American schools

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American schools






1Before University

 In the United States, there is no national ministry that controls the curriculum (le programme) of local schools. The Board of Education gathers information (rassemble des informations), advises (conseille), and helps finance certain educational programs. Each of the fifty states is free to determine the system of its own public schools. In 2001 the No Child Left Behind Act was adopted by the Congress. It mainly aims at improving the academic achievement of the disadvantaged.

 The approximate equivalents with the French system are:

  • Nursery school / kindergarten:école maternelle
  • Elementary school:école primaire
  • Junior high school:collège
  • Senior high school:lycée
  • 1st grade:première année d’école primaire (cp)
  • 6th grade:sixième
  • 11th / 12th grade:terminale

 Some subjects are mandatory, others are optional.

Mandatory subjects


mathematics, science, English, social sciences, physical education

computers, technical education, athletics, performing arts, foreign languages

Many states require a “health” course in which students learn about anatomy, nutrition, first aid, sexuality, drug awareness and birth control.

 The school day is divided into periods which last forty minutes. There are eight periods every day with a 20-minute break for lunch. After school, most kids have a sport practice, a club, rehearsal for a music ensemble or performance, or a part-time job.

 American kids don’t have anything like the baccalauréat; instead, they have the sats. The sats have a math section, a critical reading section, and a (new) writing section. Each section is worth 800 points, totaling 2400 points. These sat scores are sent to colleges along with a school transcript (a summary of all final grades in every class), an essay, and letters of recommendation from teachers.

2American Universities

Admission is based on several criteria: the student’s gpa (High school Grade Point Average), sat or act exam scores, a written essay, participation in extracurricular activities (activités périscolaires), and sometimes a personal interview.

 American undergraduate students will say they are going to school or going to college, which means they are attending university. A common question one student asks another is: “What is your major?” This means: “What is your major field of study (ta spécialité) ?”

 Undergraduate grades are: 1st year >freshman, 2nd year >sophomore, 3rd year >junior, 4th year >senior. After these four years of study, you get a bachelor’s degree. Graduate students pursue a master’s or doctoral degree.

 There are 4,495 colleges, universities, and junior colleges in the United States. Ivy League is the name generally applied to eight prestigious universities (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale) that over the years have had common interests in scholarship as well as in athletics. Other top universities include: the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Chicago University.

 Graduate tuition(les frais de scolarité) varies widely from state to state. Generally, private universities are more expensive than public universities. Tuition can vary from $15,000 to as high as $50,000. Note that it does not include room and board (logement et nourriture). Most students must rely on loans(prêts bancaires) and scholarships(bourses) to pay for tuition.

notez bien
  • have a college education:être diplômé de l’enseignement supérieur
  • go to college:faire des études supérieures
  • a tutor:un assistant
  • an associate professor:un maître de conférences
  • a full professor:un professeur titulaire