Warning - long post

>Our school year is 180 days for students; 200, for teachers. Students are in school for six and a half hours, Monday through Friday.

I’ve looked up the official information. The current system in UK state schools is based on three equal terms of thirteen weeks, with a half term break, usually a week, although some have just a few days, some have two weeks in the middle of each term, it varies by Local Authority and on the timing of the easter break. Apparently the minimum number of days is 190, (so only two weeks longer) with a few more days for teachers.

It looks like the debate about switching to a five or six term school year has some of the same issues in the UK and USA if this Uk government website is anything to go by:

>Your own system sounds very different from ours. Do you move students on to the next level even when they have not some footing in the one they just completed? And how high is your drop-out rate?

I don’t really understand the concept of “moving up to the next level”.
Maybe a teacher would view it differently. The year group is based on age, not level of achievement, you move to the next year with your year group. At junior schools there tend to be different groups sitting at different tables within the class working on different levels. Once they have finished one part of the work, they move on to the next, in a continuum. There may be a maths book designed for, say seven year olds. If their particular group hasn’t finished the book by the end of the year, they carry on with it at the start of the next. If they finish the book before the end of the year, they either start the next one or find another book at a similar level. Subjects like history and geography are taught in blocks on a project by project basis, any given project eg the rainforest, contains strands of different subjects, once the project is finished, they move on, in the state primary schools that my children have attended there is no test. There is testing at seven and eleven but I have not yet worked out the contribution it makes to education. It was treated in a very low key way, more as a personal diagnostic test, at the Scottish school that my children attended but seems to be taken quite seriously in England, more for the positioning of school in a published “league table” than for the good of any individual child.

My daughter has only just started secondary school and is in one set for maths (there are eight sets), another for language and another “teaching set” for other subjects. I suppose that the higher groups get further in the course of the year. They can move up or down sets during the year. There are tests to check progress but no subjects are “passed” or “failed” until they take public examinations at the age of 15 or 16. They just move into the next year. After two or three years at school, they chose subjects to study for their exams. They usually have to take english language, maths and one foreign language and choose from the usual range of subjects like biology, physics, chemistry, geography, history, english literature, modern languages, ancient languages, art, music etc. The subjects are not divided into courses like university subjects (eg restoration drama or organic chemistry) but the exam at the end of the course will relate to a published syllabus. Some subjects now include assessed course work but I have not yet had any direct experience. Some schools have more adventurous options available depending on resources and whether it is considered to be an academic school. The results are published in "league tables", with results reflecting parental income of the catchments area (but then, I am a cynic) rather than anything very useful.

What do you mean by “drop out rate”? Do you mean at 16?

You have to go to school until you are 16, you can’t drop out before that without having been excluded for some serious reason. In the schools that I have had most dealings with, most pupils stay on to do “A” levels and then go on to university at 17 or 18, sometimes after a “gap” year. I know that in reality, a huge number of children leave at 16. You can leave with four “A” levels or just with one GCSE. I was going to say, “it is up to the pupil” but I suppose that that is unfair and depends on a huge number of environmental factors as well as ability and commitment. There are an increasing number of alternatives to the traditional school system, some areas have sixth form colleges where “A” levels are studies. There are Colleges of Further Education that provide vocational courses as well as traditional subjects. There are an increasing number of newer qualifications like NVQs and GNVQs that were invented since I went to school and my children are still too young for me to have to know about.

You don’t “graduate” from school, you just leave with whatever exam results you have picked up along the way. "A" levels and "highers" are graded from A-E(I think), different university courses will ask for different grades eg an English course may ask for three Bs at A level, one of them being English, only three "A" levels are usually studied, rather than five "highers" in Scotland, so the system is different. English Universities offer mainly three year full time degrees, Scottish mainly four years, Medicine is usually five years in England. Architecture is either five or six. Other long courses include dentistry, veterinary science. Some degrees, eg engineering are taken over longer periods with time spent in industry. Modern languages are usually a year longer to allow a year abroad. Teaching can be taken as a degree or as a one year post graduate course.

This British Council site gives the “official line” on the education system in the UK