Musings on education systems

My son and I have been travelling around this part of England looking at colleges.

Now: some worlds of explanation.  Neither my wife nor I were born or raised in the UK, so we experienced schooling which was 30 years old and 3,000 miles different – or thereabouts.  Education in the UK appears to be – as most things British – a strange mixture of haphazard happen-stance, clever design, and politics.  From a distance the Scots system (no, they’re not English…) appears slightly more rational – by which I mean straightforward – but no doubt there are mums and dads north of the border gnashing their teeth at the local elementary (or kindergarten, reception, nursery, primary) school and gazing with longing at the system in use down here.

There are four main levels of schooling in the local system: primary, secondary, college, and university.  Actually I lie.

There are seven types of school if you count all the stages such as nursery, infants, junior, secondary, six form (with lower sixth and upper sixth making the first and second years) or college, and then university.  No wonder students emerge from all this schooling with a wonderfully complex view of the world.  Parents, of course, never emerge.  Most are last seen selling kidneys to pay for the endless fees once free schooling ends.  I shouldn’t complain: most schooling world-wide isn’t free and having a government pay for excellent teaching until my child is 18 is, well, ridiculous.


How to say hello

For a long time I’ve struggled to understand how to make conversations work on the telephone with my British colleagues.  At first I was a little taken aback by their seeming abruptness and speed with which they ‘got down to business’ (now there’s an idiom which doesn’t translate well!).  So I tried to ape this and simply stated my name, then asked them the questions.  Most took it well however some seemed taken aback (another idiom).  Finally I’ve noticed that they ask each other very briefly ‘how are you’ (another idiom) then almost in the same breath state the reason for the call.  I’ve now started following suit – when I remember – and conversations are flowing better now.  Then, of course, I spoke to my south African relatives and the whole rigmarole started again…