European School vs American School

Can Yucel Explains His Experiences


Can Yucel, Writer/Photographer

Hi, this is Can. I came from Turkey, and I’ve started my senior year. This is my first year in an American high school. Before, I was studying in an Italian high school in Istanbul. I wanted to write this article because when I started school this year, I realized how American schools are different than the European ones.


After I graduated from 8th grade, I took a test just like every 8th grader did in Turkey, and I placed  in an Italian high school with my score. During my first year of high school (preparation year), every student in the school took Italian, and at the end of this preparation year, students took a language exam to start high school. I passed the exam, and I started high school. The curriculum was the same as other schools in Turkey except we were taking every class in Italian, and the other students’ classes were in Turkish. The school was small, and it was an ancient building. Only 250 students were in the school, so everybody knew each other. We felt as if we were family. We celebrated Italian holidays and festivals. This helped us to understand Italian culture. I’m glad that I was placed in that school and met all these people. I was a little bit worried about starting high school in my senior year in another country.  However, after I started high school here, I met lots of people, and they helped me a lot. After two months, I’m glad that I made that decision. It’s also fun to see other cultures.


The Class System

There are many differences between the European school system and the US school system. The first and the biggest difference is that in the US, students follow  their own schedules moving from class to class, but in Europe, students have one classroom  where they take all of their lessons. It means that in the US, students follow their schedules, and they go to take the classes in their teachers’ rooms, but in Europe teachers go to the classes that belong to one class of student.



Lesson Options

In the US, all students have options to choose their own classes. There are some classes that are required by the state government. Other than those classes, students are free to choose whatever they want that the school offers. In Europe, it’s also optional but  limited. In 9th and 10th grades, it’s not optional. So the students have to take lessons that are required by the government. However, in the 11th and  the 12th grades students have 4 options. Those options are Verbal (Liberal Arts), Numerical (Focuses on Math and Science), Mixed (more math and literature classes) or Language (Focuses on English language). The students must choose the right option for themselves because that choice will affect what they are going to study in university.


Getting Into High School

In Europe, if students want to study in a normal high school they have to take an exam in  8th grade. This exam shows how well they score compared to others their age.   Students may get into a better high school based on their  score. This exam is usually based on 8th grade school education and intellectual ability. In the US, students attend the high school of the town that they  live in. 


Sports Teams

In Europe there are no sports teams connected to the school. If students  want to do a sport, they can go and join a local team or apply for an amateur team. In the US, sports are connected to the schools, ,and schools are encouraging the students to do at least one sport. Plus, in Europe schools are not big enough to include athletic fields.


In the United States, student lockers are outside of the classroom, and every student has their own locker. But in Europe, most of the schools don’t have lockers for students. Even if they have lockers, they are limited, and they are inside of the classroom.

Student Parking

In the United States, there are some parking areas that are supplied for the students at the school. But in Europe, students don’t have that chance. Actually, in most European countries, students do not get a car license until they are 18. In the United States, students get their license at 16, so most of the students are able to drive to school.

Size of the School Facility

American school facilities are much larger than the European schools. The main reason for the difference is that high schools in Europe don’t have gymnasiums or athletic fields. Actually in Europe, high schools are only a building and everything is in it.


School Day

In Europe school days are a bit longer than American school days. In the United States school starts around 8am and ends around 2pm. In Europe, school starts almost the same time as the United States, but it ends around 3pm. And some days, students might have to stay for extra classes after the school day if they want extra credits or if they fail a class.


Dress Code

One of the biggest differences between European high schools and US high schools is the dress code. In the US, students are allowed to wear whatever they want as long as they dress appropriately. But in Europe, most of the schools have their own school clothes that students can get from the school shop or local shop. Students have to wear those clothes when they are in the school or representing the school.

Personal Observation

I’ve been in both systems, so I can say that both systems have their own advantages, and they both make sense under their circumstances. However, if I have to choose to be a student in these systems, I would choose European because I think European education is more systematic and more serious than the American system. But if you want more freedom, more free time and do more hobbies, I think the American system would be better for a student. I’ve had good moments in both systems, and I’m lucky enough to see both systems. I’m glad that I had that opportunity. I believe wherever students go to high school, they’ll love it anyway.