basic requirements. The main emphasis is on developing understanding rather than acquiring factual knowledge. Young people are expected to apply their knowledge to specific tasks.

The school year is divided into three terms:

autumn term (beginning of September – Christmas) + 2 weeks’ Christmas holiday;

spring term (New Year – Easter) + 2 weeks’ Easter holiday;

summer term + cca.6 weeks’ summer holiday.

All schools have a half-term holiday (up to a week) in the middle of each term. Nearly all schools work from 9 till 3-4 pm, from Monday to Friday.

 Pre-school education (ages: 2 to 5) should provide all children with a basic foundation in reading and counting. While very few children go to nurseries (for 2- to 3-year olds), over 60 per cent of 3- and 4-year olds attend nursery schools (3-5 years of age).

 Primary education (ages: 5 to 11)

Compulsory education starts in infant schools (5 to 7). At the age of 7, pupils transfer to junior schools or move to the primary school junior departments. At the age of 7 and 11, pupils take the National Tests in English, maths and science. The size of a class should be 30 pupils or fewer, but it exceeds this number in many primary schools.





Secondary education (ages: 11 to 16/18)

Free secondary education (11 to 16) is provided by:

Comprehensive schools, attended by nearly 90 per cent of pupils in England and Wales. Large ones offer up to 80 subjects to choose from.

• Fifteen City Technology Colleges run by private sponsors. Their

curriculum focuses on science, maths and technology.

Specialist state secondary schools: besides providing the full NC, they specialise in science, maths and technology, modern foreign languages, sports or arts.


At the age of 16, students take the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in ten subjects. Then, they can continue full-time education in school sixth forms or sixth-form colleges, where they study for two more years for examinations that lead to:

• higher education; these students take the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced (A) level in three to four subjects;

• professional training;

• vocational qualification.

 The private system

This system is independent of public funds, which means that tuition fees have to be paid. Private schools are attended by cca.7 per cent of British children. They provide education for the same age levels as the state system:

Private nurseries and nursery schools.

Pre-preparatory schools (ages: 4 to 8), which provide elementary education.

Preparatory schools (ages: 8 to 13), which prepare pupils for studies at public schools.

There are cca.2,500 of them in Britain.

Public schools (ages: 13-18) are expensive, often boarding schools, many of them highly prestigious. There are cca.500 of them in Britain. The oldest public schools, such as Winchester (1382) or Eton (1440), were founded in the Middle Ages with the aim to provide education for sons of rich members of the middle classes; at that time, they were really “public”. These schools have changed considerably in the past few decades:

• they are no longer only for boys; some are for girls, some are coeducational;

• many also admit day pupils and some are day schools only;

• there is less emphasis on team sports and more on academic achievement; as a result, many provide the best-quality tuition in the country.




Higher education


Universities in Britain enjoy academic freedom: they appoint their own staff, decide which students to admit and award their own degrees. Universities select students on the basis of A-level results and an interview. Most students have to pay fees because there are ever fewer grants. They usually spend 3 years at university to be awarded a Bachelor’s degree (BA = Bachelor of Arts; BSc = Bachelor of Science), but some courses (e.g. medical) require a longer study. Achieving a Master’s degree requires 1 to 2 years of study (MA; MSc), and a doctorate (PhD = Doctor of Philosophy) up to 3 years.

 There are four types of universities in England and Wales; each group was founded in a different century:

 “Oxbridge”: Oxford (1167) and Cambridge (1284) are the oldest British universities. They differ from all others by being federations of semi-independent colleges, founded at different times. Each has its own staff (known as Fellows) and all admitted students must first be members of a particular college before becoming students of Oxford or Cambridge. Oxbridge has the lowest student-teacher ratio in Britain (tutorials: one Fellow is a tutor to five to six students).

 Universities founded in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century (redbricks, called so as most of them were built of red brick), mostly in industrial towns and cities, to provide education in technical subjects. They are organised like continental universities, into faculties and departments.

 In the 1960s, a number of the so-called campus universities were constructed as compact sets of buildings. They were usually located in the countryside but close to towns (e.g. Sussex, Warwick or East Anglia). They have accommodation for most of their students on campus. They emphasise such academic disciplines as social sciences, as well as teaching in seminars.

 Civic universities were originally technical colleges that were granted university status between the 1960s and ‘90s. They are flexible with regard to studying arrangements (e.g. they offer sandwich courses, i.e. studies interrupted by periods of practice outside education).

 Higher education colleges

These institutions are maintained by local councils. Some of them are specialised, such as art and design or agriculture colleges. Others offer a wider range of courses in different fields. They also vary in size, from under 500 to more than 10,000 students.

 The Open University (OU)

This non-residential university was started in 1969. It offers degrees and other courses for adult students of all ages. Teaching is through a combination of TV and radio programmes, audio and video cassettes and distance-learning methods. Students do not need formal academic qualification to register for most courses. OU degrees are comparable with those granted by residential universities.




2 Now create new groups consisting of members of the other groups (I/, II/, and III/), so that you can present your sections to each other and discuss them. Compare the presented situation in the UK with the one in the Czech Republic.


3 Class discussion:

  • What interesting have you learned about the British education system?

  • What surprised / shocked you?

  • Woud you like to go to school in Britain? Why?

  • How do the education systems in Britain and in the Czech Republic differ?

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