The Northern Light

Schools in the US versus in Europe: insights from a world traveler

Margaux Gendre, Staff Writer

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“What is the difference between the American education system and the European one? Are they both really that different from each other?” Those are very good questions that some people ask me when they learn that  I lived in Europe for 12 years and attended European schools.

I personally have experience with both the  French education system and the Irish education system. One of the biggest differences the American system has that I have noticed is the way the class schedule is set up. In the USA, at least in Michigan and the Portage Public School district, you have the same 7 classes everyday, and can change classes when a new semester starts.  In France, we had different classes scheduled for each day of the week, and we started and ended the school day at different times almost every day. For example, on Monday you could start at 8:30 with a double hour of math, have your English class, then lunch, which was over an hour long. After that, you might continue with Spanish and end with Geography at 3:15 pm. The following day could be completely different.

Another difference is the way assessments are graded. In France, your final semester grade is out of 20, and so are your final exams and baccalauréat (the French equivalent of high school final exams). You lose points on tests or if you didn’t do your homework, similar as the USA. It does feel less stressful as when you’re taking a test because you can remind yourself that it is graded out of only 20.

Apart from those differences, another peculiarity is the cost of college tuition. In the USA, the cost more than often reaches five digits, while in France it barely passes four. The average is around 3 digits for a school year. It makes it easier for young students to be able to achieve their dreams at an adorable cost. Seeing that the prices for university were so different was the most shocking to me.

Even though both systems are very different from one another and provide different opportunities, I embrace both of them because they both offer free k-12 education and teach many children. It is important for any child to be able to exercise their right of education and be taught how interesting this world truly is. Even though both models are different, they do meet that end goal.

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Schools in the US versus in Europe: insights from a world traveler