The British school system


Great Britain is known for having one of the strictest and discipline related school systems in the world, also with the previous physical punishment in mind. In other words, is the system costumed the pupils learning and personal development, both social and academic? Is it the best solution for the majority? To what extent does “discipline” play a role in the British school system?

Historic flashback

British schools, as schools in other countries had very strict and disciplined system in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For instant, the boarding schools from the early 20th centuries which including separated boy and girl schools, school uniforms and physical punishment. Even if the general British school system has been developed and changed some of the methods significantly, though the current system, more than other countries, is influenced by the old standard. However, since World War II, the schools have moved away from the physical punishment toward more humanely methods using both positive rewards and a variety of less coercive punishments, such as writing lines, doing chores or various restrictions.

Private and public school:

Why is there such a clear difference between the private and public school today, in terms of the excising discipline standards?
The private school has always had stiffer discipline than the public school. A definitive answer is hard to find. However a logical answer could be that the private system actually is based on a private drift with an independent responsibility. As a result of this, introduced stricter limits based on appearance and impression, to defend the school’s name and honor. For instant the teachers are most likely setting higher demands and expect more from the students in terms of the official school results. Since we associate school uniform with private school, school uniform could be used as a symbol for exclusivity and perhaps a way of express quality, discipline and that the school is well functioned.

The function of discipline:

A strict and conservative school system can be both good and bad, but depends on the point of view. First of all, the word discipline can be defined in many ways. According to an article (English school uniforms, chronological trends) about the English school system and discipline, is discipline an idea of training to act in accord with a set of rules and expectations. I think this definition is a suitable and precise definition. Some may think of punishment when they hear the word discipline, but it is more like a method to achieve discipline and make the student to act in order of the given rules and expectations.

However discipline can appear in different level. A dose of discipline is basically needed in the classroom, if not, teaching is almost impossible. When it comes to teaching the teacher has an important responsibility, even if the student is enforced to acquire knowledge mostly by their self. This is more important in the primary school than in the secondary school, because the students are certain more mature and independent.

In other words, discipline is important for the teacher and student relation. A balanced and mutual relationship between student and teacher means in my head that the teacher gets both respect and effort from the students while the student gets a good teaching and follow-up from the teacher. It includes a common goal in mind: improve the student’s academic abilities.

The ideal teacher

As mentioned earlier, to get this ideal situation, teacher got most of the power. The teacher has to have authority in the classroom and the way he or she is teaching, affair and strategies to continue knowledge has a lot to say. Teachers generally in Britain are known for having (especially in the private sector) it strict, and also a little excessive demands and expectations. This type of teacher is often expressing this desire with a lot of feelings, could be aggressive or just have a dominative and authoritarian expression. The method become’s more like frightening the students to learn. Some students can feel this a bit difficult. They don’t manage the pressure and all the up coming challenges. They often end up with a fear of getting punished by the teacher in addition to psychical problems. This is not just affecting the social situation but also the academic. According (Authoritarian discipline is not working) science is showing that a lot sanctions is not the key to achieve discipline.

On the other hand, many students feel comfortable with strict discipline and need “the push” to work and accomplish good results. It’s important to have some goals for the students to reach for and of course an effective type of development when it comes to learning.

Competition and learning- environment

Without considering the affection from the individual teacher, the school system is arranged so the pupils get classified after skills, already in a young age. This is facilitating the teaching when they specializing the classes by different levels. However I believe it’s creating an unhealthy competition between the students and also opens up for bullying. For they who gets placed in a week group it is not exactly the source to motivation. With out welfare, both social and academic, it is difficult to learn. A little more open and relaxed learning environment with room for creativity would be good for the student.

On the other hand, the school is in many ways a preparation for the reality and how to deal with possible challenges in the future. In this case to cope with competition is important, and therefore the equality principle between the students could be a little credulous. They with special abilities within diffrent subject, have to develop it and not limitations. Therefore accommodated teaching could be a good solution. Al though, the society needs to fill different positions.

