how do you start comparing educational standards between UK and USA?

(36 Posts)
DeliveredByKiki Mon 30-May-16 22:10:10

DH and I have the ongoing conversation about how long we'll stay in the US, when/whether we'll move back to the UK. For many emotional/sentimental/family/familiarity reasons I want the DC to be secondary educated in the UK (they're currently 7 and 4), but we think we might stay in the US to get citizenship to allow freedom of movement and work opportunities for us all (yes very aware of the potential tax implications of this)

DH is not adverse to moving home but at the moment says his only reason would be that I wanted to go and he doesn't see the benefit - he says he isn't dismissing my more emotional reasons for wanting to return and does understand even if he doesn't them himself, so we should also be trying to compare educational advantages, I suppose as that's more a black and white comparison?

But who would you start? I feel league tables only tell you half the story, where do you go to compare the way education is taught, comparison of things like world history, whether a broader but more superficial knowledge base pre university is better or worse....I'm also aware that should the DC want to attend a British University they have to be resident in the UK for 3 years prior to application otherwise they are treated (and charged) as foreign students

Anyone already done this kind of research or has an opinion they'd be willing to share? We're not in a great rush.

FYI we live (and would likely stay) in Los Angeles, we'd be moving back to the SE of England, most likely Brighton or at least vaguely commutable to London

DeliveredByKiki Mon 30-May-16 22:10:54

so many mistakes - WHERE would you start!

Earlybird Mon 30-May-16 22:21:35

I have friends who faced this same dilemma. Their answer was to enroll their dd in the British International School in Houston.

Here is a website that lists International schools in California that might be worth exploring for your dc:

www.expat-quotes.com/guides/usa/education/international-schools-in-california.htm

DeliveredByKiki Tue 31-May-16 01:49:05

Yeah the thing is I want us to go home for other reasons, hoping I can find evidence to strengthen my case for UK because British secondary education is better than American wink

Canyouforgiveher Tue 31-May-16 02:04:23

Yeah the thing is I want us to go home for other reasons, hoping I can find evidence to strengthen my case for UK because British secondary education is better than American wink

I don't think you can really make this case though. SOME British schools are better than SOME US schools and equally there are aspects of the UK system that suit some kids and ditto for the US system. We are in the US system (I am Irish) and I understand it and like it better than what I know of the UK system. People like to look down on the US system of education but it can be really excellent.

I've been through this thing of staying or going home and honestly I know how really hard it is.I would have preferred to move home but for various reasons we didn't. You shouldn't need to prove anything about the school system in order to want to live back in your homeplace.

One thing I would say is it became difficult for us when our children were about 12 or so to contemplate moving back because they were real american kids at that stage - it seemed more of an upheaval.

FrancisdeSales Tue 31-May-16 02:16:11

I also have 3 kids in the US system after being in German and International schools in Europe. Every system has pluses and minuses. My eldest is in an excellent high school which is very academic but also offers a lot of emotional and social support to the kids and dd1 is very happy. She was a new kid last September. So great schools can be found all over the world. I am more focused on my kids being prepared to enter uni with their self-confidence intact and with an enthusiasm for learning. They will likely go to Germany or Holland as it is virtually free. Although my second loves the UK and wants to go to Uni there. UK and US universities are about the same for price and they both have high quality - so it really depends on the child.

FabFiveFreddie Tue 31-May-16 02:29:39

I think, with the greatest respect, that you're getting confused. How would league tables help you if your reasons for wanting your DC to go through secondary education in the UK are sentimental/emotional?

You don't need to make a rational decision out of this. If you want to go home and raise your kids at home, that's fine and there's no need to justify it any further.

FWIW, I'm another in that stay-or-go dilemma and I have been for years. I suspect that for us, indecision will lead to the decision making itself as it really does get harder the older the children get. I'm also finding that the UK I left behind isn't the UK I'd be returning to, so much has changed. I wonder whether I'm yearning for something which doesn't exist anymore...

KickAssAngel Tue 31-May-16 02:29:40

I'm a Brit now living in the US and I've been teaching since 1994, first in UK, now in US. I did part of my first degree in the US as an exchange program, then had my US undergrad grades turned into British ones. Since moving here I've had my UK qualifications Americanized.

So -

Both countries obviously have regional variation. Unless you manage to find a truly horrendous school or your kids gets badly bullied or has a truly awful teacher, the single most important outcome for education is the parents and their attitude to education.

The UK system does rank 'higher' than the US right through until post-grad level. My A levels counted as US undergrad work, although my undergrad work didn't count towards an MA. A Masters degree is the same the world over. Many US high schools do AP classes (advanced placement) which most colleges in the US accept towards college credit, for the more advanced kids. UK schools are VERY unlikely to accept a US high school diploma as the equivalent of A Levels, and if your children wanted to go to UK colleges they would almost definitely need to have A Levels as well as any high school graduation.

