Education in Sierra

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Education in Sierra
Flag of Sierra.svg
Ministry of Education (Sierra)
Minister of Education
US Board of Regents President
SNU Board of Trustees Chairman
SCC Chancellor
Judy Musgrave
Elizabeth Parmanova
Luke Chiang

Todd Oakley
Education budget (2017)
Budget $350 billion
General details
Primary languages English
More details*
System type State, private
Literacy
Male 100%
Female 100%
Enrollment
Total 21.3 million
Primary 8.9 million 1
Secondary 6.5 million
Post secondary 5.9 million 2
Attainment
Secondary diploma 87%
Post-secondary diploma 55%

Education in Sierra is primarily controlled and determined by the educational policies of the provinces, states, and areas of the Kingdom of Sierra. Provincial governments are responsible for developing and implementing an educational curriculum, educational standards, standardized testing, and they must provide most of the funding to schools and universities within their jurisdictions themselves. The federal government is involved in limited discretional policymaking and provides supplemental funding for the provincial educational systems. Certain regulations, bylaws, and standards are enforced and maintained by the federal Ministry of Education. Each PSA operates its own educational board, often led by a state superintendent and a board of regents for public university systems. Private and parochial schools generally operate outside the regulations and requirements of public educational systems, although most PSAs require private schools to be accredited by recognized independent regional accreditation boards.

Education is generally divided into three stages: primary education, secondary education, and post-secondary (higher) education. Education is compulsory and universal between the ages of 5 and 17, which may be satisfied through attending public, private, or home school. Public compulsory education is free while private education requires tuition. Compulsory education is generally divided into three levels: elementary school, middle or junior high school, and high school. Students are divided into stages, known as grades, based upon age. Kindergarten (5-6 years old) is the most common starting grade, while the twelfth grade (17-18 years old) is the final year of high school and compulsory education. In most jurisdictions, preschool is optional and universally provided and is designed for children below the age of 5.

In 2017, 74.3% of high school graduates advanced into higher education. Higher education often begins with an associate's degree or bachelor's degree, which can be obtained through completing 2 years in community college and 4 years in a public or private university respectively. There are no standardized admission tests for colleges and universities, and each institution sets its own admission requirements. Most colleges and universities accept and use test scores of certain exams administered by Accelerated Learning (AL) as one of the determining factors in college admissions. Alternative forms of higher education to colleges and universities are trade schools. Students seeking a professional degree such as a master's degree or a doctorate are required to attend graduate school, law school, or medical school, depending on their major or desired career. Tuition varies between higher educational institutions and jurisdictions. Communities colleges are relatively inexpensive whereas private universities and graduate schools are the most expensive forms of education in Sierra. Although higher education is not free, financial aid from federal and provincial governments are available to eligible students in the form of grants and loans. Financial aid from private organizations are also widely available, with the most prevalent forms being scholarships and private loans. The Sierran federal government provides a number of financial aid services and options to current and former students, including loan and debt forgiveness. All public universities and graduate schools are part of either the University of Sierra or Sierra National University systems. The former is research-oriented while the latter is career-oriented. All public community colleges are part of the Sierra Community Colleges system.

The Programme of Academic Performance Evaluation (PAPE) ranks the education in Sierra as the 7th best in mathematics, 5th best in science, and 4th best in reading, averages of which are significantly higher than most OECD nations. According to the Academic Ranking of International Universities, in 2015, 10 of the top 20 universities in the world listed were located in Sierra, 6 of which were part of the University of Sierra system and 2 of which were part of the Sierra National University System. Sierra hosts the world's largest foreign student population, with nearly half a million during the 2016–17 academic year.

History[edit | edit source]

Colonial period[edit | edit source]

A historic one-room school in Sonoma County, Plumas.

Colonial Sierra under Spanish control encouraged literacy among its soldiers and settlers. The Spanish government opposed providing public education however, leaving people to rely on retired soldiers and priests to provide them with basic education. On the Channel Islands, French-speaking colonists built three schoolhouses that taught writing, reading, and arithmetic to children and adults. Manuel de Vargas, a retired sergeant, established the first recorded school on the Sierran mainland. His school was built in San Diego in 1795. Schools taught by retired soldiers remained the primary form of education for mainland colonists throughout Sierra's time as part of Spanish colonial period. In the Dutch colony of New Holland, the colonists developed their own system of schools, with an emphasis on religious teaching and craftsmanship.

Although the Spanish government made no effort to introduce public education in Sierra, there were local, organized efforts to bring such services to its people. Pablo Vicente de Solá, the governor of Alta California, used his own private wealth to personally fund a high school in Monterey after requests for teachers and schools were denied by his superiors. The staff at school remained on-site for only two weeks, deciding to quit when they concluded life in Alta California was unbearable and unsustainable. Future governors continued to promote education in California. French schoolteachers from the Channel Islands were eventually invited to the mainland in order to instruct the children of settlers with basic arithmetic and writing skills. In 1806, the first school designed to educate new teachers was founded in Porciúncula. Graduates from this school for teachers were then deployed throughout the colony to communities willing to build their own schoolhouse and a home for the resident teacher.

