Everyone knows that in nowadays there are many possibilities and ways to learn, but in Latvia this is very topical theme right now. Many of the high school graduates want to learn abroad. And I do not think that this is good, because like about half of the students or people that go to learn abroad, never comes back to the native country. That is why I have chosen this topical theme. I am going to study educational systems in these countries.
I am going to poll some of the 12th grade students about what are they thinking about learning in USA. I want to achieve that kind of position when a student reads my research project and especially the higher education in Latvia part he changes his mind and stays to learn here. My hypothesis for this Research Work is – the education systems in Latvia and in the USA are different and this is a reason why people in Latvia choose the USA for studies very often.
The Aim of the Research Work is to compare the education systems in the USA and in Latvia and to find out middle school students opinion about studies in Latvia and in the USA. The main objectives of the Research Work are:
• To collect the information about educational system in Latvia
• To collect the information about educational system in the USA
• To make a questionnaire and analyze the results of middle school students opinion about studies in Latvia and in the USA
Educational system in USA
Education in the United States is provided mainly by government, with control and funding coming from three levels: federal, state, and local. School attendance is mandatory and nearly universal at the primary and secondary levels. At these levels, school curricula, funding, teaching, and other policies are set through locally elected school boards with jurisdiction over school districts. School districts are usually separate from other local jurisdictions, with independent officials and budgets. Educational standards and standardized testing decisions are usually made by state governments. The age for compulsory education vary by state, beginning at the age five to eight and ending at the age of fourteen to eighteen. A growing number of states are now requiring school attendance until the age of 18.
There are no mandatory public prekindergarten or crèche programs in the United States. The federal government funds the preschool program for children of low-income families, but most families are on their own with regard to finding a preschool or childcare. In the large cities, there are sometimes upper-class preschools catering to the children of the wealthy.
1.2 Elementary and Secondary Education
Schooling is compulsory for all children in the United States, but the age range for which school attendance is required varies from state to state. Most children begin elementary education with kindergarten (usually five to six years old) and finish secondary education with twelfth grade (usually eighteen years old). In some cases, pupils may be promoted beyond the next regular grade. Some states allow students to leave school at the age of 14–17 with parental permission, before finishing high school. Most parents send their children to either a public or private institution. According to government data, one-tenth of students are enrolled in private schools.
Approximately 85% of students enter the public schools, largely because they are “free” (tax burdens by school districts vary from area to area). Most students attend school for around six hours per day, and usually anywhere from 175 to 185 days per year. Most schools have a summer break period for about two and half months from June through August. This break is much longer than in many other nations. Originally, “summer vacation,” as it is colloquially called, allowed students to participate in the harvest period during the summer. However, this remains largely by tradition. Parents may also choose to educate their own children at home; 1.7% of children are educated in this manner.
1.2.1 Junior high school
Junior high school is any school intermediate between elementary school and high school. It usually includes seventh and eighth grade, and sometimes sixth or ninth grade. In some locations, junior high school includes ninth grade only, allowing students to adjust to a high school environment. Middle school is often used instead of junior high school when demographic factors increase the number of younger students. At this time, students are given more independence as choosing their own classes. Usually, starting in ninth grade, grades become part of a student’s official transcript. Future employers or colleges may want to see steady improvement in grades and a good attendance record on the official transcript. Therefore, students are encouraged to take much more responsibility for their education.
1.3 Higher education
Post-secondary education in the United States is known as college or university and commonly consists of four years of study at an institution of higher learning. There are 4,352* colleges, universities, and junior colleges in the USA. Students traditionally apply to receive admission into college, with varying difficulties of entrance. Schools differ in their competitiveness and reputation; generally, the most prestigious schools are private, rather than public. Admissions criteria involve the rigor and grades earned in high school courses taken, class ranking, and standardized test. Most colleges also consider more subjective factors such as a commitment to extracurricular activities, a personal essay, and an interview. While numerical factors rarely ever are absolute required values, each college usually has a rough threshold below which admission is unlikely. *- January 2009. data from www.ed.gov
Once admitted, students engage in undergraduate study, which consists of satisfying university and class requirements to achieve a bachelor’s degree in a field of concentration known as a major. The most common method consists of four years of study leading to a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), a Bachelor of Science (B.S.), or sometimes another bachelor’s degree such as Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.), Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.), Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng.,) or Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) Five-Year Professional Architecture programs offer the Bachelor of Architecture Degree (B.Arch.) Professional degrees such as law, medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry, are offered as graduate study after earning at least three years of undergraduate schooling or after earning a bachelor’s degree depending on the program.
These professional fields do not require a specific undergraduate major, though medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry have set prerequisite courses that must be taken before enrollment. Some students choose to attend a community college for two years prior to further study at another college or university. In most states, community colleges are operated either by a division of the state university or by local special districts subject to guidance from a state agency. Community colleges may award Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) degree after two years. Those seeking to continue their education may transfer to a four-year college or university. Some community colleges have automatic enrollment agreements with a local four-year college, where the community college provides the first two years of study and the university provides the remaining years of study, sometimes all on one campus.