Lower down the age range, schools just tend to make do and fill in gaps where there are any. The US has a different approach to how they do subjects so some elements of teaching, e.g. math classes and grammar, your kids may well be ahead. But at age 11 or so they will just be able to switch and may need some tutoring to catch up.

If you want your kids to go to UK colleges, you know about the 3 year rule, but international student fees are phenomenal - budget for it to be hundreds of thousands rather than tens (allowing for inflation, and who knows what rules there will be in 15 years?)

International Baccalaureate Schools are growing in popularity in the US. Several of our local high schools teach full IB alongside their traditional high school classes. IB is accepted just about anywhere in the world and seen as one of the best education systems available. It is flexible and respected, so worth finding out if any schools near you do it. It would be fine for a child to study IB until age 16 then switch systems. It would be harder to make a switch at age 17/18 though (for any system).

Wth the introduction of the common core the US is becoming more standardised in what it teaches. This makes it easier to compare, and the common core in the US reads very similarly to the national curriculum in the UK. They're both online if you really want to waste your time go into fine detail.

I actually think that I prefer the US system, but I'm in a very academic little bubble - big university town, with a wealth of high achievers.

About the US I prefer: no uniform, more kid-friendly, very positive attitude, kids seem generally more motivated, lots of extra activities for kids to do.
I don't like: education funded by local taxes, so closely linked to income levels, schools are big - kids can get literally and metaphorically lost in them, quite a lot of hype about how important the social stuff is.
Mixed feelings about: no setting/streaming until the last 2 years of high school, when AP classes come in.

Sorry that's so long!

MadamDeathstare Tue 31-May-16 03:15:09

If you go to the website for a particular school district you can look up the curriculum and the instructional guides that are used. The instructional guides should show what practical work and projects are going to be done. You can compare the curriculum to what your DC would cover in the UK to see which you prefer.

Sites like School Digger and Great Schools give you test scores and demographic information. If there is a particular school you are interested in, visit the school's website. That will give you a feel for what is going on at the school - things like competitions students have won, academic teams, robotics and programming teams. Look at the PTA website and Facebook page (if there is one) for parental involvement in the school.

Look for magnet schools in the district you are moving to. These are schools that have a focus such as technology, international baccalaureate, academics, arts and music.

One thing I'm not too happy about with the US system is that students have to take so many subjects all the way to the end of high school rather than being able to drop things that aren't interesting to them. I can see it gives a more rounded education, but it explains why the end of high school is equivalent to the end of Year 11 in the UK rather than the end of Year 12, there just isn't enough time to cover all the material to the same depth as there was with the A level syllabus. AP classes helps compensate for this by taking students up to the end of the first year of university (or year 12 in the UK). Several districts are partnering with universities and community colleges to swap school classes for university classes so that students can earn college credit while still in high school.

DeliveredByKiki Tue 31-May-16 04:17:33

thanks so much for taking the time to reply, responses pretty much what I imagined - I think it's a case of school by school basis and personal likes and dislikes about breadth of subjects etc.

I don't need to find a "proper" reason for moving back, but it's worth looking at all facets as at this stage there isn't a massive draw to either country. I take the point that it is what you make of it and as parents it's our responsibility to ultimately find a school suited to each individual child, no matter which country it's in.

We'd always said wherever we are when DS is 11 (he's the eldest) is where we'll stay as I was moved around a lot as a child, boarding school aged 8-12 and at nearly 13 was uprooted and it was very hard on me. Likewise DH's parents divorced when he was 13 and he had to move schools etc despite having moved a fair bit during childhood so we're both hyper aware of not creating big changes during or in the run up to puberty, just because our own experiences have taught us that.

But if we stayed here to get citizenship before moving home (workwise this is a very good option for both of us), that would mean he'd be roughly 11 when we apply, and the application process takes roughly 6months from what I hear, so we'd be looking at moving when he starts Year 8 - exactly the age I had my upheaval.

I honestly thought this move would be 3-4years, I really don't want to stay in the US long term but it makes no sense to stay 1-2years short of applying for citizenship now that you don't get to keep your green card once you leave for a year

sofato5miles Tue 31-May-16 05:34:58

Friend's overseas daughter has got into Cambridge this Sept. She is paying 35k a year.

mummytime Tue 31-May-16 08:08:48

Real reason: just about every Us university will allow A'levels instead of 1st year University courses. Often you could shorten US uni by a year. (Although most student actually use the extra year to study more courses they are interested in.)
You can go to UK unis with Us qualifications, but will almost certainly need APs among other things.

One thing about UK is that the exam standard is externally verified, rather than based on teacher assessments.

Then they syllabuses of both countries take very different routes, maths is taught holistically in the UK rather than topic based in the US.

YellowPrimula Tue 31-May-16 08:31:05

I know of several students at UK universities with US high school diploma , they generally have done a Foundation year first though,effectively making it a 4 year degree

KickAssAngel Tue 31-May-16 15:54:10

I also think that there's a huge difference between lots of moving and one, planned move at a certain stage. A good time to move is at the end of middle school (8th grade/year 9) before GCSEs start in the UK, or high school.

