education in great britain: schools
in britain it is compulsory for everyone between the ages of 5 and 16 years to receive some officially recognized form of schooling, though most secondary schools continue to provide education until the age of 18.
the vast majority of pupils attend state schools, which are absolutely free (including all text books and exercise books), but there are also about 500 private schools providing secondary education. the most famous of these schools are eton and harrow.
there is no statutory age at which students change from primary to secondary school, nor are schools "specialized" — pupils choose from the numerous subjects taught in their particular school.
the recently introduced national curriculum has made it compulsory, however, for three core subjects — english, mathematics, and science — and seven other foundation subjects — technology (including design), history, geography, music, art, physical education, and a modern foreign language — to be included in the curricula of all pupils.
passage from one academic year to the next is automatic. after a two-year course, usually from 14 to 16 years of age, most pupils take their general certificate of secondary education (gcse), assessed on the basis of a mixture of course work and a written examination, in individual subjects.
pupils obtaining at least five passes at gcse can then specialize for two years (usually from16 to 18 years of age) in two or three subjects, in which they take the general certificate of education advanced level (a-level) examination. this is used as an entrance qualification for university (minimum two passes) and other types of higher education, as well as for many forms of professional training.
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