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USA Education in Brief

USA Education in Brief

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Published by sierra_ts

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Published by: sierra_ts on Oct 28, 2008
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Bureau of InternatIonal InformatIon Programsu.s. DePartment of statehp://www.ic.v/
ll societies must wrestle with undamental questionsabout the nature and purpose o their educationalsystem, but the United States was the rst nation to ace thesequestions as a democracy.Early on, Americans understood that their uture as a reepeople rested upon their own wisdom and judgment, and notthat o some distant ruler. For this reason, the quality, character,and costs o education have remained among the country’scentral preoccupations since its ounding.Educational institutions o all types and sizes, rom nurseryschools to advanced research institutions, populate theAmerican landscape. Public schools have been described asthe nation’s most amiliar government institutions. Whethercommunities are poor or auent, urban or rural, public schoolsare a common denominator throughout the United States.From their origins two centuries ago through today,America’s public and private schools have served to dene
the American identity. Every national experience shaping theAmerican character has been played out in its classrooms: raceand treatment o minorities, immigration and growth o cities,westward expansion and economic growth, individual reedomand the nature o community.Fundamental questions about the purpose and methods o education have resonated in public debates in the United Statesrom the “common school” movement o the early 19th centuryto debates over academic standards and testing today.Should schools emphasize basic skills — reading, writing,and mathematics — or provide a broad education in the liberalarts and sciences? How can schools provide equal access toall yet maintain high academic standards? Who should payor schools — parents or the public? Should schools ocus onpractical, job-oriented skills, or give all children the academiccourses necessary to succeed in college? How should teachersimpart moral and spiritual values to the children o dierentcultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds? What criteria shouldbe used or selecting secondary school students or admissionto prestigious colleges and universities? The answers to these questions are not easy, and, in act,schools in the United States have answered them in verydierent ways at dierent times in the nation’s history. Today, asin the past, education remains a topic o vigorous debate, rapidchange, and enduring values.
International Baccalaureatestudents in Washington staterespond to a science question.
Structure of U.S. Education
or someone rom another country, the U.S. educationalsystem understandably appears large and varied, evenchaotic. Within this complexity, however, American educationreects the history, culture, and values o the changing countryitsel. From a broad perspective, the American educationalsystem can be characterized by its large size, organizationalstructure, marked decentralization, and increasing diversity.
Schools in the United States — public and private,elementary and secondary, state universities and privatecolleges — can be ound everywhere, and the United Statescontinues to operate one o the largest universal educationsystems in the world. More than 75 million children and adultswere enrolled in U.S. schools and colleges in the 2005-2006academic year, according to the National Center or EducationStatistics. Another 6.8 million were employed as teachers,teaching kindergarten through college.In addition, more than a million preschool children romlow-income amilies, usually ages three and our, attendHead Start programs designed to provide learning, socialdevelopment, and nutrition programs to ensure that thesepreschoolers will be ready or school at age ve or six.Public school enrollments grew exponentially during thepost-World War II “baby boom” generation (usually dened asthose born rom 1946 to 1964). Ater a drop-o in the 1980s,enrollments have rebounded strongly, largely as a result o growing Hispanic populations, according to the latest U.S.Census Bureau reports. The U.S. educational system today comprises almost96,000 public elementary and secondary schools, plus morethan 4,200 institutions o higher learning, ranging rom small,
Students experimenting with hydraulics in a vocational class.

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