After that moving at end of 10th grade/year 11 is OK. But avoid doing a move between or after those grades, as the UK system does not cope well with students arriving part way through GCSE or A Level courses.

DeliveredByKiki Tue 31-May-16 16:14:37

mummytime Thankyou - I hadn't thought of that. I should prob look into the rules of what constitutes an international student in the US too - if stayed for citizenship, would it then matter if we lived in the UK prior to American university applications? It would be great for DC to have opportunity to do higher education in either country if financially viable

kickass I think that's a good point. Although I worry about us moving DS when he will have done maybe a year of middle school and will be entering secondary at therefor a weird stage (year 8 or 9) but I would def want it to be well before GCSEs (or whatever they'll be by then). Our area has no decent public middle schools but if we knew it was just for one year and for only one DC we could prob afford the excellent private one, which hopefully would also get him up to the academic standard of UK so he can enter school at his age. Same with DD (who, if timelines work out, would be about 9 - so again not the greatest of timings to be moving with just a year or so of primary school left)

KickAssAngel Tue 31-May-16 16:41:12

If you live in a state you get in state tuition fees. I'm on a green card and only had to pay in state fees. There was some extra paperwork to get my UK qualification Americanized, and I had to show my green card to prove I was a legal immigrant, but other than that I'm treated the same as an American.

If you had all moved back to the UK but one of your DC wanted to go to college in the US, I think that one of you may have to be resident, otherwise it would count as being international.

prettybird Tue 31-May-16 17:04:58

Being a wee bit pedantic - especially as the OP is talking about going back to the South East of England, but there isn't a "UK" Eduction system.

The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish(?) education systems are all different to varying degrees - with Scotland's the most different as we don't even sit A Levels (main exams, Highers, are sat in the equivalent of Y12 (S5), usually 5 of them (if you're academic),with the option of doing more/resitting/doing Advance Highers or even A Levels wink in S6 (=Y13/Upper 6th) - or even going to Uni straight from S5 shock

Also, if you moved to Scotland 3 years before applying to Uni, Scottish Unis are free! grin

SenecaFalls Tue 31-May-16 17:49:26

prettybird makes a good point. Not particularly relevant to the OP's situation but movement from the Scottish system to US ones (and vice versa) is easier because of the similarities between the two, four-year university among them. In fact, much of US education has antecedents in Scottish education, including the term "high school."

GinandJag Tue 31-May-16 17:55:43

As a Science teacher in the UK and a former parent in the US, I would vote for the British system.

Science teaching in the US, IMO, is very much a collation of factoids, rather than developing skills or critical thinking.

DeliveredByKiki Tue 31-May-16 17:58:28

Pedantry totally acceptable prettybird and I wish so badly we could go the Scottish system as that seems like my favourite option particularly secondary education - but a big reason for going home is proximity to family friends, the vast majority of which are in the south east

GinandJag Tue 31-May-16 18:26:51

I went through the Scottish system and thought it was brilliant back in the 1980s, but it seems to be going through a hard time at the moment.

KickAssAngel Wed 01-Jun-16 02:59:43

Let's not forget that this is many years into the future. Although having some rough idea of a plan isn't a bad thing, I've found that as soon as I think I know what I'm doing, shit happens and life takes a change.

DeliveredByKiki Wed 01-Jun-16 04:28:43

Yeah in fairness we never plan this far ahead, we barely plan 6 months ahead and all major life decisions have taken place somewhat on a whim during the course of our relationship!

readingrainbow Wed 01-Jun-16 04:57:22

I grew up in the American school system and came to England at 18 to do A-levels. I was considered "gifted" in my US schools; streamed from an early age to do more challenging classes etc. In my last year of highschool I took AP calculus, for example. I was shocked at the expectations and requirements of my A-levels courses when I moved here. It was a steep learning curve for me. It turns out a highschool diploma us seen as the equivalent of two or three D's at GCSE (this info is from my brother who had his quals professionally transferred). In my experience, the US education system is much broader and less vigorous at a much older age. I was considering going to university in the States before moving to England with family, and the course I wanted (veterinarian) was seven years long. The first two years were general studies and couldn't be skipped over.

I think there are pros and cons to both systems, but I can't help thinking that a tighter focus of studies at a slightly younger age would lead to less faffing about in university. The "undeclared major" phenomenon is real, and what a waste of money.

MrsSchadenfreude Wed 01-Jun-16 05:51:26

A high school diploma is not worth the paper it is written on in UK. DD1 has been in the US system all through secondary and is doing the IB.

I am not sure where GinAndJag's comments re science are coming from - age 15, DD1 was doing chemistry from an A level text book (but this is in an American international school here, not in the US). We also found that DD2, who transferred back to the UK system aged 12, was way, way ahead in maths.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now