The Education System in the United States vs England

The Education System in the United States vs England

Before I came to England, I had only gone to school in the same school district and had no idea how different other schools can be. After living in a new country for 5 months, I now realize how different school can actually be. Let’s compare:

Summer Vacations

I was shocked when I found out that summer is only 6 weeks long in England! My initial reaction was “that’s unfortunate”, but that quickly changed when I heard how many breaks they get during the year. Each school gets 14 weeks off, just divided differently. In England, every 6-8 weeks they have what’s called ‘half term’ which is a week off once they finish a term. In America, we only have a few breaks during the year which can be quite exhausting.

Country United States United Kingdom
Summer length 10 weeks 6 weeks

Mother Day in Hayor in Dartmoor

School Years

Another major difference is the breakdown of school ages. Students in America begin and finish education one year later than those in England. There are also different levels of schooling offered at different ages illustrated in the charts below.

COUNTRY United States
Elementary School 5-11
Middle School 11-14
High School 14-18
University 18-22
COUNTRY United Kingdom
Primary School 4-11
Secondary school     11-16
College 16-18
University 18-21

Fishing in Wembury


The biggest difference I experienced was going to college at age 16. In the US, I was a junior in high school and had another year before I graduated. However, when I came to England, I was a college student. This was even better than I could have imagined.

In the US I would attend 6 lessons from 7:20-2:13 with only 6 minutes passing time between classes and 25 minutes for lunch.

In the UK I would start on most days at 9, but only have 2-3 classes a day giving me at least a 2 hour break.

This was great for me because I could sleep longer, spend my free time catching up on homework, or hanging out with friends.

Country Start & End time Classes Lunch
United States 7:20-2:13 6 25 min lunch
United Kingdom 9-4:30 3 2+ hours break

I enjoyed attending 3 college classes because there was much more focus on each subject. With that extra focus, however, came more pressure. The grade received for each class was the final exam grade. In the courses I took, no coursework, homework, or quizzes counted towards the overall grade. This was very different to what I have experienced in the states as 85% of my final grade consisted of homework, tests, quizzes, and only 15% accounted for my final exam. Although I prefer the schedule I had in England, I enjoyed the grade breakdown of the states.

As there are pros and cons to both education systems, I cannot choose which one I prefer. However, I am fortunate to have experienced the differences and now appreciate them as well.

Greenheart Travel’s Tips for Studying Abroad in England

  • You will experience culture shock in ways you don’t expect. Although England might be very similar to your home country, there will be cultural differences regarding self-expression, mannerisms, and social expectations.
  • Every country has a different set of priorities on what it deems as valuable curriculum. There will be areas where you thrive and others where you don’t. This has nothing to do with how “smart” a country is.
  • Do your best to request subjects that genuinely excite you. Though ultimately your courses will depend on the school, you are able to put in preferences. Make sure to choose subjects that you will be excited to learn more about or that your home school has said they will give you credit for. This will motivate you through the increased workload you can expect! Studying abroad at a Sixth Form college in England is one of our most academically rigorous programs!
  • Use your study periods – catch up on studying in your own time, you’ll be expected to be very independent when it comes to making progress at school! Use your study periods so that after school you can focus on joining a club or sport.

Interested in Attending High School in England?

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2 thoughts on "The Education System in the United States vs England"

  1. Nisa says:

    Really nice I wanna study college in London I hope I can.

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