UK Education System

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The education system in the UK is made up of four separate areas: primary education, secondary education, further education and higher education. Education is compulsory for children from the age of around 5 to 16 (this will be extended to 18 in the year 2013) which covers primary and secondary education. This phase of education is divided into 4 ‘key stages’ which are assessed by examination once completed.

During key stage 4 students complete their GCSE’s (General Certificate of Secondary Education) after which they have the option to pursue further education at a secondary school, college of further education or sixth form college to obtain A-level or equivalent qualifications. Following further education students can then choose to complete an undergraduate degree or similar qualification at a higher education institution providing they meet the entry requirements as set by the Universities and College Admission Service (UCAS).

This Scottish education system differs from that of the rest of the UK however. It has its own legislative framework, curriculum framework and qualifications system as regulated by the Scottish Parliament. As with the rest of the UK education is compulsory for children aged between 5 and 16 years. However there is no statutory curriculum set out for primary and secondary education although the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department provide guidelines for progress and performance. The qualifications obtained through primary and secondary education vary to that in England and Wales however further education and higher education work on the same principle. Once students have completed secondary education they can study for the Scottish Certificate of Education which is recognized throughout the UK as the equivalent to GCE A-levels and is usually the entry qualification for university.

Approximately 1.8 million students are currently enrolled in the UK higher education system. There are over 160 government funded higher education institutions in the UK (130 of which are based in England).

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