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Comparison of Education System in the UK and USA


Education remains the fundamental basis for socio-economic development in different social setups around the globe. Countries and governmental systems also adopt different educational strategies that accredit standardized qualifications preparatory for job opportunities (Shaturaev,2021). Countries have adopted industrial and standard forms of education to prepare learners and integrate young minds into critical thinkers and cognitive problem solvers (Toquero,2020). Britain holds the world’s most robust and prestigious education systems appreciated globally. UK education system assumes four divisional bridges: primary education, secondary education, further education, and higher education (Stuart & Walker, 2019). However, primary and secondary education is compulsory. The USA’s formal education system is described as K12, meaning “Kindergarten to the 12th grade,” as a mandatory education; where learners pass through elementary schools, primary (junior School), secondary (high school), and university education (Kubey,2018). Elementary education is the earliest formal education unit for every American child, while primary education, where there is Nursery education, is the most elementary education unit for UK children. This discussion is hence a defined comparison of these systems of education, their implications, and attributes to the preparation of learners efficiently and effectively in their societies.

UK education system

The UK education system introduces pupils to formal learners at the age of 4, much earlier than that in the USA. Examination and student assessment are continual and done in different stages of the learners’ development. The final 2 years of the 14-year course are summarized with a General Certificate of Secondary Education to mark the O-level education. With a conglomeration of an Advanced Education level in English Baccalaureate, a secondary education diploma certification at the age of 16th year marks the end of compulsory education in the UK(Golding, 2022). The design education structure in the UK is a compound specialization education as learners advance right from their O-level of education (niDirect Government Service, 2021). The GCSE certification is crucial for UK learners as higher institutions of learning and employers require it for various opportunity assessments, and often used as leaving certification. The GCSE is varied and ranges differently from over 50 subjects with a precedent of a five-semester-long course. The GCSE assessments are national, and learners take the examinations simultaneously throughout the country in their 11th year of studies (Bond et al., 2020). According to Statista (2023), the gender ratio of UK level-o graduates presents an 8.8% gap between female and male graduates. For instance, in the 2022 academic year, the percentage pass rate stood at 76.6% for female students and 68.9% for male students(Statista, 2023). The GCSE program is focused on equipping learners with inquiry-based learning dependencies through critical thinking, problem solutions, and cognitive analytical appreciation, as established by the UK’s independent school board and the University of Cambridge International Examination (CIE) (CAIE, 2022). The percentage transition to university by GCSE graduates for the 2021/22 academic year represented a 7% increase from the 2020/21 calendar year (UK Universities, 2021). Further, the country also has A-level qualifications, a certificate established for students aspiring to join the top best higher education centers. A-level is hence more advanced than the GCSE course and is a requirement for students joining university education in the country.

Education in the USA

The US education system is integrative, focusing on overall development and minimal emphasis on the examination assessment of the learners. In the K-12 curriculum course, learners are exposed to general subjects and juggle through them until their last year in high school (year 12). The state-financed education only starts in the Kindergarten period with the equivalence of the British year 1 for its learners. However, preschool learnings through daycare are also promoted privately as part-time learning (Windolf,2018). The American system procedurally induces learners younger to learn a language and simple concepts, emphasizing the interactive and socialization skills in their Kindergarten up to the grade three levels. The elementary education skills are hence identified and vigorously undergo development and growth through grade 4 as they progress to their senior years. The system is hence of three major categories:

  • Basic Education: Elementary schooling (K grade 5)
  • Middle School (grades 6-8)
  • High School (grades 9-12)

