IELTS: The UK school system

17th September 2020

Farewell, Baxendale and his Bash St Kids - spiked
The Bash Street Kids … from ‘The Beano’ which is a famous comic from the UK, first issued in 1938.

Tonight we have a listening lesson which, although tremendously important, not to say imperative, can be somewhat tedious for the students.

One factor is the vocabulary. If students don’t know some of the words, they will not be able to answer some of the questions; that stands to reason.

that stands to reason = it is obvious, it is common sense, it can be understood. I live in Vietnam but only speak a little Vietnamese. It stands to reason that if I spoke Vietnamese, I would be more independent.

Therefore, allow me to explain a little about the UK educational system while, at the same time, pre-teaching some new vocabulary.

First up, we have Kindergarten or nursery:

How to Help Children Achieve Kindergarten Success - Education and Career  News

As you can see, the age for Kindergarten is 3 – 5. It can be free, or parents can choose to send their children to a private Kindergarten or nursery.

Maybe the word Kindergarten looks a little strange in an English lesson – quite right, it is, in fact, a borrowed word from German. If you have seen my other IELTS posts, you may have come across ‘prima donna‘, which is a borrowed word from Italian. If you can use borrowed words in your IELTS tests, it will surely impress the examiner.

Next, we have primary school for children of 5 to 11. When I was at school, it was broken down into Infants and Juniors. Infants school was two years, then we moved up into a new building, attending four years of Junior school. This was a mixed school by which I mean boys and girls were in the same class.

Woodside Primary Academy © Julian Osley cc-by-sa/2.0 :: Geograph Britain  and Ireland
Woodside Primary school in north-east London

Following on from Primary school we have, quite logically, Secondary school:

A typical class photo from the late 1970s. As you can clearly see, this is a single-sex school. Furthermore, the pupils had to wear school uniform of trousers, blazer and school tie.

Pupils spent three years here, from ages 11 – 14 at Junior High, after which they progressed to Senior High:

Walthamstow Memories - George Monoux Grammar School

Pupils have to attend school until they are 16; it is compulsory.

You must then do one of the following until you’re 18:

  • stay in full-time education, for example at a college
  • start an apprenticeship or traineeship
  • spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training

Read more on: https://www.gov.uk/know-when-you-can-leave-school

What options are open to you after 16 ?

Pupils can either stay at school and enter the VI (Sixth) Form, or go to a Further Education College which differ in that they offer a much wider selection of options such as vocational courses which are more practical and can help students train for a specific job. VI Forms, on the other hand, are academic (theory), preparing students for university.

The VI Form is usually in the same building as the Senior High, so pupils are familiar with the teachers and students. Going to a new college, meeting new staff and students means that time is needed to settle in or settle down.

Qualifications are imperative these days, so many students want to go to University.

149 PhD, Research and Academic Positions at the University of Cambridge, UK  - Scholar Idea

Finally, we have Adult Education which, as the name implies, is for adults who wish to further their job prospects, or simply learn for their own pleasure. As many people are working, these type of education often takes place in the evening or at weekends.

New Vocabulary:

term – part of the teaching year for example First Term is from September to December

it’s a pity – it is sad or it is unfortunate

Fresher’s Week – a week for new students (Freshmen in USA) to get to know what their college has to offer, such as clubs and events.

GCSE exams – tremendously important exams taken at age 15 or 16. Good results mean the student can to VI Form or have to re-sit the exam.

tertiary – means the third – after Primary (first) & Secondary (second), tertiary refers to Higher Education, taken after the age of 18.

NVQ National Vocational Qualification – this is more practical as opposed to academic, designed to teach skills needed for a particular job:

Construction Industry NVQ Assessments Provider | Up Level Ltd
An NVQ card stating that the holder has passed exams to work in the construction industry

BA or BSc – (Bachelor of Art or Science) degrees in the arts or science. Usually attained after a three-year course. The next step is a MA (Master’s Degree) and then a PhD.

internship – gaining real-life experience by working for a company, often for low or even no pay.

Graduate Fair – a chance for students to think about what career to follow, or what company to join. They can speak to people who represent organisations:

A trip to the fair... Okay a graduate recruitment fair. - NAO trainee blog
Fairs - The University of Nottingham

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