Free Resources for Students and Teachers of English as a Foreign Language in China - by Paul Sparks

Read and write messages for me!

 About Me
 World News
 ICQ Chat
 Contact Me





Now Watch TV Online for free with my new site -

Click Here to return to the previous page


Paul Sparks, Online Business English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for Grade 1 English Conversation Lessons at Xiangtan Normal University...



Lesson 11 - EDUCATION


Lesson Objectives
To improve students knowledge of education systems used in other countries, to improve general vocabulary through discussion and debate.


Lesson Activities
Discussion about the main differences between British and Chinese education systems.

The British Education System

  • State Education - Funded by Government (Ages 5 to 18)
  • Private Education - To be paid for by student or students parents
  • Education is Compulsory from aged 5 to 16
  • After 16 Further Education is optional
  • Under 5 years of age - Nursery school education is optional. Some is state funded, but most is private.
  • Aged 4/5 to 11  -  Primary Education  (3 years Infant School, 4 years Junior School)
  • Aged 11 to 16 - Secondary School (Comprehensive School/ Grammar School) GCSE Examinations
  • Comprehensive School - no entrance exams, not assessed on ability
  • Grammar School - Entrance Exams, is assessed on ability
  • Ages 16 to 18 - School or College
  • Aged 18+ University
Secondary Education (High School)
Secondary Education is from the age of 11. The qualification which students leave school with is the General Certificate in Secondary Education (GCSE). GCSE courses usually last for the last two years at school.

You will normally be expected to have a GCSE (or equivalent qualification) in the subject(s) you wish to study at A-level (see next section, Further Education for "A levels")

Scottish schools and colleges offer the Scottish Certificate of Education (SCE), where Standard grade is equivalent to the GCSE and the Higher grade examinations are taken after one year of additional study.

  • Examples of subjects which are compulsory for GCSE's
  • Maths
  • English
  • Geography
  • History
  • Science
  • Examples of Optional Subjects (chosen by students)
  • Woodwork
  • Cookery
  • Religion
  • Art
Further Education (School or College)
16 year old students choices:
  • Find a Job
  • “A-Level” Exam course - (Advanced Level) (2 years, school or college)
  • Vocational Course (2 years)
  • Stay at school for “A-Levels” or Vocational Education Course
  • Go to College for “A-Levels” or Vocational Education Course
Edexcel (formerly BTEC)
Many students study for an Edexcel qualification instead of GCSE and A-levels. They award qualifications in subjects like Computer Studies, Business and Finance, Engineering, Catering and Travel and Tourism. The programmes combine theory and practice, giving students practical experience and not just writing about the subject.

The Advanced Supplementary (AS) level exam is often taken by students from abroad as a way of meeting entry requirements for degree courses at British institutions. Two AS-levels are equivalent to one A level for degree course entry.

Vocational Courses
Course designed for particular career, for example:

  • Engineer
  • Car Mechanic
  • Computer Technician
  • Nurse
Vocational training is about teaching you the things you need to know to pursue the career you want to follow. Practical courses in a college environment, leading to entry to university degree courses or work. The names given to Vocational courses are:
  • General National Vocational Qualifications (GNVQs) 
  • (BTEC) Higher National Diploma (HND)GNVQs and SVQs
  • The British government has improved and reformed vocational qualifications in Britain. Employers have identified skills needed for different jobs which have resulted in NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications). NVQs are awarded at five levels. GNVQs are a broader base of skills and knowledge that can be compared to academic qualifications. GNVQs are available at three levels: foundation, intermediate and advanced.
Higher Education (University - Undergraduate)
Options for people aged 18
  • Leave Education for Work
  • Go to University - Undergraduate degree
University Degree
  • 3 years or
  • 4 years (3rd year - Job Placement)
There are literally thousands of courses for you to choose from and hundreds of schools, colleges and universities in which to study:
  • Over 180 institutions offering degrees 
  • Over 500 colleges of further education
  • Over 800,000 international students are currently enjoying the benefits of a British education.
  • Access or Bridging courses are offered as an alternative route into higher education or vocational training. Some are designed especially for international students, often referred to as 'bridging' courses because they bridge the gap between overseas qualifications and the entry requirements for British courses. They often involve some English language classes and usually take one year.
Postgraduate Education (University)
Options after Degree:
  • Find work
  • Continue Education - Postgraduate (Masters Degree)
Masters Degree (University)
  • More specific course - 1 Year
  • Designed to suit particular career, less general than a degree
Doctors Degree Phd (University)
After completion of Masters Degree, the next course is a PHD (Doctors degree) - 1 Year - Full Time

Most Masters courses and PHD courses are designed to get the students prepared for the world of work. They will involve mainly research, but may also involve some Lectures (Lessons) and Tutorials (Discussion Lessons).

