In this essay I would like to consider how adult literacy is becoming a problem in regards to getting jobs and additional training for employment for American people today.
As a fact, literacy goes beyond reading, writing and counting; it also includes communication skills, critical thinking, active citizenship, human rights and improving the quality of life. The process of learning throughout life implies the inclusion of literacy and adult education activities of all sub-sectors of education, from education programs of children in early childhood and ending with the programs, both formal and informal of adult education.
It should be noted that education in the U.S. is controlled and funded at three levels: federal government, state and local authorities. Higher education is mainly private, which attract students and postgraduates from all over the world. The literacy rate in the U.S. is 97%, but according to the 2008 census, only 84.6% of people of 25 years and older have high school education. As a fact, 52.5% of the people have higher education, and 27.3% have bachelor’s degree. In the U.S. there are no strict federal standards for schools. Accredited universities and private organizations in each state have laws to deal with non-accredited universities, which award a diploma for a fee, representing significant problems.
It can be said that continuity and age for compulsory education vary by state. Children start school at the age of 5 – 8 years old and finish school at the age of 14 – 18 years old. At the age of 5 years old American children go to elementary school. As a fact, elementary school is not mandatory in some states. Nevertheless, almost all American children attend kindergarten, which is called preschool. Primary school lasts until the fifth or sixth grade (depending on the school district), then students attend a middle school, which ends in the eighth grade. High school includes classes from ninth to twelfth, so that ordinary Americans complete their secondary education in 18 years. Those who have received secondary education can enroll in community colleges and after two years of study, get an associate’s degree, which is comparable with the average vocational education. Another opportunity to continue learning – enroll in colleges or universities, usually for four years, and receive a bachelor’s degree. After receiving bachelor’s degree, student can continue studies further to obtain master’s degree (2-3 years) or Ph.D. (3 years or more).
In this part of the essay I would like to consider primary and secondary education. Free public schools are controlled mainly by democratically elected school boards, each of which has jurisdiction over the school district, whose boundaries often coincide with the boundaries of the county or city, and contain one or more schools of each level. School boards set the school curriculum, hire teachers and determine the funding programs. As a rule, each state regulates education within its borders, setting standards of education. Financing of the State’s schools is often determined by how performance of their students on exams improved. Money for schools is sourced mainly from local (municipal) property taxes, so that the quality of schools depends heavily on house prices and how much tax the parents are willing to pay for good schools. Often this leads to a vicious circle. In the district, where schools have earned a good reputation and bring together parents, seeking to give children a good education home prices are growing, and the combination of money and committed of parents ups school to an even higher level. The converse happens on the other end of the spectrum, in poor areas of so-called “inner city”.
It can be said that some large school districts establish a “magnet school” for especially talented children in their jurisdiction. Sometimes in one district there will be several such schools, separated by specialty: technical school or schools for children, who showed talent in art, etc. Approximately 85% of children are enrolled in public schools. Most of the rest goes to paying private schools, many of them – the religious. As a rule, private schools are very expensive and sometimes with great competition for entry exist to prepare students for admission to prestigious universities. There are even boarding schools that collect students from across the country, such as Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. Moreover, less than 5% of parents for various reasons decide to teach their children at home. Some religious conservatives do not want their children be taught the ideas with which they disagree, for example the theory of evolution. Others believe that schools can not meet the needs of their retarded or, conversely, brilliant children. They want to protect their children from drugs and crimes, which are serious problem for some schools. In many places, parents, teach their children at home, by forming a group in which they help each other, and sometimes even different parents teach children different subjects. Many also supplement their lessons by distance learning programs and classes at community colleges. However, critics of home schooling say that home education often does not meet the standards and does not acquire normal social skills.
It should be noted that in elementary school are usually taught children from the age of five to eleven or twelve years old. One teacher teaches all subjects except fine arts, music and physical education lessons, which are held once or twice a week. Among the academic subjects elementary school provides, as a rule, the arithmetic (initial algebra), reading and writing, with emphasis on spelling and increasing vocabulary. Natural and social sciences are taught little and not diversely. Often, the social sciences take the form of local lore. As a rule, primary school education consists of art projects, trips, and other forms of learning through entertainment. This was due to the flow of progressive education in beginning of XX century, which taught that students should learn through work and everyday activities and explore their implications.
