American children go to school for 12 years. The first day of school is a big day, not only for the child but also for parents and grandparents. What do you remember about your first day at school?
Kindergarten and Elementary School
Before beginning school, many children go to daycare or pre-school. These programs focus mostly on play and the development of social skills and also introduce the children to the world of education. They begin with learning the alphabet and counting numbers as early as age 3. At the age of five, most children go to kindergarten, where they spend a year before they start the first of twelve grades. Kindergarten is obligatory in most states. Students go to elementary school for five or six years (grades one to five/six). After this they move on to a secondary level of school with grades six/seven to twelve.
Junior and Senior High School
The secondary level is often divided into junior high (grades six/seven to eight/nine) and senior high school (grades nine/ten to twelve). In the last four years of high school the students are named according to grade. A ninth-grader is called a freshman, a tenth-grader is a sophomore, an eleventh-grader is a junior, and in the final year, they are seniors (the same terms are used in the first four years of university or college).
- skill - ferdighet/ dugleik
- grade - klassetrinn/klassesteg
- obligatory - obligatorisk
- elementary school - barneskole
- How many years of education is a child guaranteed?
- At what age does a child "officially" begin school?
- What are the names of the three levels of education?
- In what year are you considered a sophomore?
Academic and Vocational Courses
Unlike Norwegian schools, the US public schools have no national curriculum. American schools enjoy great freedom when it comes to school planning, and the students are free to choose between a large selection of subjects. In most high schools, the students can choose between courses offered in three levels, depending on ability and interest. These courses are academic, vocational and general.
Academic courses are for the students planning on going to higher education (college/university). Vocational courses offer studies in car mechanics, hair-styling or other trades. A school's general program may combine features of both types of courses for students who want the benefits of a practical education and a high school diploma.
Whatever your level, there are some common core subjects that are compulsory in all schools, both public and private. In secondary school, some of these subjects are English, mathematics, science (biology, chemistry and physics), social studies and physical education. In addition to compulsory subjects, most schools offer a wide range of elective courses, such as foreign language learning and studies in arts, music and drama. Each student therefore has his or her own tailored schedule.
- vocational - yrkesfaglig/yrkesfagleg
- curriculum - læreplan
- subject - fag
- ability - evne
- trade - yrke
- benefit - fordel
- common core subject - felles kjernefag
- compulsory- obligatorisk
- science - naturfag
- social studies- samfunnsfag
- physical education - gym
- elective- valgfri/valfri
- foreign - fremmed/framand
- arts- kunstneriske fag/kunstnarleg fag
- tailored - tilrettelagt
- Explain the types of courses offered at the high school level?
- What are electives?
- Which subjects are compulsory?
Tasks and Activities
- Why do you think school buses are painted bright yellow?
- How do you get to and from school?
- A large proportion of American children are transported to school by special school buses. Do you think this is a good arrangement? Advantages/disadvantages?
- Write a short story titled, "The School Bus".
- Find a high school in the USA that you would like to visit/attend. Perhaps you are interested in being an exchange student for a year. Write a formal letter requesting more information (school brochure, application form, etc.). See How to Write a Formal Letter. Include the following information about yourself:
- where you come from
- your education
- why you are interested in this high school
- what type of course you would be interested in (academic/vocational)
You can find some information about schools and colleges here:
This text is based on An Overview of American Education.
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