University Funding
Some students may work and study at the same time. Because students have to finance their own course they may work part time, normally in bars, shops and offices. University courses are generally paid for by the student through Student Loans arranged through banks.

There are some student grants available to cover some of the costs, but the number of places on grant assisted courses is very limited.

Vocational courses are sometimes paid for by employers if the course is relevant to the job.

University Flexibility
Universities normally offer part time Degrees, which are normally 1 day per week or 2 evenings per week. These are ideal for people who need to work full time but also want to study. Employers may offer Vocational Training courses to their employees, the biggest provider of Vocational Education is “City and Guilds”. Employees will go to university or college 1 day per week in order to gain skills which they can use in their job.

University Facilities

  • Well stocked Libraries
  • Free Computer access
  • Free Email accounts and Internet access
  • Sports Facilities
Many Adults return to education in the UK in order to gain new skills. Therefore most university classes are a mix of all ages. There are also specific Adult training colleges in the UK.

The University Campus
The British University campus is a very open place. Students are free to come and go as they like. Many universities offer entertainment on site, but students frequently go out off site. Accommodation on site is optional, many students prefer to live in shared houses.

Student Life
Students in the UK like to drink beer!!! Going to bars is a great way for students to socialise and meet each other. Students either make their own food or eat out, Macdonalds and KFC are very popular!!!

Universities cater for all interests

  • Dancing
  • Music
  • Drama
  • Day Visits
  • Bowling...etc.
Sport, such as
  • Football
  • Tennis
  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Pool / Snooker
  • Table Tennis...etc.
Other popular student Entertainment in Britain:
  • Cinema
  • Theatre
  • Bowling
  • Skating
  • Video Games etc.
Many places offer student discounts!!!

Because the UK is a relatively small place everywhere is within travelling distance.

  • Trains (clean, reliable - student discount)
  • Buses (Modern, clean, cheap)
  • Car (Most journeys are made by car - many classmates will have their own car)

Student life in Britain is a mix of study and socialising. Universities encourage learning through enjoyment, a big part of learning is gaining the ability to interact with others on all levels. Student life in Britain is about having fun!!

Differences Between UK Education Systems and Education Abroad
The British educational system differs in a number of respects from the educational systems operated by many of our European partners. One important difference is that students tend to specialise more extensively in their School Leaving Certificates (A Levels) which qualify them for entry into Higher Education (which normally takes place at University). This in turn means that undergraduate degrees often take less time to complete (3 or 4 yrs) than they do in Europe. A summary of the typical route into Higher Education is shown below. 

Most subjects within a course are taught over the one or two semesters. They may be integrated with other courses running at the same time or provide the basis for subsequent courses. Consequently, there is often less flexibility to choose different options in the early stage of the degree in contrast to the modular system used elsewhere in Europe and in the States. While options are an important part of most courses, these occur most commonly in the final year of the degree. Again, as our educational system is beginning to diversify, a number of institutions are moving to a truly modular system. 

Britain does lag behind many European countries in the proportion of young people in University Education. Selection for a University place is competitive with students' chances of admission being determined by their qualifications, the number of places available and the popularity of the course. As the number of students on a course is planned it is possible to ensure that there are sufficient facilities for each student. As students are selected for their ability to follow the course, the drop out rate is normally low and students are expected to attend all formal teaching periods. 

You are usually expected to enroll on specific course units very soon after your arrival. We do not follow the practice of students turning up to a large number of courses with the intention of narrowing down the choice after a few weeks. In most cases, the Tutor responsible for you will have already drawn up a suitable programme for you following advice from your home institution. If the department you are entering is participating in the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) then you should already have had a Learning Agreement drawn up for you. 

Lectures can be given to quite large audiences, especially during the first year of a degree, or to quite small groups as in the case of student who attend specialised options in their final year. Students are not expected to ask questions in the middle of a lecture, especially if large numbers of students are involved, but many lecturers will invite questions at the end. While students are expected to go to all the lectures, this is not strictly policed. If a student does miss a lecture, they are advised to borrow a classmate's notes as textbooks can rapidly become out of date. 

