The making of ladies and gentlemen: Part II


The next factory where the true British ladies and gentlemen are shaped is secondary and A-level schools.

Secondary school

In Britain, when children complete primary school at 12, parents send their children to either a public or a private school. Public schools are free, while private schools charge a tuition fee. Although public schools are funded by the government, the costs associated with extracurricular activities such as swimming, traveling and visiting museums or theaters, are covered by the parents. Private schools cost 600 GBP (942 USD) a month on average. Having completed primary school, secondary school students can go to school on their own now.
There are six educational stages for students before acquiring a university education in Britain. Children are sent to primary school for seven years, (ages 5-12) which cover stages 1-2. Secondary school covers stages 3-4. In secondary school, students – depending on their age – receive English, mathematics and science classes in different curriculums. Furthermore, other basic classes, including arts, civilization, design and technology, geography, history, information technology, foreign languages, music and physical education, are given in secondary schools.
Even though it is not required by law, religious studies are provided in all educational stages. Sex education is offered starting from stage 2 in primary school. Career development classes become available in stages 3-4. However, religious studies and sex education classes are optional. Students can be partly or fully excused from these classes at the request of their parents.
Religious studies develop a student’s knowledge of what different religions have to say about life and specific topics, such as abortion, without passing judgments on religious views. Students then share and discuss their thoughts with others. This is how a country such as Great Britain, where people from many different backgrounds live together, provides its children with a basic understanding of religions and their nature. Religious studies helps to prevent religious discrimination in the future and builds independent and tolerant perspectives in students.
History classes require that students learn about a certain topic and write an essay that reflects their own assessments and opinions. For example, essay topics can include questions such as “Could World War II have been avoided?” or “Which country lost the most during the Cold War?” When answering these questions in their essays, students take references from statistics or factual information that supports their view. These types of classes offer students the ability to think critically and freely express their point of view.
In addition to history and religious studies, design and technology classes are given to 15 year old students. The classes involve classroom lectures and workshops, seminars, and practical training. In the spring, every 10th grader spends two weeks practicing their design and technology skills at a local workshop contracted by the school, or proposed by parents. British law allows 14 year old children to work a single day a week. However, they are paid 30 percent less than the adults, about 4 GBP an hour (6.28 USD).
Eleventh graders get to practice what they learned in their design and technology classes again in the fall. By that time, students are usually 16 years old, which means they can work two days a week. They are paid the same salary as adults, 6.5 GBP (10.21 USD) on average. These practices teach the students to understand and respect the value of hard work.
The governing body that manages the secondary schools includes the headmaster, parents’ representatives, school staff, locals, district people and donors. If the headmaster does not want to join, his seat in the governing body is left free.
The governing body makes the big decisions, such as approving the budget or setting the number of teachers or students. Furthermore, it appoints and removes headmasters, reviews their reports, assesses their performance and grants promotions. The salary of headmasters is at the level of CEOs of companies – around 70,000 GBP (109,945 USD). Parents who are members of the school’s governing body, are excused from work on meeting days. Also, the members of governing bodies receive a salary for the hours they spend on school meetings. Being a member of a school governing body has a good reputation in society and reflects a commitment to the community.
In addition, every school has a parent-teacher association (PTA) that is focused on strengthening the relationship between parents and schools. This association not only encourages the cooperation between parents and their school, but also ensures that parents understand that providing an education is not something a school can do on its own. Also, PTAs are popular for their extracurricular activities and community service projects that often include travel to different towns.
Every graduate receives his grades along with the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), which is the proof that the student has completed all requirements for secondary education.


After completing secondary school, most students go to A-level schools that prepare them for a university education. The 17-18 year old students go to the A-levels for two years.
Students choose three to four subjects in the A1 classes and take exams in the spring. The results of these exams play the main role in acceptance by a university. The students send exam results to their desired university, along with a letter that explains who they are, why they chose the university and what they want to do in the future. These letters, which are also called a “personal statement”, are assigned a huge importance by higher education institutions. The personal statement helps the university understand more about the student, his interests and personal qualities. The A-level teachers give their students classes on how to write personal statements and express themselves in their writing.
The top universities invite applicants for interviews only after looking at their grades and reading their personal statements. If they decide to admit an applicant, they ask them to meet the final requirement, which is to pass the A2 level exams.
In this way, higher education institutions in Britain find and select the best students available. Universities enroll students that are well prepared, have specific goals to achieve and practice a great deal of personal discipline.
By the time students complete their A1 classes, they will have already sent their applications, along with personal statements and grades, to several universities. The students then spend their summer break visiting their desired universities and going on interviews.
When taking the A2 classes before winter break, students have already received responses from the universities they’ve applied to, and made their final decision about which university to go to in the future. Therefore, they celebrate the New Year with a new plan in their mind.
Knowing which university to go to before graduating from the A-levels, helps students to better plan their life and career. When students go to university, they leave their parents and start living in the dormitories or rented apartments. They learn a great deal while living away from home, this is where many young adults learn to take care of themselves, by slowly adding responsibilities such as accommodation, buying clothes and cooking for themselves.
This is a general overview of the British education system. It goes without saying that everything cannot be perfect in a country with a population of 63 million. However, I do hope that the last two articles I have written make their contributions to developing the education system in Mongolia, by learning from the greatest experiences around the world.

Translated by B.AMAR

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=4478

Posted by on Jun 16 2013. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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