Although there is much to unite them in the way that they do things, every country has its own little specialisms and this applies in education every bit as much as in any other field of endeavour. Here are a few things you may not have known about schools and schooling in the United Kingdom and elsewhere:
- You Can Always Trust a Teacher
In the UK school teachers are the third most trusted profession, behind only doctors and nurses and, perhaps unsurprisingly, a long way ahead either of politicians or bankers.
- School Uniforms are Quintessentially British
The humble school uniform is not at all uniform in a global context. Whilst most schoolchildren in Britain are required to wear a uniform this is only so in a minority of countries around the world.
- Our Kids Get a Lie-In
Most schools here begin their day at 9.00am, but many kids from other nations aren’t so lucky. The French school day starts at 8.00am, whilst Chinese kids have to be seated and ready for work by 7.30am – and they don’t finish until 5.00pm! In France though lunch breaks last for two hours.
- Deeper Not Broader
Whilst the curriculum in the earlier years tends to be broadly similar wherever one goes, at A-level the British system of concentrating on three specified subjects is quite unusual. It means our children develop a deeper knowledge of their chosen subject, but at the expense of others.
- Shorter Degree Courses
Many countries expect students in further education to go on beyond the three years required in the UK for a Bachelor’s degree. A Master’s degree usually involves just one extra year’s study beyond this.
- Class Sizes Around 30
Periodically there has been controversy over class sizes in Britain, which are of 30 or less. But in China the average size is an incredible 50 pupils.
- And Now For Some More Quirky Facts…
In 1992 the school hamster in a Glamorgan primary sadly died of a heart attack caused by the shock of a teacher firing a starting pistol during a rehearsal for sports day. A warning perhaps against the idea somebody had of arming teachers?
- It’s All in the Name
School House is the seventh most common name for a house in the United Kingdom, ahead of Old School which is thirteenth.
- The World’s Largest School…
is reportedly the City Montessori in Lucknow, India, which has 52,000 pupils supervised by an amazing 2,500 teachers – one to every twenty children.
- And the Most Obscure Fact Of All
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “teacher” is one of several different names once given to the human index finger. Another, bizarrely, was the “lickpot”.
One of the real bonuses of the British school system of course is the relative freedom that pupils have to follow their own choices. Whilst there are some “staples” such as Maths and English the number of other courses in fact runs into the hundreds and includes those in science, technology, business, art and humanities.