Education is a subject about which many British people care deeply. Most believe that the state should provide education free of charge and to a high standard. At election time, politicians who promise to spend more on education are popular with voters. Recently, there has been a lot of debate about students having to pay their own fees at university, as well as well as their living expenses. Some people are afraid that poorer students will not receive enough financial help and will be discouraged from going on to higher education.
In Britain, education is decentralized. Apart from schools which are supported and publicly maintained, there are also the so-called "public schools" which are independent and which charge high fees for studying.
Education in Britain is obligatory between the ages of five and fifteen. At the age of five, children go to Infant School. At the age of eleven children take the so-called "eleven plus" examination, determining which type of secondary school they will attend. However, this early selection has been strongly criticized and that is why many comprehensive schools have been set up, to exclude this stressful examination.
There are three types of secondary schools in Britain. Children may go to grammar schools, secondary modern schools and secondary technical schools. Only about 25 per-cent of the pupils attend grammar schools. They provide education of an academic type and many students go on to university upon graduation. More children go to secondary modern schools which give a general but also more practical education.
Many pupils leave school at the age of fifteen but others stay on until they are sixteen. Most grammar school children stay at school until the age of seventeen or eighteen. Upon leaving, pupils may take an examination for the General Certificate of Education. It consists of two levels 0-level (ordinary), usually taken at the age of sixte…