Although United Kingdom is a unitary state, the country has no unified legal system, and has three separate systems instead: England and Wales have a common system, while Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own system. Subsequently, there are three different education system in the UK as well. The main differences are in the management and control rights of the schools and education terminologies.
Britain is a country with a long tradition of education. After hundreds of years of evolution, its education system became the relatively well-developed, complex and largely flexible form as it is now. In general, the British (England) education system is divided into five stages. Among the five stages, the high school stage is the most well-known part of the British education system. This stage lays the foundation for entering higher education or employment. At present, IGCSE and A Level are the main UK courses introduced into China. These two courses will be introduced in detail below.
Introduction to GCSE/IGCSE
GCSE is the abbreviated from General Certificate of Secondary Education. It is the general secondary education diploma obtained by British students when they graduate from secondary school, similar to the Chinese junior high school diploma. In the UK, the completion of GCSE marks the end of compulsory education. If students choose to go to university, they will continue to study at A Level. If they go to technical colleges, they will be employed in corresponding sectors after graduation.
In recent years, more and more countries adopt the GCSE curriculum. In addition to the UK, GCSE curriculum in other countries is called International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). According to the independent analysis and research conducted by UK NARIC on IGCSE, it is found that IGCSE is equivalent to British GCSE standard. This means that IGCSE certificate will be accepted by many top universities in the world as equivalent to British GCSE. IGCSE's length of schooling is generally two years, focusing on the cultivation of students' interests and innovation ability. But in China, many schools compress IGCSE courses into one year. Students may choose IB course or A Level course freely when progress to senior high school.
Under the IGCSE curriculum system, students can choose freely from nearly 70 subjects according to relevant rules.
IGCSE courses are divided into five groups:
Group A: Language
Group B: Science
Group C: Mathematics
Group D: Humanities and Social Sciences
Group E: Technology, Art
In the UK, every IGCSE student needs to pass at least 6 subjects in order to graduate, so many students choose 6-8 courses so to better meet the requirements of the school.
Introduction to A Level
A Level is the abbreviation for General Certificate of Education Advanced Level. It is a college entrance examination course for British students. The A-Level certificate is accepted by almost all universities with English as language of instruction. A Level is generally a two-year course, the first year is called AS, and the second year is called A2.
A Level Curriculum Setting
A Level has more than 70 courses for students to choose from. Students can choose from 3 to 4 of them. Available courses including Mathematics, Advanced Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Accounting, Business Management, Economics, British Literature, Psychology, Computer Science, Geography, History and other subjects. In general, Chinese schools will offer Mathematics, Advanced Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science, Accounting, Business Management, Economics and other courses for students to choose from. In the AS stage (first year), students usually choose 3-4 courses they are best at and interested in, and obtain the AS Certificate after passing the exams; then in the A2 stage (second year), students choose 3 subjects they excelled at during AS stage to continue their study, and obtain the A Level Certificate after passing the exams.