UK High school confusion

I have already been having a hard time trying to follow the UK “high school” system, which seems remarkably complicated and specialized to me.  Whereas we Americans just go to high school and graduate with the same high school diploma, and perhaps take a standardized test such as the ACT or SAT for college entrance purposes, in the UK there is a baffling and ever-changing system of subject specific exams.  This is highlighted today on the BBC talking about yet another new system being introduced, the diploma, in addition to the whole GCSE and A level mess not to mention the international baccalaureate.  Here’s a link that tries to explain it all but I’m not confident it actually achieves that!  You can always try to catch up on the meaning of things like A-levels on wikipedia.  I’ve tried hard to figure it out but don’t get it.  Huge amounts of money and effort go into this stuff, the students studying for A-levels go to separate schools (sixth form colleges, yet another confusing term!) unless they are in public school which actually means private school.  And yet the complicated system is so deeply rooted in the English psyche that I’ve talked to other expats who have not been considered for jobs because they can’t say anything about what their A levels were since they don’t exist in other places.  I give up. 

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One response to “UK High school confusion

  1. The Harry Potter novels are, among other things, thinly disguised spoofs of the Public School system and of the exam system as it was when things were slightly simpler. Students of wizardry take Ordinary and Advanced Wizarding Levels (OWL and AWL), all you have to do is take out the magic, and hey presto — there’s your UK educational system! 😛

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