The system here is hence implemented through an extensive and interactive curriculum. As the learners advance, their subjects catalog also grows from simple language orientations to advanced literature studies, mathematics, science, and other subjects of choice until they graduate from high school in their twelfth year. The curriculum has a non-significant assessment framework like the GCSE system in the UK. However, learners are gauged through various parameters, including yearly assessments as they graduate to the next learning grade. The American system of education assessment systems has little dictation on the development and progression to the next level or grade as social, cocurricular, and academic averaging remain sentimental to the assessment. However, only in the advanced levels (grade 10 – 12) will the learner choose a course in a subject of passion for pursuing. The system, unlike in the UK’s, teaches the science and mathematical concepts alternatingly, from science to mathematics or vice versa. A learner in this year’s calculus class will choose physics or chemistry in the next academic year, unlike the UK, where the subjects are taught simultaneously. The study programs are progressive, and subjects are in alternate continuation from grade 9 to grade 12. The high school grades are averaged into a Grade Point Average where all the elemental subjects over the 4-year course are compounded for legibility into the college and other tertiary educational centers (Windolf,2018).

According to National Center for Education Statistics (2019), the average USA high school graduation rate stood at 86% for the 2018/19 academic period. This percentage represents an average of 2.9 million graduates across the USA. According to the 2020 statistics, 3.6 million students graduated from high school, with a 52% increase in states graduates representing 79% black students, 81% Hispanic students, and 89.7% of Caucasian graduates within the timely 4years between grades 9 and 12th grade (National Center for Education Statistics, 2022).

The US college systems often appreciate additional information from the learner besides the GPA and high school diploma certification. Therefore, learners enroll for their Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Test (ACT) for admission to their required institution. SAT and ACT assessments are the nationally recognized tertiary learning admissions test in the USA. Both SAT and ACT assess learners’ communication, science, and essay skills and their ability to study in college (Alaa et al., 2019). All these tests can be taken internationally for admission to American Colleges.

Another Advanced assessment recognized in the USA system is the Advanced Placement (AP) test, a program and an assessment structured for Tertiary institutes to call for student admissions. The AP test is detailed and compares with the A level and the International Baccalaureate (IB), the highest college admissions qualifications.

Similarities in the system

A significant similarity between the American and British Education systems is the language of instruction. Toropova et al. (2021) point out that both systems use English as the language of instruction for learners. The disparity might exist in dialect due to the visional variation of the language. However, the English language’s basics, grammar rules, and other phonological and semantic orientations remain constant between the two systems. The UK and the US governments are responsible for educational funding. Education is guaranteed freely for both USA and UK learners in their jurisdictions. The UK government, through the central government, funds free elementary and level O – studies. Similarly, the US state budget allocates free education and funds for children through public schools (Holmes & McLean, 2018).

Within both countries, education is compulsory and mandatory, a responsibility restored on the parents of parents to engage the children in educational adoption (Kubey, 2018). The UK’s and USA’s systems call for elementary studies, junior school, senior school, and tertiary education. Both systems hence establish the necessity for elementary studies and the integration of the education system into industrial and entrepreneurial preparation of the learners through educational enlightenment. These countries also have a similar curriculum dispensation on the structural subjects and preparation of learners for their future careers. The system uses subject orientation to enable learners to define and distinguish their passions toward a carrier orientation. In both systems, entry into university education includes language assessment and English language improvement, which is compulsory for both public and private universities. According to Hammond et al.(2019), the university preparation programs require an average English input of 6.5 -7 points, considered sufficient for the admission boards; however, the English preparation programs are exceptions for British and American students in their respective jurisdictions. Both the systems learners preparing for tertiary education must also display the abilities and disciplines in repetitive and systematic knowledge designs. Therefore, in the pre-course, learners learn new skills from statistical mathematics, business management, and oral communications and express the ability to develop and uphold academic skills and motives.

The difference in the Systems

The study by Meghji (2021) establishes that amongst a myriad of differences between the systems of education, the role of government in the management of education in the UK is different from the USA. In the UK, education is overseen by the local governments. Hence the government is responsible for funding and curriculum organization. Therefore, the assessment structure in the UK is universal through the National examination, unlike the USA, where the school board assesses the exams. Another difference is the nature of the examination system of the USA education system. A student of the K-12 learning system has his assessment continuous and procedural throughout their studies. Niedzwiedz et al. (2020) point out that in the USA K12 system, students are graded and assessed by their class works, quizzes, continuous assessment tests, class projects, and learning activities. All these sum up to the final grade they will have in at the end of the 12-year course. In the UK, through the National Curriculum, the GCSE examination is taken nationally, and the certification that remains mandatory for every learner is awarded at the end of high school. Children in America start their preschool learning, Kindergarten, depending on the state of origin, with ages ranging from 5-8 years. However, in the UK, nursery learning starts at age 3-4 when the child will sit their GCSE at 16. However, the age gap is minimal because, in most USA states where Kindergarten starts at age 5, the child will graduate from high school at 16 or 14.

