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Paul Sparks - Xiangtan University, Online Postgraduate (Phd Doctors) English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas...



Speaking Lesson: Discussion - British and Chinese Education Systems


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






Examples of Optional Subjects (chosen by students)





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:


Car Mechanic

Computer Technician


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

Training: 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!!! 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

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