Education in the US - Control of education, Goals of education, School types, Standards, Adult and Continuing Education

Education in the US

1) History

Since the early colonial times Americans have always seen education as very important. Among the first settlers there was a high proportion of educated men. There was an average of one university man to 40 or 50 families.

Before the revolution in 1776, nine colleges had already been opened in the New England States.

In 1837 the Oberlin College in Ohio was the first one which admitted women on an equal basis with men.

By 1850, every state had provided a system of free public schools open to all and paid for by public taxes. 46385hmi76kqt8k

Today, 88 % of American children attend public schools and 12 % go to private schools. A lot of private schools are run by churches or religious groups.

The Americans believe that the future of society depends on the quantity and quality of its educated citizens. That´s why a lot of Americans are still willing to give more money to education.

    1. The education of Negroes

Until 1954, the generally established principle of “separate but equal facilities” largely barred Negroes from white schools, especially in the South. In 1954 a Supreme Court ruling required the integration of Negroes into the public school system. This led to many conflicts in the Southern states. In recent years court orders for “busing” as a means for achieving integration have often led to racial confrontations among students in the school. mq385h6476kqqt

Most Negro-children still go to segregated schools.

2) Control of education

There are two influences on American education which give it its present character. The first is governmental and the second is cultural.

The United States don´t have a national system of education. It´s considered to be a matter for the people of each state. As a result, each of the 50 state legislatures is free to determine its own system for its public schools. But school boards set the school policy and decide about the curriculum.

The result is that there is an enormous amount of variety and flexibility in elementary, secondary and higher education.

Some school systems in the US are very different, the one are extremely conservative, the others are progressive and liberal. There are also big differences in the quality of education because local and state taxes support the public schools.

High schools offer study courses which their students need. The range of courses is enormous. What makes the American education makes so different from most other countries is that all programs, whether academic, technical, or practical, are taught under one roof.

2.1. Special features

The U.S. Office of Education, which is part of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, has only advisory functions. A characteristic American feature is the tendency to make children of all social levels attend comprehensive schools together as long as possible.

The principles of education are less authoritarian in the U.S.A than in almost any European country. The democratic American tradition and the fact that schools have always played a major part in the process of naturalizing alien immigrants have had important results. American schools are interested in forming responsible citizens rather than scholars, in personal development rather than intellectual training.

3) Goals of education

The Americans have always aimed at an equal opportunity in education. An other point is that it has traditionally served the goal of bringing people together.

The goal of “busing” is to have the same proportion of children from various racial or ethnic groups that exists in the city´s population too in each school. Such programs should help to reform the society.


3.1 Current issues of American Education

  • Equal opportunities for all

  • Racial issues

  • Bilingual education

  • Student achievement and curricula reforms

  • School prayer

  • Run-down school buildings

  • Shortage of teachers

4) School types

4.1 Elementary Schools

Elementary schools, which are called grammar or grade schools, were originally intended for children aged 6 to 14, now more often 6 to 12. They are usually public and co-educational. But there are also private schools (mostly Roman Catholic), which are for boys or girls only.

For children aged from 2 to 3 there are nursery schools and for kids between 4 and 5 there are kindergartens. In America there are about 790.000 elementary schools.

4.2 Secondary Education

Secondary Education is provided in co-educational high schools. While the traditional high school lasts for 4 years (age 14 to 17), secondary education now usually comprises 6 years in two divisions: junior high school (12-14) and senior high school (15-17).

Pupils who don´t do well often have to repeat courses, or have to have special tutoring. Many schools also support summer classes.

Like schools in Britain, those in the US have extracurricular activities because most of the schools start at around 8 o´clock and often don´t finish until 3 or 4 o´clock in the afternoon.

There is usually a very big range of such activities available. For instance, schools publish their own newspaper and have their own radio stations. There are theater-groups, language- and computer courses, orchestras, bands and so on. Many different sports, like baseball, football, basketball....and so on, are also available.

4.3 Higher education

Higher education may be full time or part time. Colleges of liberal arts (humanities, social studies, natural sciences), and professional colleges (engineering, education, business) are attended usually from 18-21. They offer programs mainly on the undergraduate level (4 years) completed by the Bachelor´s Degree.

Junior colleges (18 to 19) provide either the first 2 years of an undergraduate curriculum or vocational training.

There are also adult evening courses. The universities include undergraduate as well as graduate departments and professional schools in such fields as education, medicine, law, theology and the sciences. Graduate studies after the Bachelor´s Degree are completed by the Master´s Degree after about 2 years and/or the Doctor´s Degree which requires about 3 years more.

There are many famous universities in America, like the Boston University, Harvard University (in Cambridge across the Charles River), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard Business School.



4.3.1 Colleges and Universities

The USA have about 2200 institutions of higher education ranging from small vocational and liberal arts colleges to very big state universities, like the University of California with 80.000 students. The total enrolment has doubled since 1960 to reach 7.5 million.

4.3.2 Liberal Arts Colleges

They are the most commonly institutions averaging between 500 and 600 students. These colleges are often located in small towns. The idea of a college which offers a general education and also attends to the development of student character was imported in colonial times from England. In these are often men or women only there and the costs ( about $ 1200-300 per year) are prohibitive for families in the lower income groups.

4.3.3. State Universities

Most of them were donated under the Morrill Act in 1862. In America there are altogether 72 such universities, 17 of which for Negro students. The largest of these is the University of California, which also ranks first among American universities in the number of Nobel Prize winners on its faculty.

Intended under the Morrill Act to specialize in “such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts” many state universities have become important research centers for regional studies.

4.3.4 Private Universities

The Private Universities include older foundations like Yale (in New Haven) or Harvard, which retained its reputation at the best American university. More recent universities, which were usually endowed by great industrialists, include Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and the University of Chicago, which Rockefeller endowed with $32 million. These foundations marked the beginning of a close cooperation between industry and academic research, which resulted in the development of new materials and pharmaceutics and the improvement of methods of business management. This partnership is also reflected in the foundations for the promotion of education in the USA and other countries.









5) Standards

Fact is that a high school diploma isn´t a ticket to enter automatically a university. There are two widely used and standardized tests for high school students who wish to attend a college or a university.

One is the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). It attempts to measure aptitudes in verbal and mathematical fields. Each year this test is taken by two million high school students.

The other is the ACT (American College Testing program). It attempts to measure skills in English, mathematics, and in social and natural sciences.

Both tests are given at specific dates and locations throughout the US. They are used by universities as standards for comparison, but they are not official.

Students who wish to go to a good university but only took high school courses that were a “snap”, will have to compete with those who worked hard and took demanding courses.

6) Adult and Continuing Education

The concept of continuing education is a great importance for Americans. Every year, over 20 million Americans further their education through participation in part-time instruction.

Most participants in continuing or adult education have one goal: they want to update and upgrade their job skills. It´s a need of many Americans who want to improve their chances in a changing job market. But many simply want to broaden their knowledge or learn something they would enjoy doing.