There is also a difference in the British and the American term dates. The UK’s terms start in September and through to July. The terms are, however, in recognition of the December Christmas and Easter holidays. Shaturaev & Bekimbetova (2021) also points out that between the Easter and the Christmas holidays, learners are exposed to a short holiday of weeks and days before the continuation of their learning. The semesters are thus grouped into a four-stage orientation. However, in the USA, the term dates are seasonal, with winter, summer, and fall seasons. The UK’s four education strategies are primary, secondary, higher, and further education. The same is established in the American system, which names the elementary, high school, undergraduate, and postgraduate education ranks before the learner is exposed to the job market. Holmes (2018) indicates that after the undergraduate level, one is capable of employment, and most USA’s junior job market comprises undergraduate employees.

Implications and Attributes

Both countries’ education systems have varied implications, and several pieces of literature have established the course of difference in their education structures. Malisa & Missedja (2019) points out that the socio-economic difference among learners has established a compromise in education systems in USA and UK as educational costs rise maximally. America’s education system has various regulations, and every state’s involvement in managing its education system is different for the existing educational implications. On the other hand, the British believe in an early start of the learning process, and the government sponsors 15 hours within 38 weeks of early childhood learning at the nursery level(Chinofunga et al., 2022). According to Windolf (2018), the feeding programs and other government sponsorships in the UK system at an early start is an added advantage over other education systems, including the Americas’ K-12 system. Brookfield (2018) also points out that quality education before age five is proximal and intently beneficial. Learners and the entire workforce are developed from energetic and youthful situations, establishing that their future potential is enhanced as retardation in learning is limited (Chinofunga et al., 2022).

Another positional difference between the two systems is the approaches to science subjects. America Science is introduced much later than in the UK, where parallel science subjects are taught as early as age 12 and 13. The implication of this difference is reflected in the higher number of science authors and scientists from the UK than from the USA (Shah & Kolhekar,2021). The USA system is art-oriented, with music, and related subjects performing maximally, then in the UK. The assessment levels of extracurricular activities that involve prestigious university scholarships incentive have empowered US students to afford quality education, producing elite athletes, i.e., in American Football and NBA (Singh & Rawani,2019).

Another significant attribute is the learning pace between these central learning systems. The Americans’ pace of learning is built on the gradual appreciation of the existing concepts, and the integration and knowledge acquisition graph develop as the learners climb up the education ladder (Brookfield, 2018). However, in the British system, the curriculum is intense, and a learner is already introduced to various concepts at a younger age. The national curriculum’s primary/secondary learning ranks are hoisted as higher and advanced learning. The commencement of the British curriculum in mid-July also influences the student’s learning and considerable academic development in the two systems. From September to July, a mid-break or holiday of 6 weeks is provided for the learners in the UK; however, for the American systems, the long holidays within the summer break are a challenge as students need to remember the acquired skills over the summer holidays. The three-month break is a challenge and a factor of imposition in the standardization of their learning structure after the holidays. Schultz (2019) points out that the students’ standards drop, and it becomes a slippery path to reestablish the learners’ level before they break for their summer holiday. Hence a recommendation by scholars has focused on the long holiday for American students who risk losing two months at the beginning of the academic year. The pace of learning is hence different and instinctive to differentiate the British and American learners (Fafunwa & Aisiku, 2022). Another significant attribute is the emphasis on uniforms within the British education system. The British system stresses the adoration of the English culture, which is established and upheld through school uniforms at the secondary and primary school levels. Therefore the oration of school blazers and ties is established as a tradition for public and government-sponsored institutions. However, for American learners, school uniform dressing is not mandatory, and public schools have no emphasis policy on the same. Private schools and missionary-oriented schools in America can have school uniform-wearing policies. However, several public schools have no limiting or restraining policies against what to wear to school or how a learner should present themselves(Schultz,2019).

