The United States has the most diverse education system in the world, with public and private institutions (the word “school” is used from kindergarten through college) at all levels.
Americans of all ages have an insatiable appetite for education and betterment, and no society has ever persisted and spent more on educating its young people than the United States. About 85% of students finish high school, and the country has the highest percentage of young graduates in the world (about 55%). Many American universities and other institutions of higher education are internationally recognized (the country has the best university system), and each year welcome thousands of foreign students from all over the world.
Full-time education is compulsory in all states, including for children of foreign nationals residing in the United States permanently or not for a minimum of one year. However, the acceptance of foreign children in public schools depends on the type and duration of the visa obtained by the parents, and refusals are sometimes possible. School is compulsory from age 8 to 13 (depending on the state) and normally begins at age 6 or 7 and continues until age 16 or 18. An American receives an average of 12 years of education, although this average drops in rural areas and small towns (without universities), and increases in metropolitan areas.
Private and public schools in the United States
In the United States, there is no federal education system, and each state and region is responsible for the education provided. This is why the level and requirements of education vary so much between states and regions. Public primary and secondary schools are free and attended by approximately 90% of students. The remaining 10% go to fee-paying private school, often sponsored by the Church (generally Roman Catholic). Most schools (from kindergarten to high school) are mixed, and the children go home in the evening.
There are also private schools with boarding schools which are often mixed, even if there are still separate ones. More and more children are being home-schooled (a 15% increase per year), and an estimated 2-3 million Americans (3% of school-aged children) are educated by their parents at home or in community classes.
Formal education comprises three levels: elementary, secondary and higher. Vocational training, adult education and special schools are also part of the education program in the majority of states. Many states and communities provide special schools and classes for children with special learning needs, such as emotional or behavioral problems, moderate or severe learning disabilities, communication difficulties, hearing or physical disabilities. There are also private schools dedicated to gifted or very talented children, and many public schools or programs for gifted children.
Separation of religion and state
The US Constitution stipulates the separation of religion and state and prohibits religious practices in public schools (although some regions plan to reinstate prayer in the classroom), but in many schools children must still participate in the pledge of allegiance to the American flag each morning. With some exceptions of some private or parochial schools, uniforms are rare, although they are gaining popularity in public schools in major cities.
A rather unique aspect of the education system in the United States is that parent involvement is not only tolerated, it is encouraged by Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and Home School Associations (Home and School Association or HSA). PTAs and HSAs meet regularly and discuss topics such as curriculum, buildings, schedules, and extracurricular activities. Parents are invited to attend the meetings and show their interest in the school and the education of their children (it is also a good solution to make new acquaintances). Schools also organize parent-teacher days and meetings, and back-to-school evenings where parents can meet teachers and learn about timetables.
Education requirements in the United States
Over the past fifteen years, there have been many debates on the decline in the requirements and the number of successes of American students, particularly in relation to students from other industrialized countries such as Germany and Japan (and even Korea and Taiwan). In tests taken by American and foreign students, the United States did not