In 1821, Mexico declared its independence from Spain and gained control over Alta California. Unlike the Spanish government, the Mexican government promoted a policy of publicly funded education and began building schools on behalf of the territory's citizens. Governor José María de Echeandía introduced a truancy law that required parents to send their students to schools wherever it was available. Within a year of his order, there were 22 schools and 2,402 pupils across Alta California, including the students on the Channel Islands and in New Holland. Funding from the Mexican government was inconsistent and capricious, and was often withdrawn by officials over political disagreements. By the time California gained its independence from Mexico, there were few schools in continued operation on the mainland due to lack of funding, interest, and educators.

Californian period[edit | edit source]

The University of San Francisco, a private Catholic university built in 1855, is the fourth oldest university in Sierra and was founded during the California Republic

A well-funded educational system was one of the main priorities of the Californian government. Under its constitution, it included 5 articles devoted to establishing and regulating the national educational system. The government kept matters pertaining to education centralized and prioritized funding in the country's largest settlements, namely those around the San Francisco Bay Area and the Porciúncula Basin. Although attendance was not compulsory under the Californian government, literacy and attendance rates grew during the 1850s as there was greater demand for schools and greater number of competent educators willing to render public service. By the time California reorganized itself as the Kingdom of Sierra through the 1858 Constitution, student attendance was nearly 30% and there were hundreds of schools established throughout the country.

Government-run schools outside the cities were in derelict condition and many rural schools were subject to closures due to lack of public support and staffing. The effectiveness of the education provided at some public schools were also questioned. There were complaints raised against public schools for cramp and unsanitary conditions, incompetent and unruly teachers, and schoolyard bullying. Public perception remained skeptical towards public schooling. This sentiment and the lack of compulsory education discouraged Californian families from sending their children to public schools.

Early Sierran period[edit | edit source]

The Mary Hopkins Girls' Boarding School in San Francisco City, c. 1890

Under the new constitution and monarchy, education was decentralized. The federal government deferred matters regarding education to each of the provinces, but continued to bear the largest share in funding local schools and colleges. The Ministry of Education was established in 1862 in order to oversee funding and performance in the educational systems. Throughout the later end of the 19th century, provinces began passing their own compulsory schooling laws, requiring students over the age of 5 and under the age of 16. Racial segregation occurred, with schools built and designed for non-whites separately from whites. Education was also economically stratified as children belonging to the wealthier landowning families and gentry were sent to private boarding schools rather than public schooling.

Early Sierran education largely focused on the three Rs: writing, reading, and arithmetic. History, geography, religion, and other topics were also taught. Physical education and etiquette instruction became prevalent in public education by the 1880s following the aftermath of the Sierran Civil War. Educators across Sierra embraced newer pedagogical methods, particularly those promoted in Herbartianism. By 1881, every province was using the Prussian education system for their schools, which was originally introduced in Anglo-America by Northeasterner Horace Mann. The modern Anglo-American model of school grades eradicated the old system of multi-aged classrooms and resembled the teaching principles and practices done in European continental universities at the time. As literacy rates and schooling attendance increased in the cities, similar rates remained low in the Styxie and among Sierra's ethnic minorities, particularly those of African and Amerindian descent. Academic opportunities expanded for girls, although the form of instruction taught as all-female institutions continued to emphasize homemaking and domestic work skills, rather than professional work traditionally associated with males.

Parochial education was the preferred choice for Sierra's predominantly Catholic immigrant groups, particularly among the Irish, Sicilians, and Germans who were discriminated against. Parochial schools were viewed as bulwarks against community erosion and preservers of immigrant identity for Catholic Irish, Jacobites, French, Sicilians, Hispanics, and other groups. Legislation was passed to prevent direct federal funding for parochial schools were supported by nativist groups that targeted such groups. Sectarian schools by Lutherans and other Protestants were also built and popular in the North. In San Joaquin, the controversial Mann's Law made it mandatory for all students to attend public education, and prohibited the establishment of parochial schools. The law was repealed after just 4 years, as the legislation triggered civil disturbance and unrest.

Royal Army soldiers assembled on the University of Sierra, Berkeley grounds during the Sierran Civil War

In 1868, the government passed the National Tertiary Education Act, which was backed by the Ministry of Education, alongside three semi-independent university systems: the University of Sierra, Sierra National University, and Sierra Junior Colleges (later renamed as Sierra Community Colleges). Each of the university systems would be directly funded and regulated by the federal government, but allowed to exercise a high degree of autonomy in administrative and internal decisions, as well as elect their own board members to oversee operations and management. The decision represented Sierra's commitment to higher education and desire to provide collegiate and graduate-level education to citizens.

