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How Does the American Education System Work?

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Every international student who comes to the United States might feel that the American education system is quite confusing. Why does the American education system seem confusing?

Maybe the answer lies in the local variations. For information, the educational structure prevailing in the United States is very different from what is stipulated in the UK and also the mainland European countries.

Based on the Federal Government

An important basis for why the American education system is so unique is that it consists of dozens of states, each of which has its own authority to some extent.

In other words, there is no curriculum that applies nationally in the United States and therefore, each curriculum is very much determined by the state policy where the curriculum is established.

This is inseparable from the fact that public schools in a state receive subsidies from the relevant state government, not from the central government and that the subsidy funds are set by the legislative body which also operates in the state. You can’t expect a national meeting to determine how much subsidies must be given to public schools. They are very much regulated by the state government where they are.

American School System
Image Source – Wikipedia

Strong Local Characteristics

In general, students in grades 1-12 are not required to pay school fees and only college students pay. However, they have a great opportunity to receive scholarships from various foundations.

But is most of the control of American public schools located in the hands of the state legislature? It seems not because most of the control is located in the district (where they are).

Each school district is determined by a small group of people called the school council. The school board is appointed by the local government so that it can be concluded that education in the United States actually has very strong local characteristics.

Classification of Schools

Schools are divided into three; elementary school, high school, and high school. Primary schools include kindergartens and grade 1 to 5; Middle school includes grades 6 through 8 and high school covers grades 9 through 12. On average, every child in the United States starts school at the age of 5.


On average high school students are required to participate in so-called courses. Mathematics, science, social sciences, foreign languages, and physical education are popular departments.

But of course, other departments such as music and acting are also provided. To note, the average course takes between one semester and two semesters.

Compulsory Education

But of course, there are things that are similar to what is applied by other countries. One is that compulsory education in the United States applies to every student in the age range of 5 years to 16 years or 18 years, depending on the state policy in which they are located.

According to the census eight years ago, nearly 90% of people aged over 25 were high school graduates. This figure is higher than most countries in the world.


Every student has the option to attend college two years before they enroll in a four-year university. Many people choose various community colleges because the fees paid tend to be much cheaper than if they register at universities. But college students have the opportunity to obtain an Associate degree.

University Admission Policy

This varies from one university to another. Most of them are based on Grade Point Average, SAT test scores, participation in extracurricular activities, essays and of course interviews.

University admission policies in the United States indirectly encourage people to use various online essay writing services such as EssayShark.

On the other hand, the scoring system is almost similar to what is applicable in other countries. From the above explanations, it can be concluded that the American education system works with stronger local characteristics.

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