The UK attracts more than 5,00,000 international students every year. It has retained itself to the top position in the best countries for education rankings 2019, leaving behind 80 countries which include the US, Canada, Germany, France and Australia too. The rankings shared by US News & World Report is in itself a piece of strong evidence that its education system is one of the best in the world. It is built on a global perception-based study whose data is comprised of equally-weighted country aspects: development of its public education system, quality of education and respondents’ opinions on attending university there. The education system of the UK has an impressive reputation all over the world. In the UK's Higher Education, there are thousands of courses in more than 25 subject areas, and UK's study programs are generally shorter than other countries, on completion of which students can take advantage of its new 2-year post-study work permit policy.
It is worthwhile to know the UK’s education system. It has five stages and four levels. Education in the UK is independently governed by its constituents, which are England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. To make it more transparent, we have compared it with the Indian education system.
|Key Stage||School year||School level||India class||School level|
|5–6||Key Stage 1||Year 1||Primary||Class 1||Primary|
|6–7||Year 2||Class 2|
|7–8||Key Stage 2||Year 3||Class 3|
|8–9||Year 4||Class 4|
|9–10||Year 5||Class 5|
|10–11||Year 6||Class 6||Middle school|
|11–12||Key Stage 3||Year 7||Secondary||Class 7|
|12–13||Year 8||Class 8|
|13–14||Year 9||Class 9||Secondary|
|14–15||Key Stage 4||Year 10||Class 10|
|15–16||Year 11||Class 11||Senior Secondary|
|16–17||Key Stage 5||Year 12||Sixth form/ A level
|17–18||Year 13||First year||Bachelors of Arts/ Science|
|18–19||First year||Bachelors of Arts/ Science||Higher Education||Second year|
|Second year||Third year|
|....||First year||Masters of Arts/ Science|
|First year||Masters of Arts/ Science||...|
In the UK education system, there are five Key Stages that refer to the sets of knowledge and skills which are expected to be received by a student. It gives an idea to parents about classwork, level of achievement, and how well their child is performing.
Key Stage 1 During Key Stage 1, which aims at students of age 5 to 7, the emphasis is given on developing the fundamentals of English, Mathematics, and science as well as on developing classroom and social manners. At the end of Key Stage 1, students sit in SATs exams, which are accessed by teachers internally.
Key Stage 2 During Key Stage 2, the level of core subjects further increases, and students are taught to produce reports, writing short stories, and recounting. Students start learning French in the last year of Key Stage 2. Both the stage, i.e., Key Stage 1 and 2, are taught by primary school specialists. At the end of Key Stage 2, pupils sit in SATs exams, which are accessed by teachers externally.
Key Stage 3 From the Key Stage 3 onwards, which is focused on students of age 11 – 13, students are taught by specialist teachers for subjects like English, Mathematics, Science, French, Danish, History, Geography, Art, and Physical Education. Emphasis is given on developing greater independence and the ability to think critically.
Key Stage 4 Stage four is the final stage of compulsory education in which students of age group 14 – 16 choose ten subjects out of a range of topics and study for two years before taking GCSE or other exams.
Key Stage 5 During Key Stage 5, which is also known as sixth form or college, students go through a more intense curriculum covering specific subjects such as mathematics and physics to obtain A level certificates. Alternatively, they complete The International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum which is recognised as being equivalent to A Levels, or else they complete Vocational qualification NVQs/BTECs. The stage lasts for two years.
The UK safeguards the interest of its students by maintaining the quality of its education system through regular audits which are performed by its Quality Assurance Agency. QAA ensures that the UK's universities and colleges are following the best practices, and it also provides feedback for improvement.
The UK higher education system is respected all around the world for its excellent degrees, diplomas and PhD programs. To study in the UK, international students may have to take English or other pathway courses first.
Pathway programs are foundation programs that help international students get entry into UK universities. These programs include University Foundation Courses, International Year One, A-Level Pathways, and Pre‑Master's courses. These programs typically take up to 12 months.
Undergraduate courses in the UK are of excellent quality and a range starting from one-year diplomas to four-year integrated courses. The diplomas may take one or two years. The brief description of all the study programs is given below.
|Higher National Certificate (HNC) / Diploma (HND)||1 to 2 years|
|Certificates or Diplomas of Higher Education||1 to 2 years|
|Foundation degrees (e.g. FD, FDEd)||6 months to 2 years|
|Bachelors Degrees (e.g. BA, BSc)||3 years in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; 4 years in Scotland|
|Sandwich degrees||4 years with one year in industry|
|Integrated courses (masters is awarded as the first degree)||4 years|
Post-graduation study programs generally take at maximum 12 months to complete, which means completing masters in the UK can save time and money. In addition to this, students can cover their research masters in just two to three years. A brief description of Masters-level courses is given below.
|Postgraduate certificates / Diploma||9 to 12 months|
|Taught Masters (e.g. MA, MBA, M.Sc.)||1 year|
|Research Masters (such as MPhil, PhD, DPhil)||2-3 years|
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