Bain (2018) established that the British system believes that learners’ discipline is restored and upheld through school uniforms. School uniforms implicitly enhance and promote learners’ equity during their course. Uniform for them hence a cognitive resistant mentality and an aspiration for unity and solidarity within the education system. The study by Bryan et al. (2018) established that American learners often might experience discrimination due to the clothing, especially the power of wearing and adorning trendy fashion, in their learning environment. The absence of unifying proximity like uniforms has established and exposed American learners, especially those from poor backgrounds, to psychological disorientation, especially when they cannot afford trendy fashion(Bain, 2018). For the learners, this is impactful, influences their cognitive development, and inflicts and contributes to social class disparity within the school. For further uniformity, every British public school has a feeding program for their primary students for the first three years of their learning. The government has established this feeding program to bridge the gap of social disparity and enable good nutrition and a healthy diet for young learners for maximal case development. The school feeding lunch initiative is a practical approach the government has established to enhance and complement the development of its young learners(Taylor,2022). The presence of uniforms is for uniformity, and various schools have distinct uniforms to maintain uniqueness and brand identity for their affiliate schools. The British government ensures the students use the same facilities, enhancing equity, proximity, and closeness of the British learners without social class desperation. However, American public schools are non-rigid and flexible in what students wear to school(van de Werfhorst,2021). The schools are casual in their uniform policies, and in the modern era, some schools have stressed the adoration of polo shirts or neutral trousers for their students.

The British and UK teaching systems also vary, and they have different implications and attrition to the development of students. From elementary education, the students are taught differently to address their teachers. The British system has upheld traditional honors, and learners use them to address their teachers. Similarly, in Americans, as the students develop honorary titles and addresses, the salutations to the teacher become more significant only in their official communication as they appear casual depending on the relationship they have established with the teacher(Winter et al., 2022). The aspects of the English system are still upheld in the current environment through its relations and modesty of the traditional teaching methodology. Learners still stand on the arrival of a teacher, and attention must shift to the teachings.

Similarly, any correction towards the teacher has to be suggestively courteous and respectful. The interaction between the student and the teacher must remain professional and modest, preserving level domain implications. The American and the British learning systems of teaching and student-teacher engagements are formal, and both ensure that the; earners are given a safe space for growth, an environment free of intimidation, and psychologically calm environments.

Both systems upheld extracurricular activities as the development structure of the learners. However British system is very sharp on talent identification and growth of the same due to the existing football background in the country. Developing skills outside the classroom environment is significant in both systems. In America, the competition for talent within schools is maximal(Bond et al., 2019). Institutions of higher learning, with sports and other related academies, especially in American Football and Basketball, emphasize extracurriculars, identify raw talents, and grow them through scholarship and partnership between schooling and playing. Similarly, English soccer academies rely on young talent acquisitions from public and private schools; hence the power of extracurricular activity in the systems cannot be underrated (Bond et al., 2019).


The UK and USA education systems are universally accepted for their integrative and transformative attributes. The British system emphasizes the adoration of the English culture in their learning systems. Through their secondary and primary schooling systems, students are given a common learning environment through a uniform system, government sponsorships, and a general national assessment system before they graduate to the advanced learning systems. In the USA, with its K12 system, the formal orientation is relaxed through a diversified learning system. The government and private sectors are very critical in enhancing and facilitating learning developments in both countries. Developing skills outside the classroom environment is significant in both systems. Students’ development is compared overall from the classroom, social to mental growth. Hence cocurricular activities are promoted in both systems, with each country highly developed sporting systems. Americans have American football and basketball at elite levels, while UK’s premier league remains the global footballing destination.


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