: Education in the USA

: Education in the USA

General Pattern of Education in the USA

The general pattern of education in the USA is an eight-year elementary

school, followed by a four-year high school. This has been called 84 plan

organization. It is proceeded, in many localities, by nursery schools and

kindergartens. It is followed by a four-year college and professional

schools. This traditional pattern, however, has been varied in many

different ways. The 63 3 plan consists of a six-year elementary school, a

three-year junior high school, and a three-year senior high school. Another

variation is a 66 plan organization, with a six-year elementary school

followed by a six-year secondary school.

American education provides a program for children, beginning at the age of 6

and continuing up to the age of 16 in some of the states, and to 18 in


The elementary school in the United States is generally considered to

include the first six or eight grades of the common-school system, depending

upon the organization that has been accepted for the secondary school. It

has been called the "grade school" or the "grammar school".

There is no single governmental agency to prescribe for the American school

system, different types of organization and of curriculum are tried out.

The length of the school year varies among the states. Wide variation exists

also in the length of the school day. A common practice is to have school in

session from 9:00 to 12:00 in the morning and from 1:00 to 3:30 in the

afternoon, Monday through Friday. The school day for the lower grades is

often from 30 minutes to an hour shorter. Most schools require some homework

to be done by elementary pupils. Elementary Schools, High Schools and

Institutions of Higher Learning

Elementary Schools, High Schools and Institutions of Higher Learning

There are eight years of elementary schooling. The elementary school is

followed by four years of secondary school, or high school. Often the last

two years of elementary and the first years of secondary school are combined

into a junior high school.

The school year is nine months in length, beginning early in September and

sometimes a shorter one in spring. There are slight variations from place to

place. Students enter the first grade at the age of six and attendance is

compulsory in most states until the age of sixteen or until the student has

finished the eighth grade.

The elementary schools tend to be small. The high schools are generally

larger and accommodate pupils from four or five elementary schools. A small

town generally has several elementary schools and one high school. In some

rural communities the one-room country school house still exists. Here may be

found from five to twenty-five pupils in grades one through eight, all taught

by the same teacher.

Admission to the American high school is automatic on completion of the

elementary school. During the four-year high school program the student

studies four or five major subjects per year, and classes in each of these

subjects meet for an hour a day, five days a week. In addition, the student

usually has classes in physical education, music, and art several times a

week. If he fails a course, he repeats only that course and not the work of

the entire year. Students must complete a certain number of courses in order

to receive a diploma, or a certificate of graduation.

Institutions of higher learning supported by public funds are not absolutely

free. The state colleges and universities charge a fee for tuition or

registration. This fee is higher for those who come from outside the state.

Working one's way through college is commonplace.

Usually there is no admission examination required by a state university for

those who have finished high school within the state. Sometimes a certain

pattern of high school studies is necessary, however, and some state

universities require a certain scholastic average, or average of high school


Private colleges and universities, especially the larger, well-known ones

such as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, have rigid scholastic requirements for

entrance, including an examination.

It usually takes four years to meet the requirements for a Bachelor of Arts

or Bachelor of Science degree.A Master of Arts or Master of Science degree

may be obtained in one or two additional years.The highest academic degree is

the Doctor of Philosophy.It may take any number of years to complete the

original research work necessary to obtain this degree.

Higher Education Institutions

It has become common for the college program to be divided into broad

fields,such as languages and literature,the social sciences,the sciences and

mathematics, and the fine arts.Many colleges require all freshmen and

sophomores to take one or two full-year courses in each of three

fields.Certain Courses,such as English or history,may be required for

all,with some election permitted in the other fields.

Higher educational institutions usually are governed by a board of regents or

a board of trustees.

The executive head of a college or a university is usually called the

president. The various colleges or schools which take up a university are

headed by deans. Within a school or college there may be departments

according to subject matter fields, each of which may be headed by a

professor who is designated as department head or chairman. Other members of

the faculty hold academic ranks, such as instructor, assistant professor,

associate professor, and professor. Graduate students who give some part-time

service may be designated as graduate assistants or fellows.

Professional education in fields such as agriculture, dentistry, law,

engineering, medicine, pharmacy, teaching, etc. is pursued in professional

schools which may be part of a university or may be separate institutions

which confine their instruction to a single profession. Often two, three, or

four years of pre-professional liberal arts education are required before

admission to a professional school. Three to five years of specialized

training lead to professional degrees such as Doctor of Medicine, Bachelor

of Law, etc.

Private and State Colleges and Universities

Harvard College was established in 1636, with the principal purpose of providing

a literate ministry1 for colonial churches. It was a small

institution, enrolling only 20 students in 1642 and 60 in 1660. It soon became

more than a theological training school2 and established itself as

a liberal arts college. The next institution of higher learning established in

the American colonies was the College of William and Mary, which opened in 1693

at Williamsburg, Virginia. Other colleges were founded in the next century,

but all of them remained small schools for long periods. Students entered at

the age of 14 and remained until they were 18, and the curriculum, while

rigidly academic and classic was by modern standards rather secondary in


Private colleges and universities were established in various states. The

first state university was the University of Virginia, founded in 1819. Some

state universities have large endowment funds1 which provide a

substantial portion of their support. Other sources of income are student

fees, gifts and endowments.

In general, higher education in the USA may be divided into two broad

fields: liberal arts and professional. Each of these fields may be further

subdivided into undergraduate and graduate levels. The liberal arts program,

on the undergraduate level, may be a two-year junior college course, or a

four-year course leading to a degree of Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of

Science. The four-year course is usually subdivided into a lower division

(which may be called the junior college), consisting of the two first years,

and the upper division, which is the last two years. The first two years

continue the general education and specialization begins in the third year.

Teaching Profession in the USA

Requirements for teachers' certificate vary among 50 states. Usually the

state department of education, or a state certification board, issues

certificates which permit teachers to be employed within the state. Forty-

four of the 50 states require at least the completion of a four-year course,

with the bachelor's degree, as a minimum for high school teaching: the

tendency to require a fifth year beyond the bachelor's degree is increasing.

Graduation from a two-year normal school or at least two years of college

education is the minimum requirement for elementary teaching in 36 states;

others demand the completion of a four-year course and the bachelor's degree.

Because of the decentralization of school control in the USA teachers are

employed by local districts rather than by the national government. The

American teacher does not have the absolute security of tenure which the

French or Australian teacher enjoys. A higher proportion of the teaching

force are women than in some other countries.

The teacher-training institutions have not been able to provide sufficient

numbers of fully trained teachers to replace those retiring and dropping out

of the profession and at the same time to meet the requirements for new

classes each year. The problem of recruiting and suply of teachers remains a

serious one. In general the problem of shortage of teachers has not been met

by lowering certification standards.

(C) 2009