Is the Britain existing type of discipline working for all students, today? I would say that in function the strict standard could be a disadvantage for the majority, perhaps an advantage for the smaller group. Several of the British students often end up diffrent issues, social and academic. Many are not completing secondary school, and some even in primary school. Still, Great Britain scores high in different international academic tests. I believe it would be better for the students to gather knowledge and develop in a less strict and conservative learning environment. The teacher should have authority and give the students a desire to learn instead of scare them to it.

My sources:

(“English school uniforms, chronological trends”)

(“Authoritarian discipline is not working”)

In what way has the main differences in the British and Norwegian school system had an impact on society?

Christina Ward

Education is extremely important for all societies, and the British and Norwegian government uses a lot of money every year to improve teaching and learning for students’. The Norwegian government uses approximately 100 billion Norwegian kroner’s every year on education alone, while Britain invests millions of pounds every year. This reflects on the growing expectations the governments have for younger generations. Nevertheless, it is not so surprising why they use such significant amount of money as education influences and reflects the values of society, and the kind of society that the government wants.

Both school systems share many common similarities, for instance choices of subjects and the curriculum, but they also have their differences. But in what way has these differences had an impact on each society? To find this out we have to take a look at the main differences which are the significance of qualifications, computer use, school uniforms and private schools, and then discuss the impact it has had on the society.


Education in Britain is free and any student that has been living in Britain for more than six months can attend school. However, the educational system in Britain differs from the 4 countries of United Kingdom as they have separate school systems under separate governments. Though there are a lot of similarities between especially the English, Welsh and Northern Ireland school system.

Education is compulsory until the age of 16, and children can start at 4 or 5 depending on the childes birthday. This system is rather unique from any other school system as it depends on if their birthday is in proportion to the 31st of August. If a child is born after the 31st of August they start school the following year and if the child is born before the 31st of August they start school the same year. However Scotland is an exception as all students have to attend 7 years of primary education and 4 years of secondary school.

Parents have the choice between private schools, also referred to as Independent schools in Britain, and public schools. After 16 there is a choice between vocational studies (equivalent to ‘’Studiespesialisering’’) and college (equivalent to ''yrkesfag''). In order to get into higher education, most universities or university colleges require a certain amount of GCSEs and A-levels.


In Norway, primary- and secondary education comprises 10 years and is compulsory for all ages between 6 and 16 years old. Though, in some cases children may start primary education at 5 years old depending on when they went to nursery school. Commonly, students have to change to a secondary school when finished primary school, as many of Norwegian schools only offers one level.

Students can choose between private and public schools. Public schools are obviously free, which means that all tuition books are paid for by the government. While private schools charge a fee and the fees are expectedly high as Norway was ranked the world’s fifth most expensive country to live in. In order to study higher education a students average grade points that are calculated at the end of the school year. Therefore, you have to receive a certain amount of points to study at a desired college university/university.

The first main difference can be found in the significance of qualifications for further education. In order to carry on with education at 16 in Britain, you have to pass at least three exams, if not you have to retake the last year of secondary school and the exams. While in Norway, if you get a minimum of two in every subject you can proceed to further education, either it is college or vocational studies. Though, many studies require a minimum average grade point in order to get in, and therefore all the work in the last year of secondary level is aimed towards getting good grade average points.

Advantage and a disadvantage

Both rules for further education are an advantage and a disadvantage for their respective societies. For instance, the British society will most likely be secured with more qualified people to fill positions* in the future since it is obviously the ones that are interested in some sort of education that continues with their studies. Norway’s system has also had a positive impact on the society as little as 1 out of 3 students’ drop out of college or vocational studies before completing. In addition, students will most likely carry on with further education since the requirements to do so is low.

