I’m asking for some input in this blog. First, I will show you a daily school schedule from one of my daughter Anna’s friends in Tennessee. It is very similar to the schedule Anna would have had if we had stayed in Tennessee this year. Then I’ll show Anna’s timetable from her Sixth Form college here in Leeds. Both schedules are for girls aged 16 and in the equivalent of the US 11th grade or year 12 in the UK. Both are bright, university-bound students taking rigorous course loads. I will include a few of my reflections and then you tell me what you think are the advantages and disadvantages of each system.
US Student’s High School Schedule of Classes:
Every day includes the same seven classes, each 47 minutes in length with a 6 minute “passing time” in the hall between each class, all strictly governed by the school bell. During the lunch period, students can decide where in the school building, or outside in a few designated areas, they want to eat lunch, but they cannot leave the school grounds.
Each student in 11th grade is required to take at least one Math, one English, US History, and one Science (until gaining 3 Science credits total.) Students are only required to take two years of a foreign language, so the French III is an elective, as are Physics and Psychology.
Note: “AP” stands for “Advanced Placement” and will lead to an exam given in the spring that, with a high enough score, may give students university credit while still in high school. Passing AP exams is not required for high school graduation or university entrance, but is impressive on a university application.
Now, Anna’s Sixth Form college timetable (note that there are two pages)
She has a 10-day cycle of classes, five periods per day, each lasting one hour. It is up to the teacher to dismiss students from class early enough for them to get to the next class on time. The daily “PM Registration” time is equivalent to a US “homeroom”, but Anna says clubs often meet during this time or it can be a time to take care of other school business.
And what are these gaps in the schedule where she has free periods? Who is watching her? …No one. She can go to the library, or the common room (which she has not noticed any staff member supervising, although administrative offices are nearby.) Or she can check herself out and walk home or into town (which she can also do during lunch.) It seems that the UK system treats a 16-year-old as a young adult, while 16-year-olds in the US are treated the same as much younger students.
Anna was allowed to choose all of her classes. Note that she is taking only 4 courses: Maths, Physics, Chemistry, and History. No courses are required, but students must choose their coursework carefully. Students work to prepare for A level qualifying exams. When they apply to university, they apply to a specific college course and will only be accepted into that field of study if they have earned the proper qualifications at A levels.
Anna said that she and some of her new friends were talking during lunch today about the university programs they were thinking of applying to next year. Anna expressed her surprise that the UK students would have to choose a field of study when they applied. Her UK friends were amazed when she told them that US students apply to a university and often don’t declare a major until the end of their second year, and many change majors several times or even pick a double-major.
It seems that in the US, students are required to take a broader base of coursework in secondary school and delay the choice of choosing a specific career path, while UK students have more choices during secondary, which narrow their career options at an earlier age.