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UK vs. USA Education System


Universities and Colleges are reputedly the hallowed halls of intellectual development, the schools of maturation from where the leaders of our world emerge to set the world ablaze with the fruits of intellectualism. However, the produce all vary in flavours according the nature of the curriculum prescribed. The most marked divergence of tastes lie within institutions separated by oceans, and continents. Although the UK and USA share an Anglo-Saxon culture, disparities are marked within ideals of their respective education systems, further being indicative of their particular cultures.

In the USA, no matter if one is enrolled in a state school or a private liberal arts college, it is expected that students will study academic subjects outside their intended field of study. The premise of which is to cultivate a rounded individual, comfortably conversant with all mediums of academic literature, whether of artistic or scientific character. Hence on American campuses you will discover scenarios where historians may be taking courses in astrophysics.

Needless to say such a scenario would not engender smiles on the faces of their British counterparts, who've journeyed through system of education where from an early age specialization has been expected. Thus by the time these students commence their undergraduate training they are only expected to study within their chosen area of study. (This happens to less of a degree in Scottish universities, where students are encouraged to explore topics beyond their major, although in reality students rarely venture beyond their chosen faculty.

These structural differences influence changes within the deliverance of classes. Due to obligation of students to study outside their fields of study the US prescribes a broader, but less in depth of an enquiry of study. Whereas, breadth is shunned in favour of more narrowly focused, but deeper lines of study within British establishments. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses. Critics of British education would point towards the enforced learning of unnecessary information, whereas defenders of the British universities may counter by accusations of dumbing down in college classes. My personal perception, based from studying in two small universities/colleges in the UK and the US, that aside from a divergence between curriculum's, there is a marked difference of ethos between UK and USA higher education institutions.

On American campuses, work is constantly requested from students on a daily basis. In contrast the British university calendar invites extra-intensive work in patches, separated by periods of lulls, thus creating large tracts of downtime between assignments. It this downtime that characterises the British university lifestyle where social life is the veritable engine of UK university life, pushing academia into the passenger seat. In contrast academia takes the fore in America colleges, largely due to structured system in American colleges brought by an emphasis upon teaching. Work is definitely more intensive in American colleges, which is to be expected given that American students pay significantly more than their British counterparts, and hence American students tend to be more motivated than their apathetic British counterparts.

So concluding with my personal endnote of bias, I would have to admit that American Colleges invite more of a rigorous, dynamic intellectually arousing ethos, though at the expense of cultivating an active social scene. The lessons derived within the UK university establishment arise from outside the classroom within the pubs and clubs, where social development rather than intellectual development takes preponderance. Choose your pick!

By Sunjit "Sunny" Lalli

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