The community college awards the associate’s degree, and the university awards the bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Graduate study, conducted after obtaining an initial degree and sometimes after several years of professional work, leads to a more advanced degree such as a master’s degree, which could be a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), Master of Business Administration (MBA), or other less common master’s degrees such as Master of Education (MEd), and Master of Fine Arts (MFA). After additional years of study and sometimes in conjunction with the completion of a master’s degree, students may earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or other doctoral degree, such as Doctor of Arts, Doctor of Education, Doctor of Theology, Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Pharmacy, Doctor of Physical Therapy, or Doctor of Jurisprudence. Some programs, such as medicine, have formal apprenticeship procedures post-graduation like residency and internship which must be completed after graduation and before one is considered to be fully trained.
Other professional programs like law and business have no formal apprenticeship requirements after graduation. Entrance into graduate programs usually depends upon a student’s undergraduate academic performance or professional experience as well as their score on a standardized entrance exam. Many graduate and law schools do not require experience after earning a bachelor’s degree to enter their programs; however, business school candidates are usually required to gain a few years of professional work experience before applying. Only 8.9 % of students ever receive postgraduate degrees, and most, after obtaining their bachelor’s degree, proceed directly into the workforce.
1.4 Basic Curricular Structure
Generally, at the high school level, students take a broad variety of classes without special emphasis in any particular subject. Curricula vary widely in quality and rigidity. The following subjects are fairly universally required in the United States: • Science (usually two years minimum, normally biology, chemistry and physics) • Mathematics (usually two years minimum, normally including algebra, geometry, algebra II, and/or trigonometry) • English (usually four years minimum, including literature, humanities, etc.) • Social Science (usually three years minimum, including various history, government/economics courses) • Physical education (at least one year)
Many states require a “health” course in which students learn about anatomy, nutrition, first aid, sexuality, and birth control. Anti-drug use programs are also usually part of health courses. In many cases, however, options are provided for students to “test out” or perform independent study in order to complete this requirement. Foreign language and some form of art education are also a mandatory part of the curriculum in some schools. 1.5 Extracurricular activities
A major characteristic of American schools is the high priority given to sports, clubs and activities by the community, the parents, the schools and the students themselves. Extracurricular activities are educational activities not falling within the scope of the regular curriculum but under the supervision of the school. These activities can extend to large amounts of time outside the normal school day; home-schooled students, however, are not normally allowed to participate. Student participation in sports programs, drill teams, bands, and spirit groups can amount to hours of practices and performances. Most states have organizations which develop rules for competition between groups. These organizations are usually forced to implement time limits on hours practiced as a prerequisite for participation.
Many schools also have non-varsity sports teams, however these are usually afforded less resources and attention. The idea of having sports teams associated with high schools is relatively unique to the United States in comparison with other countries. Sports programs and their related games, especially football and/or basketball, are major events for American students and for larger schools can be a major source of funds for school districts. High school athletic competitions often generate intense interest in the community.
Inner city schools serving poor students are heavily scouted by college and even professional coaches, with national attention given to which colleges outstanding high school students choose to attend. State high school championship tournaments football and basketball attract high levels of public interest. In addition to sports, numerous non-athletic extracurricular activities are available in American schools, both public and private. Activities include musical groups, marching bands, student government, school newspapers, science fairs, debate teams, and clubs focused on an academic area or cultural interests.
Many high schools offer a wide variety of elective courses, although the availability of such courses depends upon each particular school’s financial resources and desired curriculum emphases. Common types of electives include:
• Visual arts (drawing, sculpture, painting, photography, film) • Performing arts (drama, band, chorus, orchestra, dance) • Technology education (woodworking, metalworking, automobile repair, robotics) • Computers (word processing, programming, graphic design) • Athletics (cross country, football, baseball, basketball, track and field, swimming, tennis, gymnastics, water polo, soccer, wrestling, cheerleading, volleyball, lacrosse, ice hockey, field hockey, boxing, skiing/snowboarding) • Publishing (journalism/student newspaper, yearbook/annual, literary magazine) • Foreign languages (Spanish, French are common; Chinese, Latin, Greek, German, Italian, Arabic, and Japanese are less common)
1.7 Advanced Courses
Many high schools provide Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses. These are special forms of honours classes where the curriculum is more challenging and lessons more aggressively paced than standard courses. AP or IB courses are usually taken during the 11th or 12th grade of high school.
1.8 Home Schooling
There was 1,3 million children that were home schooled in 2008, up 74% from 1999 when the US Department of Education first started keeping statistics. This was 2.9% of all children. Parents select moral or religious reasons for home schooling their children.
