Shefali Singh, who used to live in Shaw, described spending 6 months at school in India in the January 2012 Swindon Link magazine, comparing the experience to attending school in England.
In September she moved with her parents to Chicago. Here she contrasts a different education system.
The first thing that strikes you is the lack of a uniform. Entering Naperville Central High feels like walking into an airport departures lounge.
Not only are there over 3,000 people, each and everyone of them creatively expresses themselves through their clothing.
The clothing rules aren’t strict at all, and as long as you are wearing items that can’t be considered harmful or offensive, you can wear it.
Discrimination, racism and any form of bullying are dealt with very severely and there is an online ‘tip’ system that allows students to anonymously tell school officials about any harassment going on.
In such a huge institution counsellors in a large student services department work with each child to help them plan their courses and life after high school. There are also people called deans, who you usually go to when you’re either in trouble or are feeling troubled.
Large choice of courses on offer
The way a student chooses their classes or courses is also very different to England. There are some basic graduation requirements, such as completing four years of English and at least three years of Maths, but otherwise, a student is free to pick their courses from a huge book that lists a very wide range of classes.
There are eight periods in a day, one of which is lunch, and we have PE every day. We can also choose an extra-curricular activity which takes up our last period. I’ve chosen drawing this year and plan to take lifeguard training next.
Every grade helps earn marks
Grades are also a huge deal in America. Whereas in England, the only grades that really seem to matter are your GCSEs and A Levels, in High School each and every grade helps you earn marks.
For example a 15 out of 20 on a homework assignment counts towards your collective grade, whilst certain parts of a course carry more weight than others. Homework is only worth 5 per cent of the overall grade, but tests and quizzes are worth 95 per cent.
The grades in all of your classes are then converted to a four point scale, where an A is worth 4 points and D is worth one. These are then averaged to calculate your GPA or Grade Point Average. This is absolutely crucial as it’s the first thing colleges look at on your application.
Overall, I find school is quite a lot harder in America, but that’s probably because of the fact that I’ve chosen to take more challenging classes.
That’s another thing about school in America, not only can you choose your courses but also the difficulty to suit what you think you’re capable of.
And going to college for two years or university for four years at age 18 is an expectation of all high school graduates.