My thoughts

The American Educational System
August 5, 2007, 7:18 am
Filed under: Intermediate

Sometimes the American educational system can be confusing to people from other countries, so I thought that I would explain it. 

Elementary, or Grade School as we sometimes call it, is for children in Kindergarten (about 5 years old) through 5th grade (about 12 years old).  Then the children go to Middle School, which is grades 6-8 (12-14 years old).  After Middle School, the kids go to High School, which is grades 9-12 (15-18 years old).  However, when I was in school, Elementary School was K-8, and instead of Middle School, we had Junior High School for grades 7-8, and then High School.  In High School, we also have names for the grades: Freshaman (9th grade), Sophomore (10th grade), Junior (11th grade), and Senior (12th grade).  Unlike countries like Japan, there is no entrance exam for high school.  However, if students plan to go to college there is.  Students take the SAT(Scholastic Aptitude Test) or the ACT(American College Testing program) in their Junior year, many students take the PSAT(Practice SAT) their Sophomore year.  However, if a student does badly on the SAT, they can retake it again. 

After High School, it gets more tricky.  Some students go onto a Community College or Junior College, which is usually for 2 years, depending on the program.  If the students receive a degree, it is called an Associates Degree.  Some students go trade school where they learn a specialized skill, which is similar to a Community College.  Many students go directly from High School to a college or university, but some go to a Community College for two years, and then transfer to a university.  There are generally two types of degrees you can earn, either a BA (Bachelors of Arts) or a BS (Bachelor of Science).  The main difference is that a Bachelor of Arts requires the study of a language (about 2 years), Bachelor of Science does not.  Students are meant to graduate from a college or university in about 4 years, however that is not always the case.  Many students take about five years, some may take even longer if they drop out and return.  In my case, I got a Bachelor of Arts because I took two years of Japanese (which I promptly forgot after I was out).  I finished in four years, despite changing majors halfway through, but I pushed myself so that I would finish in four years. 

It is quite common on university campuses to find students we call Older Than Average (OTA).  Many people change careers or get side tracked from their studies and return later.  It is never too late to go back to school, and it has become popular for retired people people to audit university classes, which means that they sit in the class and do not receive credit, and their tuition is lower than regular students. 

After getting a Bachelors, some students go onto Graduate School (Grad. School) to get a Masters Degree.  Similar to Graduate School, is Law School, Medical School, etc.  Most programs require the passing of a standardized test, such as the GRE(Graduate Record Exam), the LSAT(Law Scholastic Aptitude Test), and the MCAT(Medical College Admissions Test).  I am currently in Grad School, when I finish I will be getting my Masters In Education.  To get in, I had to take a Praxis I test (which is required by the government prior to starting a teaching program), and after I was in  I had to take the Praxis II, which is required by the federal government before I can start my internship. 

After Grad School, some go on to get their Ph.D. (Doctorate Degree).  To teach in a college or university, you usually need a Ph.D in the subject you are teaching. 

I think that our system is a bit different to those in other countries, and am interested what the other systems are.

July 19, 2007, 5:02 am
Filed under: Intermediate


I was sad to hear about the earthquake in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, Japan yesterday.  I lived in Niigata for three years, and I have been to that town. 

I am reminded of the earthquake that I experienced there in 2004.  I was fortunate enough to be living in an area that was not affected greatly, however, there were effects.  I happened to be on a train, I was coming from an area that was the epicenter of the quake, luckily I was almost back to Niigata by the time the earthquake occurred.  The areas around the epicenter, particularly the small towns near the city of Nagaoka, suffered massive damage.  The typhoons that we had experienced prior to the earthquake left the soil so damp that there were landslides in the areas affected.  This made it difficult to rescue people and get them much needed supplies.   The highways and train lines took a long time to repair, which made going to Tokyo quite an adventure. 

My thoughts are with the people in Niigata, and I hope that they are safe and well.