Although, the GCSE exams are most likely the reason why the drop out rates in Britain have been increasing. According to recent studies Britain has the worst drop out rates for any developed country. This has to do with the GCSE exams because it must be difficult for students, especially those who are not interested or good at school to retake three exams until they are passed. Therefore, they would choose the easiest way out – dropping out of school. High drop out rates have also
left young Britons more vulnerable to the effects of recession since they are more youngsters without jobs, in addition it may also have an affect on Britain’s crime rate in the long run as studies show that lower education leads to crime as it is normal that lower education results in lower paid jobs, and people will therefore turn to crime to make easy money.

School uniforms

Norwegian students are not required to wear school uniforms, but of course there are some basic limits for what to wear. Girls are not allowed to wear skirts or dresses that are too short, thongs are not allowed to be shown and boys are not allowed to show their boxers or go topless. However, whether these rules are followed is questionable as many schools do not consider this a problem.

Schools in Britain have stuck to their traditional ways when it comes to school uniforms. All schools have their own uniform policy, and it is up to each school to decide the color scheme, pattern, outfit and cost. Though, schools have to take cost into consideration so parents will be able to send their children to a school of their choice without being stopped by costs.

Good for society?

School uniforms are definitely good for the British society, but bad for the Norwegian one. Since all students are dressed the same, no one will stand out and the contrast between the wealthy and the less wealthy students will not be visible. This will result in possibly less bullying and taunting as students’
get bullied for their clothes as well as their families wealth. If there is less bullying in society this will result in people having higher self confidence, which will affect the working life positively in the future. Bullying can result in depression for many young people as they get older, and there will therefore be less people with mental illness which means healthier people in the working life and also less people on social benefits which will strengthen the countries economy. Overall, school uniforms are a great asset to any society as it eliminates the material differences.

Computer use

The amount of time and how they use computers for learning and education is significantly different in the two school systems. Secondary students do use computers occasionally in the lesson or for assignments, but it is upper secondary students (College or vocational studies) that use it very often. In 2008, most Norwegian students received a free laptop, though some schools charged a small fee, and the laptops are used in most of the classes as the government thinks using laptops and the internet will help improve students’ achievements.

However, the use of computers in Norwegian schools have not gone as planned according to ‘’Kunnskapsdepartemente’’. Apparently schools in Norway have a lot of unused ICT equipment which means a lot of wasted money. Even though many upper secondary level students got their own laptop to use for school work, many students’ in Hordaland have complained about using laptops during lessons because it makes them unfocused as most of their time is spent on the social networking site Facebook, chat or playing video games. Therefore, perhaps it is better that Norway have some unused ICT equipment?
Of course the government is wasting millions of Kroner’s on ‘’unused’’ ICT equipment, but the use of laptops will most likely have a negative effect on student’s grades as Facebook and other leisure’s are very hard to resist.

But how will using the laptop for homework and using it at school everyday improve students’ grades? Of course students may be on Facebook or chat instead of doing school work, but using information from the internet is not always good. This is because many students use information from Wikipedia without even understanding or being critical to what they are writing. Now, if a student gets the information from a text book that is written by an experienced teacher and one that understands how to explain and present the material in a logical context, he or she will learn more than if you cut, paste and reword some content onto a Word document. Computer use will generally have a negative affect on the Norwegian society because students will become dependant of technology and therefore probably forget how to think and work things out for them selves, and will also start to rely on the internet rather than paying attention in class. This could harm society because students will become academically weaker which will affect the amount of educated people negatively.

On the other hand, British schools are quite positive for use of computers, but they are not as accustomed to them as the Norwegian students are. They do not have a laptop each and if computers are used in lessons it is often structured around that particular lesson. According to a survey that involved 500 secondary students, approximately 37 percent of secondary level pupils use the computer for homework every day, while the remaining use it once a week.
The government is interested in increasing the use of computers for homework as they believe it will help with learning and teaching, but in order to do this they have to consider the one million people in Britain who is left without internet connection and a laptop. Therefore, the government will be giving 270,000 laptops with free broadband to low income families.

