American Education System – Decentralized Organization
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In the United States, education is offered at all levels from prekindergarten to graduate school. Elementary and secondary education involves twelve years of schooling the successful completion of which leads to a high school diploma. A distinct feature of the American educational system is its decentralized organization. Elementary and secondary education is financially supported by three levels of government – local, state, and federal. Furthermore, it is divided into public and private institutions. The main disadvantage of the decentralization is the quality of education received by the students. On the other hand, a real plus to the idea is the fact that not all students are concentrated on the same topics of study, which allows each student to specialize in a certain field.
In theory, responsibility for operating the public education system in the US is local. In fact, much of the local control has been superseded, and state legislation controls financing methods, academic standards, and policy and curriculum guidelines. Because public education is separately developed within each state, variations exist from one state to another. The main advantage to this is that it allows students to discover their interests. For instance, if a state requires that a student must take three years of chemistry or three years of physics, the student may choose one of those subjects and specialize in it. This in some way will help the pupil choose a college major and maybe a carrier.
A definite disadvantage to the decentralized system is the local school districts. Local school districts often levy property taxes, which are the major source of financing for the public school systems. One of the problems that arises because of the heavy reliance on the local property tax is a disparity in the quality of education received by the students. Rich communities can afford to pay more per student than poorer communities; consequently, the disparity in wealth affects the quality of education received.
Until well into the 19th century, most students attended private schools. Then, in the decades before the American Civil War, a transition took place from private to public school education. This transition was to provide children of all classes with a free education. The idea of private schools however has a definite advantage in providing high quality education for those who can afford it. Its intent is to create individuals well prepared for today’s competitive job market.
Even though the US education system has been long criticized, is seems to be working or either the United States would not be the most powerful and civilized nation in the world. The idea of decentralized education can be debated upon in many of its aspects. However, up to now it has been proven to work in many ways, some of which are, providing a versatile student body and high quality education for those who can afford it. Of course as every other structure it has its disadvantages one of which is that public schools provide lower quality education for students from poorer families.