Nord Anglia Education
Nord Anglia
15 February, 2022

Parents guide to education terminology

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A-level: A-Levels (or Advanced Levels) are qualifications studied over two years by students age 16 – 18 years old. AS-level exams (Advanced Supplementary Level) are taken at the end of the first year (sometimes called lower sixth or year 12) and A-Levels at the end of the second year (called upper sixth or Year 13). They are well respected and widely accepted for entrance to universities around the world. Learn more about A-Levels and AS here.  

Advanced Placement: Advanced Placement or AP is a programme offered by American schools in the US and worldwide. It allows high school students the opportunity to take college-level courses. At the end of each college-level course, the student can take a standardised test to receive university credit for their work during high school.

Boarding School: A boarding school is a school where students not only study, but also live with their peers during term time. Boarding schools provide for all a student’s daily needs such as living space, dorms, food, activities as well as schooling. Boarding schools often offer day programs as well, where students attend classes during the day, but return home to their family each evening.

Learn more about our boarding schools

British International School: Commonly located outside the UK, British international schools offer the English National Curriculum, sometimes in combination with other international curricula and qualifications, and a British style education to students within an age range of 3 and 18 years old.

Class Rank: The relative position of a student within their year determined by grade average.

Credit: The unit of study that counts towards a college degree or diploma typically awarded to students for completing a course over a semester or term.

Curriculum(plural curricula): Traditionally, curriculum is seen as a set of courses and their contents offered by a school. In some cases, those courses may be partially or entirely determined by an external body, such as the National Curriculum for England or the International Baccalaureate. In the U.S., the basic curriculum is established by each state with the individual school districts adjusting it as appropriate. Nord Anglia schools take the curriculum as “The Entire Planned Learning Experience” which includes the traditional curriculum, but also the extra activities that the school offers, both inside and outside the classroom.

Elementary School: This is an American term used to describe a school that typically educates students between grades 1 and 6 (age 6 to 12).

English National Curriculum: The English National Curriculum is set by the government in the UK for compulsory education between the age of 5 and 16 years old. It is a program of study outlining what should be taught at each age and giving expected standards of attainment. 

English School: An English school usually refers to a school that teaches the English language to people whose native language is not English and are open to students of many ages. English schools do not generally teach the English National Curriculum.

Exam Board: An independent organisation offering a range of qualifications for students at age 16 and 18. For example, UK exam boards offering GCSE and A-Levels include Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), EdExcel and Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR).

Extracurricular activities: Also known as after school activities (ASA), co-curricular activities (CCA) or beyond the classroom activities. In many schools, extra-curricular activities fall outside the realm of the normal curriculum of the school. However, in Nord Anglia schools, all students are expected to take part in these activities to extend their learning and so we consider this an integral part of the entire planned learning experience.

French Baccalaureate:This programme includes three different diploma routes for students age 15 – 18 years old. It is well respected and accepted for entrance to universities in France and around the world.

GCSEs: GCSE’s (General Certificate of Secondary Education) are qualifications studied by children age 14–16 in the British education system. Students study a wide range of subjects for two years, sometimes submitting coursework, before taking a standardised examination. IGCSEs (International GCSEs) are a version of these programmes designed for students outside the UK. They are worth the same as a standard GCSE, and are equally recognised by UK institutions. Most Nord Anglia schools offer GCSEs. 

Grade-point average: This is a number representing the average value of the accumulated final grades earned in courses over time. A student’s grade point average is calculated by adding up all accumulated final grades, and dividing by the number of grades awarded.

High School: Is a term used in the US referring to students age 14 -18 and offering grades 9 to 12.

International Baccalaureate:The International Baccalaureate, commonly referred to as the IB, is a series of school curriculums for children age 5 to 18 years old. It offers three programmes – Primary Years Programme (for students between age 5 and 11), Middle Years Programme (for students between age 11 and 16) and Diploma Programme (for students between age 16 and 18).

IB Diploma Programme:The IB Diploma Programme is a curriculum by the International Baccalaureate (IB) offered in schools for students age 16-18 years old. It is a demanding two-year curriculum that leads to a qualification recognised by universities around the world. Most Nord Anglia schools offer the IB Diploma. 

International school: An international school is a school that promotes international education, or has an international environment or tries to develop internationally minded students. International schools may adopt an international curriculum such as the International Baccalaureate, or pursue a curriculum that is different from the curriculum of the school’s country of residence.

Kindergarten: Sometimes spelled kindergarden is the name used in many parts of the world for the first level of children’s school education. In some countries there is a set curricula, in others it may just be pre-school, nursery or day care. Most Nord Anglia schools start from kindergarten, but many also offer pre-kindergarten (pre-k) options.

Key stages: Used to describe a stage within the English National Curriculum and the British education system. Each key stage includes a definition of the educational standards that students are expected to achieve. There are five key stages:

  •   Early Years Foundation Stage
  •   Key Stage 1 – usually studied by 5 – 7 year olds
  •   Key Stage 2 – usually studied by 7 – 11 years olds
  •   Key Stage 3 – usually studied by 11 – 14 year olds
  •   Key Stage 4 – usually studied by 14 - 16 year olds
  •   Key Stage 5 – usually studied by 16 – 19 year olds

Middle School: A term used in the US and is commonly referred to as junior high school, refers to students age 11-14 and offers grades 6-8. Some middle schools may only refer to students age 12-14 and offer grades 7 and 8. 

MYP - Middle Years Programme: The Middle Years Programme (MYP) is a curriculum by the International Baccalaureate (IB) offered in schools for students age 11-16 years. Learn more about the International Baccalaureate here

Primary education: The term used in the UK to describe the first years of formal education for children, generally between the ages of 5 and 11 years old.

PYP - Primary Years Programme: The Primary Years Programme (PYP) is a curriculum by the International Baccalaureate (IB) offered in schools for students age 6-12 years. Learn more about the International Baccalaureate here.

Private School: The term private school has a different meaning in different countries. In the US, the term refers to a school that is fully funded by parents, or money that has not been allocated to them by the government. Private schools in the US usually carry a connotation of a higher quality education. In the UK, these types of schools are often referred to as public schools or independent schools.

SAT (US): SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test, formerly known as Scholastic Aptitude or Achievement Test) is a standardised text carried out by an independent exam body which tests high school students’ mathematical, verbal and analytical skills. It is often required for university entrance. These are sometimes incorrectly called SATS which refers to the Standard Assessment Tests in the UK.

SATS (UK): SATS (Standard Assessment Tests) are taken at the age of 6 and 11 in the British education system and are used to measure a child’s progress against the national expectation in the English National Curriculum.

Secondary education:The term used in the UK to describe formal education for children between the ages of 11 and 18 years old.

Swiss Maturité: This programme includes 13 subjects and is studied by children age 15 – 18 years-old. It is well respected and accepted for entrance to universities in Switzerland and around the world. Learn more about the Swiss Maturité here.