In Britain all children have to go to school between the ages of 5 and 16. In the US children must go to school from the age of 6 to between the ages of 14 and 16, depending on the state they live in.
In England and Wales the subjects taught in schools are laid down by the National Curriculum(课程), which was introduced in 1988 and sets out(制定) in detail the subjects that children should study and the levels of achievement they should reach by the ages of 7, 11, 14 and 16, when they are tested. The National Curriculum does not apply in Scotland, where each school decides what subjects it will teach.
In the US the subjects taught are decided by national and local governments. Whereas British schools usually have prayers(祈祷) and religious(宗教的) instruction, American schools are not allowed to include prayers or to teach particular religious beliefs(信仰).
At 16 students in England and Wales take GCSE examinations. These examinations are taken by students of all levels of ability in any of a range of subjects and may involve a final examination, an assessment(评价) of work done during the two year course, or both of these things. At 18 some students taken A-level examinations, usually in not more than 3 subjects. It is necessary to have A-levels in order to go to a university or polytechnic(综合技术大学).
In Scotland students take the SCE examinations. A year later, they can take examinations called HIGHS, after which they can either go straight to a university or spend a further year at school and take the Certificate(证书) of Sixth Year Studies. In Scotland the university system is different to that in England and Wales. Courses usually last four years rather than three and students study a larger number of subjects as part of their degree.
In the US school examinations are not as important as they are in Britain. Students in High Schools do have exams at the end of their last two years, but these final exams are considered along with the work that the students have done during the school years.
Social Events and Ceremonies(仪式)
In American high schools there is a formal ceremony for Graduation (=completion of high school). Students wear a special cap and gown and receive a diploma(文凭) from the head of the school. Students often buy a class ring to ear, and a yearbook, containing pictures of their friends and teachers. There are also special social events at American schools. Sports events are popular, and cheer leaders lead the school in supporting the school team and singing the school song. At the end of their junior year, at age 17 or 18, students held in the evening. The girls wear long evening dresses and the boys wear TUXEDOS.
In Britain, there are no formal dances or social occasions(场合) associated(和...有关) with school life. Some schools have SPEECH DAY at the end of the school year when prizes are given to the best students and speeches are made by the head teacher and sometimes an invited guest. However, in many British schools students and teachers organize(组织) informal dances for the older students.