1. The school system in America goes from kindergarten to 12th grade. When you finish one school and go to another, you go to the next grade. In Slovakia, every time you start a new school, you start counting over again. You could be the 9th form in základná škola, and then you go to the 1st form in stredná škola.
2. In America the grading system is different. An ‘A’ is a ‘1’, a ‘B’ is a ‘2’, a ‘C’ is a ‘3’, a ‘D’ is a ‘4’, and an ‘F’ is a ‘5’.
3. In Slovakia, every class gets its own room, which they decorate and keep clean, and teachers come for each lesson. In America it’s the same for primary school, but in middle and high school, teachers get their own rooms, which they decorate, and students switch rooms every lesson.
4. In American schools, high school students are sometimes separated according to ability. The best students get into honors and AP (advanced placement) classes, which learn at a faster pace. For example, 9th graders may be divided into algebra 1, honors algebra 1, and AP algebra 1. A typical student may take two-three honors classes, and then two-three regular classes, mixed in with weaker students – so, for a smart student, some subjects will be hard, and some will be really easy.
5. AP courses are standardized nationally, created by a private organization called the College Board, the same one that writes the SAT’s each year. AP courses have standardized exams each semester. Advanced level AP courses, such as calculus, can count as college credit in some universities.
1. Americans believe in a general education for secondary students, with many subject choices. So, no matter which school you go to, you can study many things, for example music, art, drama, history, science, sport, etc. At age 15, you don’t have to start thinking about a future career.
2. Typically, you study less subjects at once (about five?) and take lessons in them every day. But, this depends on the school. Each one has its own schedule.
3. Every school in America has to have a nurse, both for emergencies, and to determine if students really are sick, before calling parents to pick them up.
4. Public schools in America provide free busing, books, and free breakfast and lunch for poor students (funding for these programs can come and go, depending on yearly tax revenue).
5. Some courses are required, like math, reading, and writing, which are required every year. But you can usually choose when to complete other requirements like science and history.
6. You usually don’t have to study two or more sciences at once.
1. In America, if you want to go to a really good school, you need to find a private one. Catholic schools are some of the best, academically, and not so expensive, but they’re hard to get into, especially if you’re not Catholic. Some private schools are extremely expensive, costing as much as university.
2. Public schools in America gain funding (money) from local real estate (land) taxes. So, rich towns give higher taxes to their schools, and poor towns get much less. So, a public school in a rich town will look much nicer, and will have more facilities than in a poor town – towns don’t share money equally. That’s true in every state.
3. In the American public school system, in most towns, there are several primary schools, and only one or two public middle and high schools. And, you don’t get to choose which high school you go to. It’s a question of which neighborhood you live in, and school bus routes. If you don’t like your public school and you want switch schools, you have to move to another part of town – or a completely new town.
Compare that to Slovakia, where the average town has about eight different high schools. If you want to get into the best gymnazium, you have to study hard and get good marks from the beginning. But, in America, your marks don’t really matter until you enter high school, when they start counting towards your GPA (grade point average – a number used to pick best students for awards, etc). So, unless your parents really push you to study, you won’t learn good study habits, and then, by the time you’re in high school, and all your friends start rebelling, doing drugs, and driving, you have to start studying hard for the first time. And there’s no real penalty for failing. Schools can make you repeat a year over and over, but they can’t expel you unless you do something criminal or dangerous.
4. American high schools are usually very large, with thousands of students. The idea is, if you get all the teenagers together in one school, you can get all the best athletes together on a school team, with enough money to buy state-of-the-art training facilities and a big stadium. But, it’s harder for students to stand out, and to know each other. It’s a different atmosphere from a smaller school, where everyone knows each other. In Slovakia, schools are smaller, and the best athletes from each school combine to form a team that represents the town, instead of the school. I think it’s better.
5. Higher education in America is ridiculously expensive, and the costs are rising every year. Colleges, which are private, are typically more expensive than universities, but both costs tens of thousands of dollars a year. Most students can only go to college if they earn a scholarship or qualify for a student loan from a bank.