If you’ve grown up and studied in India, understanding the American Education system can be a bit of a nightmare. We know it was easy for us, Pre-School, School, +2, College and Masters. That was the universal and most accepted language that everyone was familiar with. But here in the US, it is quite different. Yes, the basic structure is still the same, but there are different terms and one might just get overwhelmed with all the new terminologies.
Here’s a guide that may help you understand the basic Education structure here in USA.
Education System Structure:
Age Newborn to 5 years: Early Childhood Education -
Day Care is one form of early childhood education. Day Care refers to early childhood settings that focus their goal on substitute care for children while their parents are absent (i.e.: working or in school). They could involve academic training, or they could involve solely socializing activities. Day Care is not required and is not free; in fact, depending on the setting, it could be quite expensive.
Day Care programs usually offer daily programs, for up to 12 hours. Meals, depending on the school, may be provided by the family or by the school.
Transportation to and from the program is generally the responsibility of parents. Some private day care programs might offer private transportation, but these are the exception rather than the rule.
Parents’ degrees of use of Day Care services vary greatly across families, depending on their specific situation (i.e.: parents’ schedule, availability of funding, etc.).
Pre-School (also called Pre-K or PK or Pre-Kindergarten) refers to the first formal academic classroom-based learning environment that a child customarily attends in the United States. It begins around the age of three in order to prepare for the more moral and academically intensive kindergarten, the traditional "first" class that school children participate in.
Pre-Schools differentiate themselves by equally focusing on harvesting a child's
(1) social development,
(2) physical development,
(3) emotional development, and
(4) cognitive development.
They commonly follow a set of organization-created teaching standards in shaping curriculum and instructional activities/goals.
Pre-School is not required. On the other hand, it acts as a way to prepare children to better succeed in a kindergarten. Pre-School programs usually offer two- or three-hour sessions per day, a few days per week.
Children learn the alphabet, colors, and other elementary basics. Pre-School programs are not free: they have to be financed by the family. Meals, depending on the school, may be provided by the family or by the school. Transportation to and from the program is generally the responsibility of parents (although some pre-school programs might make busing available to families for a fee; these programs are the exception, rather than the rule).
To give you a perspective, Pre-schools is like the Nursery schooling in India.
Age 5-18 Years – K-12 Education.
K-12 education refers to all primary and secondary education, from Kindergarten prior to the first year (or 1st grade) of formal schooling, through secondary graduation (12th Grade).
Basically, it is from KG to +2. A student typically spends 12 years in school which is why it is named K-12. Yes, not so creative. We know.
It is further divided into different sections as follows:
- Elementary school (K-5) – Primary School in India
- middle school (6-8), - Secondary School in India. Though in India, secondary school is until class 10.
- high school (9-12); This is the +2 of India.
U.S. children enter formal schooling around age 5. Elementary students are typically in one classroom with the same teacher most of the day.
Unlike schools in India, where students are in the same class the entire day and teachers change classrooms, out here it is the opposite. Here, during Middle School, they usually move from class to class each period, with a new teacher and a new mixture of students in every class. Students can select from a wide range of academic classes and elective classes. This is the most different thing here in US. Students are actually given a range of subjects to choose from and they can select them based on their like and dislikes. Unlike in India, where the subjects are fixed by the school. That’s a big positive according to us.
Families have the option to select before and after school programs < School-Age Child Care >, which are generally made available through the school. However, these programs are not free: the family will have to finance their cost. If the programs are in a location different from the school grounds, transportation from and to school will be provided by the school.
In High School, students in their first year are called freshman, in their second-year sophomore, in their third-year junior, and in their last and fourth-year senior.
There is an even greater variety of subjects than before. Students generally stay in the classroom an average of 7.5 hours and must earn a certain number of credits (which they get for a successfully completed course) in order to graduate and be awarded with a High School Diploma – there is no final examination like in many other countries. The number and combination of classes necessary depend on the school district and on the kind of diploma desired.
In the next part of this guide we deal with the undergraduate and the post-graduate structure.