The educational system of all the schools in America is greatly influenced by the public which accounts for differences in the nature of education. In different states the educational system, duration of education, curriculum and programmes are different according to the traditions of the people of respective states.
In the educational system of some states, old traditions are followed and in others, new schemes and traditions are well-adapted. The differences existing in different aspects of education are as follows.
Duration of Education and Classification:
The American educational system was established on the basis of old traditions, but the educational systems are being renovated in the light of modern researches and in accordance with development of new projects.
Though the new schemes also cater to the needs of local people, even then differences exist according to the levels of different social classes. In these schools, no national or state-wise system is prevalent regarding formulation of educational policy and curriculum construction.
In U.S.A., generally children of 6 to 8 years of age continue primary education upto the age of 12 or 14 years. But this system has been changed in some states due to introduction of new schemes of primary education. Thus two types of schools exist.
In one type of schools, children are admitted at the age of 6 and they are taught upto the age 14 years. At some places these eight years of study are considered as the graded classes of primary stage.
At other places the first three classes are considered equivalent to kindergarten education. Classes IV, V & VI constitute the primary stage and classes VII & VIII are regarded as the classes of junior secondary standard.
These schools are regarded as traditional schools. In the schools of the second type children of 6 to 8 years of age are admitted and they are taught for six years. In this way six classes of six years constitute the primary stage and classes VII & VIII are attached to secondary education stage.
The first two or three classes of the six years of study are regarded as equivalent to kindergarten education and remaining form the primary education stage. These schools are based on new schemes.
Generally American schools have five working days in a week. The programme of a working day continues for 5 or 5 1/2 hours, i.e., from 9 a.m. to 12 o’clock and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
In lower classes, the duration of working hours is reduced to 4 or 4 1/2 hours. The number of working days in one year also differs not only in schools of different states but also in different schools of the same state.
The number of working days ranges between 152 and 187 days. Upto 1950 the average number of working days throughout U.S.A. was 180. Later an attempt was made to create uniformity in all the states. Even in the duration of teaching periods there were wide differences.
It was decided to have periods of 15 to 30 minutes duration and 25 or 30 teaching periods per week. It was also decided that there should be at least 171 working days in a year.
However, some differences do exist even now due to the influence of local environment. In village schools, the number of working days per year is less as compared to those in urban schools and periods in lower classes are shorter than periods in higher classes.
The Compulsory and Universal Aspect of Education:
In U.S.A. primary education is universal, compulsory and free. According to statistics collected in 1930, 63.3 per cent children of 6 years and 95.3 per cent children in the age group of 7 to 13 years were attending primary schools.
But due to regular decrease in the birth rate, the number of students in primary schools declined significantly from 1930 to 1936.
This decrease was noticed mainly in lower classes whereas upto 1934, there was progressive increase in the number of students in higher classes. But from 1934 to 1936, the decrease was noticed.
In comparison to 4.2 per cent decrease within a period of six years, i.e., from 1930 to 1936, there was 1.8 per cent decrease in two years only, i.e., from 1934 to 1936.
But as soon as the Second World War was over, there was sudden increase in the birth rate, which forced the local people and Govt, to work hard for the expansion of education. To meet this demand, single teacher schools were established and single-room-schools were fully converted into primary schools.
Seeing that the enrolment in schools was very low, the compulsory attendance act was enacted in 1918 and it was strictly observed. Various states and public organizations endeavoured to expand educational as well as transport facilities.
As a result, education became compulsory and universal. In the eight classes of primary schools, attendance of children in the age group of 7 to 17 is compulsory in 33 states of U.S.A.
According to the Supreme Court judgement delivered in 1954, no discrimination of class or colour can be observed in schools. However, in Western Virginia separate schools for whites and blacks exist even now due to discrimination between the two.
Curricula and Educational Programmes:
In U.S.A., the general aim of primary education is to prepare worthy citizens. In democratic states the main aim of education is to develop the feeling of citizenship in students and the curriculum of schools is framed accordingly.
By the nineteenth century, the only aim of education was to provide instruction in 3 Rs (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic).
But since the beginning of the twentieth century, an effort was made for all-round development of children and thus a new programme of studies was framed. At that time spelling, grammar, literature, composition, music, history, geography, elementary science, psychology health education, etc., were the main subject taught along with instruction in 3 Rs. Now 5 Rs have replaced 3 Rs and Reading, Writing, Arithmetic,
Relationship and Recreation have been included in the curriculum. Now-a-days, special stress is laid on the training of social character. New criteria of determining the curriculum for the training of social character and development of citizenship has been adopted.
Local public and State Governments both are active in the construction of curriculum and administration of schools. Local Boards in urban areas have more facilities than those in rural areas.
In rural areas State Governments enforce the curriculum, so, there is naturally some interference by the government from administrative point of view. The curriculum of American primary schools is being revised and modified as a result of psychological developments and research.
American educationists base the curriculum on practice of subject, training and projects of educational developments. These developed curricula cannot be enforced in each and every school. Even then, they have sufficiently contributed to subject matter organization and are being used to achieve the desired success.
Publishers of text books also give some help in the development of curriculum. They prepare text books according to modified and developed schemes. Their interest in education is clearly visible in their publications.
Americans have great faith in secularism. They are not in favour of making religious education a part of curriculum. They believe in imparting religious and moral instructions for the sake of developing human qualities only.