The ten keys to education in the UK [Infographic]

UK performance in PISA and other international assessments remains good, although they have slightly worsened in recent years. In addition, the country has a very prestigious higher education, and the data from the Education at a glance study  by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) place it among new the ten most educated nations in the world. But does its educational system actually have something to do with the British cultural level? We analyze its main characteristics and highlight the ten keys to education in the United Kingdom to try to discover it.


  1. 1. Education is compulsory and free . Regulated education ranges from 5 to 16 years old, although most students continue until they are 18 years old. Primary goes from 5 to 11 years old and secondary from 11 to 16 years old (from 12 to 16 years old in Scotland). There are independent, private fee-paying centers, but all UK pupils have access to a high-quality free education .
  2. 2. There are slight differences between the educational systems of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Although the educational structure and contents are similar throughout the country, England and Wales follow the National Curriculum , updated in 2014, which gives guidelines and specifies the subjects to be taken between 5 and 16 years of age and which is applied in schools. public schoolchildren. Independent, privately run centers are subject to regular inspections, as they do not have to follow the National Curriculum in detail, but must demonstrate that they offer complete and adequate training. The Northern Ireland Curriculum  is adapted from the National. In Scotland they have their own Curriculum for Excellence, which was implemented in the 2010-2011 academic year and covers ages 3 to 18.
  3. 3. In secondary school, students are given freedom of choice of subjects. During the first years, the Curriculum establishes a large number of subjects, all of them compulsory, which are adapted at each level. However, from the age of 14, students prepare for the national exams (GCSE or CSE in Scotland) and study three common subjects (English, Mathematics and Science) and other optional ones, to choose from among multiple subjects: Computer Science, Education Physics, Civics, Arts, Design and technology, Humanities, Foreign languages… Students can take a minimum of 5 subjects or up to 10 or 12 subjects, depending on their abilities and choices. Afterwards, they must choose again between pursuing academic training, which will lead them to university, or opting for vocational training, more practical and focused on access to work.
  4. 4. It is committed to creativity, autonomy and interactivity. The student is given the freedom to innovate, experiment with their own media and display their creativity in the classroom. Research, both individually and collectively, collaborative work and carrying out projects are common. Interactivity in class is also valued and the teacher encourages the student to express his ideas to his classmates and participate in activities, debates or contests. The goal is for learning to directly involve students and have a fun component.
  5. 5. Documentation and research are encouraged and plagiarism is pursued. The United Kingdom has new some of the best digitized documentary collections on all kinds of subjects (art, culture, media, history, science, society etc.) and makes its archives available to its students free and open, so that use them in your research and projects. It is an extensive and very useful source of information, especially for high school and college students. Along the same lines, great importance is given to respecting the author and his work, so plagiarism is highly punished and can mean failure of the subject .
  6. 6. Investment in education is above the European average. Investment in education in the United Kingdom has grown exponentially, reaching 6.15% of GDP in 2010. The most recent official data, provided by Eurostat  and corresponding to 2011, places the percentage of investment in education in the United Kingdom at 5 98% of GDP (compared to 5.25% of the average for the European Union or 4.82% for Spain, for example).
  7. 7. A high percentage of the population continues post-compulsory secondary education, about 50% go to university and high education has an impact on salaries. A high percentage of the British population complete post-compulsory academic or vocational secondary education: 78% of adults aged 25-64 (80% of men, 76% of women) have completed upper secondary education, compared with 75% of the OECD average; in the young population the percentage exceeds 90%. Access to university is close to 50%, although the data reveals that one in two young British women has a university degree. Furthermore, 43% of women complete higher education, compared to 41% of men. The educational level later translates into a great difference in terms of salaries: an adult without upper secondary education earns 70% of what someone who does have this training receives. This rate is one of the new highest among OECD countries.
  8. 8. The academic level of higher education is very good. A study published last year by the Pearson publishing house indicates that the United Kingdom improves greatly in the ranking of educational results if data from higher education is taken into account . The high quality of these educational levels attracts many international students who come to the country for higher studies (17% of all students are foreigners), which in turn contributes to improving the educational, economic and cultural level of the United Kingdom .
  9. 9. Sex Education and Religion are compulsory subjects, although the decision of the families is respected. The National Curriculum of England and Wales establishes a subject of Sexual and affective education and another of Religion that are compulsory taught in all state centers from the age of 11, although they do not have to evaluate them. In the case of religious education, state schools must follow the curriculum established by the corresponding local authority, which ensures that the subject is representative of the majority beliefs of the region .
  10. In any case, families have the right to withdraw their children from these classes if they do not want them to attend them. In Sex Education there is a compulsory part, for all students, which is generally part of the Science class. In Scotland there are also two compulsory areas of the Curriculum: Moral and Religious Education and Health and Well-being (which includes a section on ‘Relationships, sexual health and parenthood’).
  11. 10. Uniforms are used in almost all schools. The use of the school uniform is widespread in most schools, whether private or public. The objective of this practice is to promote the identity of each school and pride of belonging to the group, promote discipline and ensure that all children feel equal and integrated without suffering social pressure for the type of clothing. Each school chooses its own, although they are usually similar, and their affordable price is taken into account, and that they are not discriminatory based on sex or offensive towards any belief or religion.