But is the British government wasting money too? According to recent studies by BECTA general level use of computers does not improve a student’s achievements, but there will be positive results if the ICT is planned, structured and integrated effectively. Unless the schools integrate a system that monitors what each student does in class, I do not see how the use of computers can be effective for learning and teaching.

However, the amount of time British students spend on computers is actually good. British students will be less dependant on technology since British students are still doing everything by hand, but using laptops occasionally at school and to do homework. Their brain will not become lazy because they do not rely on information from the internet or the internet to answer their questions. This will result in students becoming academically better because they have information from the internet to help them with homework, but at the same time they still use text books a significant amount of the time and this means better educated people in society.

Private schools

Private schools are popular amongst parents that want to give their children a better education and most of the students come from middle- and upper class families. In Norway approximately 2 percent of the population attends them, while a staggering 24.5 percent of Britons attend private schools that are referred to as independent schools in Britain. Private schools seem to be quite popular especially amongst the British population, what makes them so attractive? Private schools can decide their own education philosophy; for instance in public schools sex education is compulsory, but since private schools does not have to follow the curriculum it is up to students if they want to teach it or not, classes are smaller and graduation rates are higher than public schools. Private schools have better qualities than public schools obviously because that is what parents pay for and expect. But, separating the lower class from the middle- and upper class must have a negative effect on society.

Social class segregation

Social class segregation is alive in all societies, but it is more visible in some than others. Private schools encourage social class segregation because they charge admission fees which divides the population into the wealthy and the less wealthy, and they apparently offer ‘’better’’ education than public schools. For instance, if you have a low-class student and a middle-class student in Norway and both want to attend a public school. Who do you think would start at one? Obviously it is natural to think that the lower class student would not be able to attend a private school because of the fees. Do not misunderstand me; this is the case for many students, but not Norwegian students. The government offers loans and grants to pay admission fees for students and everyone is eligible for financial support, but how much each student receives depends on the wealth and income of the parents. Therefore the government eliminates a lot of segregation by offering financial support to all students even those who have money, and no matter what, lower class students will have just as good chance as a middle or upper class student to go to a private school.

Unfortunately, social class segregation is more visible in the British society because it is a lot more difficult to receive financial support. Many independent schools offer bursaries, a grant, and scholarships. However, most scholarships have little value because only a small amount of the fee will be reduced, probably a couple of percent, and they are given based on a students academic performance. Though, bursaries are much more helpful since they cover some of the fee and are not dependant on the student’s academic performance, but they are only given to students whose parents have very low income. This is the reason why social class segregation is more visible in Britain because it is a lot harder for lower class students to receive financial support. If lower class students were given a better chance, in this case easier terms for receiving bursaries, the division between the social classes would not be so clear.


How has the main differences between the British and Norwegian school system had and have an impact on the society?
The first main difference was the significance of qualifications. The difference between the two school systems was that it was harder for British students to study for further education than Norwegian students. And this difference has most definitely affected the British society negatively than the Norwegian one as it has led higher drop out rates. Britain should follow the Norwegian system since it has proven to have affected society positively because of a decrease in drop put rates.

However, because British students are still required to wear school uniforms it has demolished the material differences that in many cases lead to bullying, and will strengthen the British society because of that. The amount of time students’ use on their computers at home and school is also better in Britain than Norway, but only if it is used sensibly by schools monitoring what every student is on during class. If schools are in doubt, perhaps they should take a look at what negative outcome use of laptops in class has led to in Norway? Since laptops are used twenty-four-seven in Norway it will probably lead to students performing bad at school because of the distractions the internet has to offer, like Facebook.

Last but not least, private schools has definitely made a better impact on the Norwegian society than the British society because social class segregation is less visible in Norway as all students, particularly low income families, are given grants and loans to pay admission fees. While in Britain, since it is very difficult to receive financial aid and every student only receives a small amount, only middle and upper class students will have the opportunity to attend private schools which has led to private schools contributing to social class segregation.


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