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What is the Difference between the British and American Curriculum?

By Ken Davis
Published: 2023-02-13 05:28:37

This blog post compares the American and British curriculums, comparing key aspects of the education system, which include: philosophy, assessment, school environment and overall achievement. The comparison provides insights for families and provides a jumping off point for further research.


The British and American educational systems have different philosophies behind their curricula. The British education system is rooted in a tradition of rote learning and academic rigor, with a focus on preparing students for university and developing a strong foundation in core subjects. 

The American education system, on the other hand, prioritizes a well-rounded education that includes not only academic subjects but also extracurricular activities and hands-on learning experiences. American schools aim to produce well-rounded individuals who are equipped with critical thinking skills, creativity, and the ability to apply what they have learned to real-world problems.

Both systems have their own strengths and weaknesses, and the choice between them often comes down to personal preference and the individual needs of the student.

How are assessments different? 

In the British system, the assessment process typically includes frequent testing and exams, which contribute to a student's overall grade. This system places emphasis on rote memorization and exam preparation. 

In the American system, assessment is more project-based and focused on the application of knowledge, with less emphasis on exams and tests. Additionally, American grades are often based on a combination of exams, class participation, and assignments, rather than just exams.

School Environment

​​The school environment in British and American schools can vary greatly.

British schools tend to be more formal, with strict rules and a clear hierarchy between teachers and students. Class sizes are usually larger and the academic focus is intense, with a heavy emphasis on exams and test preparation.

American schools tend to have a more relaxed and informal atmosphere. Class sizes are often smaller and there is a greater emphasis on individual attention and student-teacher interaction. American schools also place a greater emphasis on extracurricular activities, such as sports and clubs, and students are encouraged to express their individuality and creativity. 


​​Comparing achievement levels between British and American curricula is a complex issue and can depend on various factors. However, in general: 

In the British System, students tend to have a strong foundation in core subjects, such as math and science, due to the rigorous and exam-focused nature of the curriculum. However, this system can also lead to high levels of stress and burnout for students.

In contrast, the American system prioritizes a well-rounded education and the development of critical thinking skills and creativity. Students often have more opportunities for hands-on learning and real-world experiences. These skills are important in fostering adaptability, resourcefulness and independent thinking; all of which are important for the rapidly changing world. 

Both British and American schools have their own unique cultures and environments, and the choice between them often comes down to which setting fits your child's learning style and interest. There is no better metric than visiting the school in person to see the physical environment, observe the educational program, meet the teachers and staff, and assess whether the school is a good fit. 

For a guide on questions you can ask during your visit, click here

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