In turn, primary school tends to teach children between the ages of 11 or 12 to 14 years – from the sixth or seventh through eighth grade. Usually in primary school students are required to take classes in math, English, science, social studies (often involving a history of the world), and physical education. One or two classes of students choose by their own, usually it includes foreign languages, art and technology. In primary school begins the separation of pupils into ordinary and advanced streams. Students who learn better than others on the subject can learn at an advanced class, which quickly passes the material and gives more homework.
High school is the final stage of secondary education in the United States, lasting from the ninth through twelfth grade. In high school students can choose their classes more freely than before, and only need to meet the minimum criteria for obtaining a diploma, which sets the school board. Typical minimum requirements are: 3 years of science (the year of chemistry, biology and year of physics); 3 years of mathematics, up to the second year of algebra; 4 years of literature; 2-4 years of social sciences, usually includes the history and policy of the U.S.; 1-2 years of physical education. As a rule, admission in many colleges requires a more complete program, including 2-4 years of foreign language. A set of such classes is different in quantity and quality, depending on the financial situation of school students and inclinations. A typical set of optional classes include following: additional science (statistics, environmental sciences); foreign languages (mostly Spanish, French and German, less often Japanese, Chinese, Latin and Greek); visual arts (painting, sculpture, photography); performing arts (theater, orchestra, dance); computer technology (IT, computer graphics, web design); publishing (journalism); work (woodworking, auto repair). In some cases, students may not learn any of the classrooms. Also, students can take classes to prepare them for advanced placement exams or International Baccalaureate. Most universities reckon a good mark for these exams as an initial course for the subject. As a rule, Marks both in school and in high school are issued according to the system A / B / C / D / F, where A is the best mark, F is unsatisfactory mark, and D can be considered satisfactory or unsatisfactory, depending on the circumstances.
Despite many challenges in secondary education, higher education in the United States is considered as one of the best in the world. Higher education is usually obtained within 4 years of college or university. In 2009, the U.S. operated 4,352 higher education institutions. In 2008, 36% of college graduates were trained in 4-years program and 57% – to 6-years program. In 2008, the U.S. universities learned 515,000 foreign students from 17.5 million in whole, of which 60% are from Asia. In recent years, education in high schools, both private and public, is becoming more expensive. The fee for academic year – from $ 5 000 at the regular university up to $ 40 000 at Harvard, and while poor students are given a generous scholarship, they are often not enough for students from middle class, whose family lost most of its revenue. As a rule, in other colleges the student must decide what specialization to choose in the end of the first and sometimes of the second year. Sometimes, in addition to the major field of study, you can add one or more additional (minor) skill, and in some cases you can choose two or even three major specialty.
Visit each course provides a certain number of credits (points), which correspond to a certain number of hours per week on this course. The student can choose their courses freely, but they must earn more than the minimum and less than the maximum credits and meet the requirements of the university in their specialty or specialties. As a fact, the requirements may be specific or general and can be made at any time before graduation. It can be said that mark in American universities are set by semesters or less term. They depend mainly on the examination, which shall be generally in the middle of the semester or trimester and exams at the end of the academic year, can also be counted as homework, projects, presentations, papers, etc.
To sum it up I would like to say that as a fact, U.S. educational system is one of the most developed in the world and about 97% of adults are literate. However, with further development of scientific and technical progress, literally every day brings new discoveries that change our way of life. Consequently, new systems and mechanisms appear today, and to properly operate them, employees and workers should have appropriate knowledge. In other words, today, if adult wants to save his job – he must adapt to the rapidly changing environment and constantly expand his knowledge. In my opinion, it can be said that there is following motto of modern life: “to be a valuable employee you have to improve your knowledge constantly”.
As a result of such tendency, leading corporations all over the world spend millions of U.S. dollars per year on various trainings with the aim to improve their staff development, both professionally and in personal characteristic improvements. In my opinion this is fully justified, because nowadays competition between corporations in all fields of activity is becoming more acute and eventually winning the one, whose staff is better prepared to face current challenges. Unfortunately, not every U.S. citizen is ready to change. Still there are adults, who think that they already finish their education with finishing the university or college. I presume that these people do not fully understand how rapidly the world is changing today. However, I am convinced that very soon we will face the moment when we all will have to choose – to move forward or back, there is no alternative.