Most students will undertake at least one major project which will generally be in the final year. The work will often be in one of the research laboratories and students normally choose, within the confines of the project, how much time to spend on it. It is not uncommon for final year students to spend too much time on their project as this is generally much more interesting than revising ! In some departments, students are asked to give formal presentations on the results of their projects. 

Seminars and Tutorials tend to vary considerably depending upon the department. Seminars involve the introduction of a particular subject, by either a Tutor or a guest speaker, which is then followed by questions and answers. Tutorials can involve small groups exploring areas in a more informal way and can include students being asked to undertake certain tasks. Larger tutorials may involve students working through question sheets with staff on hand to help with difficulties as they arise. 

Most courses will involve some form "continuous assessment" of students. This means that marks obtained for essays, projects and laboratory work during the year are taken into account when deciding the final mark for the course unit concerned. Work to be assessed must be submitted by the deadline given. In certain circumstances, extensions to the deadline may be given providing students give good reasons to the lecturer concerned before the deadline had passed. 

Oral examinations are rarely used in British universities for undergraduate degrees except to determine the final classification of a student's degree in cases of doubt. 

Teaching how to think, not what to think
UK education has always placed great importance on the ability of students to work independently and to develop their own thinking. Learning here isn't a one-way process in which you simply receive information from your teachers. Instead, you'll be encouraged to read widely, to research thoroughly and to question what you learn at every opportunity.

A personal approach to learning
Classes and lectures are often supplemented by small, informal group tutorials in which you will be free to exchange ideas and opinions with your teachers. A process which, in turn, stimulates new ideas and new avenues for discussion. The result is that you emerge from a UK education not only with a thorough understanding of your subject but also with analytical abilities and problem-solving skills that are much prized by employers in later life.

Quality assured
The UK operates a unique quality assurance system that ensures accountability in all areas. From student support services to the quality of the teaching staff, every school, further education and higher education establishment is subject to rigorous scrutiny by government. This system allows you to compare the choice of courses on offer on a like-for-like basis, secure in the knowledge that each one has been assessed according to the same demanding criteria. Giving you the peace of mind that comes from knowing the education you receive will live up to your every way

Summary of the UK Educational System
Education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16 (i.e. eleven years of schooling). At the age of 16, students wishing to continue academic study take examinations in a number of subjects in the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE).

Following GCSE, students take two further years of study, following between two and four subjects (usually three). The number of subjects is small and the range of disciplines followed is generally narrow. It is common for example to take either all arts-based subjects or all science-based subjects. It is less common to mix them. Each subject is studied to a high level of specialisation and the coursework and the examinations involve a considerable amount of essay writing. At the end of this two-year period of study students take the examinations for the Advanced level of the General Certificate of Education (known as ‘A’ levels). 

Students in the United Kingdom have therefore normally had thirteen years of full-time education before entering university. This is one year more than most American high school students have on entering an American college. 

Admission to universities in the United Kingdom is competitive and around 35% of the age group normally expect to go on to higher education. Universities in Britain are autonomous bodies, empowered under their Charters or other acts of incorporation to award their own degrees. Undergraduate degrees in the United Kingdom normally take three years – one year less than most Bachelor degree schemes in the United States.

City and Guilds
City and Guilds is an assessment and certification body which operates across a broad range of work-related qualifications, including subjects as diverse as vehicle servicing and repair, catering and hospitality, information technology, health and social care, communication skills and numeracy.

Bachelors degree can be obtained after 3 years of education. In some cases it takes more time such as 6 years as in the case of medicine. Students who are not having the necessary qualification usually undergoes a foundation year. It involves formal lectures and seminar programs and the assessment is through examinations. At the successful completion of Bachelors students are awarded BA, BSc, etc according to the nature of their course. For securing admission you have apply through UCAS. Sandwich Bachelors incorporates industrial work experience for 3 to 12 months during their course work. Successful completion can be lead to direct admission to Masters.

Postgraduate courses are usually taken once you already have an undergraduate degree. Taught masters degrees (MA, MBA, MSc) which may involve attendance at classes, followed by written exams, usually take one year. Research degrees (MPhil and PhD) involving independent research and the submission of a thesis, will take up to three years or more.

PhD can be achieved by three years full time study. The final thesis should satisfy the length, depth, originality and significance as required. PhD is the highest award conferred by the university. It is a research degree and the candidates have to submit a thesis of their work. Minimum duration for this award is 3 years though relaxed timeframe is possible in some extraordinary cases.


Click Here to Return to Top of Page