The UK Education System
Some schools and universities in the UK were founded many hundreds of years ago. Over the years many different schools and colleges have provided a high quality education, with schools having numerous diverse traditions. Many of the most famous schools are boarding schools that have become popular places for pupils from Mainland China and Hong Kong region to attend. These schools often have a religious tradition and also a tradition of high academic achievement. The school qualifications are widely recognised all around the world. Children leave these schools not only very well educated academically, but also well-prepared to live a fulfilling life as independent adults able to interact well with other people.
There are three school terms in primary and secondary schools every year. The school year starts in September and ends in June in the following year, with the first term lasting until December, ending before Christmas. The second term and the third term start in January and April. Pupils usually join a school at the start of the school year in September, but it is possible to join in January and April.
Pupils from outside the UK who live (board) at the school usually have to make arrangements to stay somewhere else during the holidays. Typically they return home for the longer holidays (e.g. Christmas, Easter and summer holiday) and arrange to stay somewhere during the half-term. Pupils under the age of 18 must have a named adult guardian in the UK.
It is also possible to arrange to stay with a host family and attend a school as a day pupil. This is usually an arrangement made for older pupils.
The UK education system is divided in three phases. Primary schooling is between the ages of 5 and 11. Secondary schooling is between the ages of 11 and 18, with major examinations at age 16 followed by a final two-year period when the teaching becomes more specialised. At age 16, pupils take the GCSE examination (General Certificate of Secondary Education). At age 18 pupils generally take the A-level examination (equivalent to the Hong Kong A-level), although in recent years an alternative called the IB (International Baccalaureate) has become quite popular. Admission to university will depend on the results achieved at A-level (or IB).