Every country has its own education system. The UK’s National Curriculum provides a basic education framework for students aged five to 18 in England and Wales, and students aged five to 14 in Scotland. The “Key stages” education system in the UK has positioned Key stages 1 and 2 as primary school education, with Key stages 3 and 4 (secondary school education) starting from 11 years old.
Secondary school education generally refers to middle and high school. Students can choose to enter middle or high school by taking exams at the age of 11, 13 or 16. Many Independent schools use independent exam papers and grading standards to recruit students; some also use CE (Common Entrance) exam papers.
Students typically spend five years at middle school. Between the ages of 11 and 14, they are not only required to learn Mathematics, Science, English, and other major subjects, but also need to choose between five and eight subjects (electives) in which they are interested. Common middle school electives include: Art, Dance, Design Technology, Foreign Languages (French, Spanish, Latin), ICT, History, Geography, Music, Physical Education, Religious Studies and Business Studies.
At the age of 14, students will start the GCSE curriculum. At the end of the course, most students will take GCSE or International Baccalaureate (IB) exams and attain GCSE or IB graduation certificates.
Students can start the two-year Sixth-Form and begin studying A-Level courses at the age of 16 or 17, after graduating from GCSE. A-Levels form the basis of university entrance examinations. Students normally take any four subjects during the first year (called the AS stage), with subjects usually selected in line with university or professional aspirations. For those whose ambitions are unclear, the subjects can be chosen based on interest or aptitude. After the AS exam, based on grades and attitude to the subjects, students can give up one subject – either because they got the worst grade, felt it wasted too much time, or discovered they had no interest in the follow-up.
The A-Level stage offers a greater variety of subjects than GCSE, including Archaeology, Economics, Engineering, Advanced Mathematics, etc. The subjects are much more difficult than in GCSE. A-level exams ask for fewer short answer questions and more short essay questions, and students are required to do a lot more research and reading.