1.9 School grades
As you can see in the table (Table N.1), in the U.S. the first year of compulsory schooling begins with children at the age of five or six. Children are then placed in year groups known as grades, beginning with first grade and culminating in twelfth grade. Typical ages and grade groupings in public and private schools may be found through the U.S. Department of Education. Many different variations exist across the country. For more foreseen scheme of education in USA see Appendix N.1.
1.10 Grading scale
In schools in the United States children are continually assessed throughout the school year by their teachers, and report cards are issued to parents at varying intervals. Generally the scores for individual assignments and tests are recorded for each student in a grade book, along with the maximum number of points for each assignment. At any time, the total number of points for a student when divided by the total number of possible points produces a percent grade which can be translated to a letter grade. Letter grades are often used on report cards at the end of a marking period, although the current grade may be available at other times. Although grading scales usually differ from school to school, the grade scale which seems to be most common is as follows. The grading is based on a scale of 0-100 or a percentile. Note that in some jurisdictions the “D” grade (or that below 70) is considered a failing grade. In other jurisdictions a “D” grade is considered passing in certain classes, and failing in others. If you need a concept of grading scale, see Table N.2. Table N.2 Example grading scale in USA
|E,N,U or F |D |C |B |A | | |- | |+ |- | |arodpamatskola |vocational basic school |9-year education may be |2 |no | | | |incomplete | | | |arodvidusskola |vocational secondary school|9-year education |3 |no | |arodgimnazija |vocational gymnasium |9-year education |4 |yes | |arodskola |vocational school |general secondary education |1-2 |no | | |(postsecondary) | | | |
As it is seen from table (Table N.4), just one type of vocational schools – four year vocational gymnasium – concurrently to vocational training provide general secondary education and, consequently, access to higher education.
2.8 Access to Higher Education
In principle, access to higher education is general for all holders of general secondary education certificates. However, the institutions of higher education are free to determine which of the elective subjects must have been taken by the applicant at the secondary school in order to become eligible for admission to a chosen program. There are no fixed all-Latvian rules determining the admission system and it may differ between different institutions and even between different faculties of the same institution of higher education. The main forms of admission procedure may be as follows:
• 1 to 4 competitive entrance examinations; • a competition of diplomas plus an interview by the Admission board, which may include general questions in subjects important to the chosen specialty; • just a competition of diplomas (usually judging by the marks in subjects important to the chosen program and/or average mark in the secondary school certificate); • knowledge of Latvian language is evaluated in these cases when the applicant has not had Latvian as the language of instruction in secondary school. An admission board consisting of staff members is formed in all higher educational institutions to carry out admission procedures in accordance with conditions announced at least 5 months before.
2.9 Higher Education
2.9.1 Academic higher education (Akadēmiskā augstākā izglītība) is understood as a general higher education based upon fundamental and/or applied science. Academic education can be (and in most cases is) divided into two stages. A student has to perform a thesis of a Research Work at the end of each stage. I. First degree
An academic degree and a Bachelor diploma (Bakalaura grāds) can be awarded after successive completion of the first stage. Bachelor degree is an intermediate degree and can be treated as a completed higher education only in these cases when duration of program is 4+ years. However, part of the students leave universities having a bachelor`s degree and find their gap in the labor market. II. Second degree
Academic master degree (Maģistra grāds) and the appropriate diploma is awarded after the second stage of academic education and should be treated as a complete university-type higher education. Master degree or a degree equivalent to it (e.g. medical studies are of a level of master`s degree but name of master`s degree is not applicable) can be awarded after total duration of 5-7 years of university studies. Master degree (or equivalent) is required for admission to doctoral studies. III. Higher degrees
There are two of doctoral degrees in Latvia
Degree of Ph.D. (Doktora grāds)
Holders of master`s degree are eligible for doctoral studies and the holders of Ph.D. is expected to be achieved in a 3-4 year period of full-time doctoral studies after a public defense of doctoral thesis. After defense of habilitation thesis you are awarded with a degree of habilitated doctor (habilitēts doktors).
Doctoral degrees are awarded by specialized councils:
• promotion council (promocijas padome) – awarding the degree doktors only • habilitation council (habilitācijas padome) – awarding both doctoral degrees. The regulations for awarding of doctoral degrees are set and the promotion and habilitation councils are appointed by Latvian Science Council (Latvijas Zinātnes Padome). 2.9.2 Higher professional education (Profesionāla augstakā izglītība) is a higher education based upon applied science. It provides knowledge and skills for professional activities.
Acquirement of the programs of professional studies can take place independently of academic studies, concurrently to or after them. Non-university type higher education institutions offer higher professional education programs leading directly to professional qualifications. To be treated as a completed higher education, the duration of professional studies has to be not less than 4 years. University-type higher education institutions may offer 1-2 year programs leading to professional qualification after achieving bachelor degree (bakalaurs).