Scotland's Education System
Scottish schools and universities are quite different from those found in other parts of the United Kingdom. Scotland has a long history of distinctive, good quality education and institutions such as the School of St Andrews have become world famous for the age-old role that they have played in the history of premier Scottish Education. Education really started to take the shape of a formalized system in Scotland during the medieval period when Roman Catholic churches organized schooling in the country. Although times have changed and the majority of churches today are inter-denominational a number of Roman Catholic schools still exist in Scotland.
Early church schools placed emphasis on grammar and singing and some time later the foundation of the Universities of St Andrews, Glasgow and Aberdeen in the 1400s resulted in the start of compulsory education for the eldest sons of nobles. Scottish Schools in the 17th century were really advanced compared to other countries and not only provided basic education such as the learning literacy and arithmetic but included religious instruction, the learning of Latin and physical education. Schooling was divided into different phases where primary and secondary tuition was offered and children attended school for six days a week, for between ten to twelve hours a day. By the 18th century, additional subjects such as medical sciences were added to the curriculum. School only became compulsory in 1872 but before this most parents did their utmost to ensure that their children could at the very least read, write and count. The development of this new compulsory education legislation resulted in a number of new schools being built and greater subsidization. This meant that more children were able to get an education though most parents still had to pay school fees. Today all children in Scotland attend school until the age of fourteen or sixteen after which they may choose to pursue further education.
One of the main differences between the Scottish Education System and the systems followed by England, Wales and Ireland are that the Scottish System prefers to focus on a broad range of subjects, while the other systems provide more depth on fewer subjects. Another noteworthy fact is that the courses offered at Scottish universities generally last a year longer than similar courses in other parts of the UK though it is possible to skip the first year of education by writing a number of specialized exams. The schools are owned and operated by local authorities and youths must attend both primary school and secondary (high) school. All education is regulated by a governmental body which ensures that the standard of education is kept at a high level and that all education follows a set course. Regular inspections and audits are conducted with regards to this.
The average child may start primary school between the ages of four and a half or five and a half years. Those older than three, but younger than four and a half, usually attend nursery school. At the age of eleven or twelve they will start secondary school of which the first four years is compulsory. In secondary school pupils may write exams on as many as eight different subjects and they also have to perform two hours of physical education a week. After the completion of standard grade, many students continue to study for Access, Intermediate or Higher Grade exams which will enable them to enroll in a university.