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Reading Text c

1. You will read Text C about the system of schooling in the USA. Before reading discuss the following in pairs:

  • Do you think American schooling system has more resemblance to the British one or the Ukrainian one?

  • What do you think common features in all schooling systems must be?

  • What do you learn about American schooling from numerous films about American teenagers?

2. Read and translate Text C. Pay attention to the bold-typed words and phrases.

Text c schooling in the usa

Americans have attached great significance to education since early colonial times. They believe education is a national concern, a state responsibility, and a local function. Its main aim is to provide equality of opportunity as well as excellence raising the overall level of instruction. The US Democratic politician Claiborne Pellbelieves, “The strength of the United States is not the gold at Fort Knox or the weapons of mass destruction that we have, but the sum total of the education and the character of our people”.

Education in the USA is organized on 3 basic levels: elementary (including preschool), secondary and higher education. Though vocational training, adult education, schools or classes for children with special needs and gifted ones as well as kindergartens also form part of the programme in most states.

Unlike most other industrialized countries, the USA does not have a centralized educational system on the national scale. Thus, students in most areas have a choice between free tax-funded public schools or private schools. Public school systems are supported by a combination of local, state, and federal government funding. Curriculum decisions in public schools are made largely at the local and state levels; the federal government has limited influence. In most districts, a locally elected school board runs schools. The school board appoints an official called the superintendent of schools to manage the schools in the district. All public schools provide free of charge education to everyone of school age in their catchment area. In other words, admission to individual public schools is usually based on residency. Private schools (both secular and parochial) charge varying rates depending on geographic location, the school’s expenses, and the availability of funding from sources, other than tuition. Private schools have various missions: some of them take sports very seriously and recruit athletes heavily; others are for gifted students, students with learning disabilities or other special needs, or students with specific religious affiliations. Admission to some private schools is highly selective.

The school year in US schools is usually 9 months from early September to mid-June with Christmas and Easter holidays. The common patterns of organization are referred to as 6-3-3 plan and 4-4-4 plans. Students attend elementary school, a junior high school, and a senior high school.

Preschool education is usually provided by kindergarten classes operated in most public school systems. Many systems also provide nursery schools. The age group is commonly 4- and 5-year-olds. These pre-school education programmes maintain a close relationship with the home and parents, and aim to give children useful experiences which will prepare them for elementary school. The programmes are flexible and are designed to help the child grow in self-reliance, learn to get along with others, and form good work and play habits.

Elementary school is also called “grade school”. The main purpose of the elementary school is the general intellectual and social development of the child from 6 to 12 or 15 years of age. Curricula vary with the organization aims of individual schools and communities. The more or less traditional programme consists of teaching prescribed subject matter. Promotion from one grade to the next is based on the student’s achievement of specified skills in reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, history, geography, music and art.

Secondary education proper includes Junior High School and Senior High School. Junior High School covers grades 6 or 7 through grades 8 or 9. Senior High School is usually just called “high school” or “secondary school”. It is comprehensive offering a wide curriculum to meet various students’ needs. Most students follow a course which includes English, science, social studies, mathematics and physical education. Elective subjects may be chosen in the fields of foreign languages, fine arts and vocational training. Students usually elect about half their work in grades 9 through 12. During the 7th, 8th and 9th grades students begin to plan their careers and select subjects useful for their future work. In addition to these basic subjects like English, science and mathematics, social studies and PT, larger school system may offer a selection of courses aimed at 3 or more levels: academic, vocational and general.

In high school, students move from one classroom to another and study each subject with a different teacher and a different group of classmates. Many high schools have what is commonly called a tracking system, which groups students according to academic ability and motivation. Members of each grade in high school have special names: 9th graders are called Freshmen, 10th graders – Sophomores, 11th graders – Juniors, 12th graders – Seniors.

Students are usually given grades from A (excellent) to F (failing) in each course on the basis of their performance in tests given at intervals throughout the year, participation in class discussions and completions of written and oral assignments. Locally developed end-of-the-year examinations are given in many schools. To enter a higher educational establishment students have to take the SAT (the Scholastic Aptitude Test in mathematics and verbal ability). This exam can be taken two or three times (in the 11th and 12th grades), generally preceded by the PSAT (preliminary), a test to give students a warm-up exercise for the SAT and indicate their probable SAT scoring range. Similar to the SAT is the ACT (the American College Testing program), but it scores social and natural studies. The ACT is taken when it is required by certain colleges or universities. Both tests are widely used in the admission process of US colleges and universities. Their results are sent to the colleges or universities to which the students have applied. The famous American psychologist Robert Sternberg once pointed out, “ACT and SAT each have their own parts of the country. The GRE has its lock on graduate admissions. And so, one could blame the companies, but really, economically, they have no incentive to change things very much because they’re getting the business”.

The USA holds the belief that future of society depends on the quantity and quality of its educated citizens. It explains why a great many Americans are still willing to give more money to education, even during times of economic difficulty. As the 32nd US President Franklin D. Roosevelt once remarked, The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize”.

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