European, American school systems differ in more ways than one

May 15, 2023

Perspective from an exchange student
by Julia Vesterland, reporter

The American and European education systems are much opposites. The outcomes differ in other countries due to different educational programs and instructional styles. While there are many similarities, there are also significant differences.

“I like that they (Europe) have fewer multiple-choice questions. I believe that’s better because it gives the students a chance to show what they know, even if it might not necessarily be the answer to that question you can give them some credit for what they know. It’s also about learning how to express yourself, you need to be able to do that rather than just pick a, b, c, or d,” said English and Film and Literature teacher Catherine Coleman.

Front entrance of Nyköpings Gymnasium, Sweden, grades 10-12. Photo taken from Nyköpings Gymnasium.

For example; time management is very different between the States and Europe. In the States, the average school days are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with four six minutes between the classes. Whereas in Europe the school days are 8 a.m. to 4-6 p.m. with 10-15 minutes between classes.

“I think it’s important for the students to have a break between the classes. It gives them time to use the bathroom and relax before their next class,” said history teacher at Nyköpings Gymnasium Chris Jansson.

Unlike the United States, Europe usually doesn’t have any school clubs, sports or marching bands. Arts and sports help students develop important skills such as creativity, teamwork and problem-solving that are not always taught in academic classes.

The European school system emphasizes specialization and career preparation, which can be beneficial for students who have a clear idea of what they want to do after graduation. The students choose their course in grade nine and in grade 11, they choose a more specific major. Students can change their major but in most cases, they have to start over from grade 10 if they do.

“Choosing your major at 15 years old can be limiting, as students may not have had the opportunity to explore all of their interests yet. Students’ goals in life can change over time, so it’s important to have the flexibility to change course if needed,” Jansson said.

Both the American and European school systems have their strengths and weaknesses. The best system in either place is one that meets the needs of individual students and prepares them for success in their chosen career path.


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