Before the turn of the 20th century, the provinces passed legislation that strengthened standards for teachers and the quality of education provided at schools. Prior to the passage of the Educator Competence and Certification Act of 1891, teachers did not require professional training at schools designed for prospective educators. During the Gilded Age, educators shifted from instructing children in an authoritarian, strict manner in favor of a more utilitarian, vocational approach. This change in style of instruction and discipline was a response to the continued industrialization of Sierra. Lawmakers and business owners wanted more industrious workers and increased labor participation. In some provinces, the compulsory age of schooling was lowered from 18 to 16. Such laws were passed at a time when child labor laws and protections were virtually nonexistent.

The Guild Association of Schoolteachers and Instructors (GASI), the first labor union involving teachers and educators, was established in 1889. It represented over 340 teachers from 59 schools in 1895, and aligned itself with other labor unions. Similar unions formed, pressing lawmakers to increase teachers' wages, improve schools, and shrink the size of classrooms. By 1901, GASI and two regional teacher unions consolidated to form the Sierran Teachers Association (STA), which today represents the largest and most powerful public teachers' union in the country.

20th century[edit | edit source]

Asian Sierran students receiving lessons in 1933

Education changed fundamentally during and after the Sierran Cultural Revolution. Confucian notions, views, and concepts of education entered into mainstream Sierran culture, and altered the way subject matter was taught towards students. The utilitarian form of education that emerged during the Gilded Age reverted back to a more authoritarian form, with a clear hierarchy established between teachers, students, and between peers themselves. Education became championed as one of the foundations of Sierran society, and the push towards universalizing public education grew stronger as communities demanded quality faculty to teach their students. The scope of subjects taught at public and private schools expanded beyond the traditional Three R's, and now included lessons and classes on philosophy, art, poetry, foreign language, and the natural sciences. History, Sierran civics, and etiquette became prominent classes in secondary education, and students were incentivized to read and memorize large anthologies of preselected works from various authors and writers deemed consistent with the principles of the Revolution. Extracurricular education and early modern development of student life and participation such as student government and clubs began to emerge at this time, and were viewed as essential in students' development in their process of self-cultivation. The purpose of these changes was to ensure children turned into "model citizens" who would be productive, virtuous, and well-mannered.

During the Great Depression, the federal government continued to fund Sierra's educational system as it was deemed an essential, nonnegotiable public service. Billions of dollars were poured in to keep struggling schools afloat while some were closed and merged together into larger buildings. Financial relief programs and jobs guarantee programs allowed teachers to remain employed and schools open where students could continue to receive free education without hindrance. Public funding continued to increase in order to meet up with growing cities and towns. Education became disproportionately stronger in urban areas compared to rural areas by significant margins, prompting mass migrations of families who sought to bring their children into the urban workforce and higher socioeconomic stratum of jobs.

World War II impacted education significantly. A large number of young men (many college aged) were conscripted into the military to serve on the war front. Universities and colleges across the country faced smaller attendance rates as a result. Some institutions which only accepted men or heavily favored men began accepting applications from female students, thus opening new pathways for young girls and women who sought vocational and professional work outside the domestic setting. Parliament passed the Veteran Readjustment Act (VETREA Act) in 1949 shortly after the conclusion of the world war in order to support returning veterans who missed their years attending college. The government provided over $1,500 to each eligible veteran in order to make college education affordable, and extended these benefits to veterans' family members as well. The adoption of school uniforms became widespread after the war, with public and private schools alike enforcing mandatory uniforms to be worn by both sexes. By 1970, 4 out of 5 public schools enforced school uniforms, while schools that opted out of instituting mandatory school uniforms enforced a strict dress code. Virtually all private schools had school uniforms. The style of uniforms varies between school districts and private schools as there are no federal regulations on the matter.

Contemporary history[edit | edit source]

High school students in Nogales Park

As the rate of tuition increased nationwide in colleges and universities, the Von Schliefen Government passed the Federal Student Financial Aid Act of 1964 (FESFA), which raised the amount of funding to allow families to send their students to higher education institutions with federal scholarships, grants, and low-interest loans. Public colleges and universities received hundreds of millions more in subsidies in order to improve their condition and quality of education. Separate education bills diverted additional funding to medical and dental schools, as well as vocational schools.

The emphasis on standardized testing intensified during the 1970s as education groups such as the Sierran Teachers' Association and Royal League of Educators raised concerns of below average performing schools, especially those in urban communities. Sierran Hanzi became part of integral Sierran education in both primary and secondary schools, and colleges began utilizing standardized admission tests to determine which students to accept amidst an increasingly competitive pool of applicants. The elevation of test scores and rote memory as the primary markers of academic performance received pushback by educational reformers opposed to the idea, who advocated a more well-rounded, civic-based education that was used during the early Revolution period.

During the 1980s, changes in special education for students with disabilities were made nationwide in order to accommodate the underrepresented group. The Students with Disabilities Empowerment Act of 1983 (SDEA) guaranteed free, public education that was appropriate for students with learning or intellectual disabilities. In addition, all public and private schools were required to follow building codes that made the facilities accessible to students using wheelchairs.

In the 1990s, the federal government tried to introduce legislation to standardize educational curriculum across the board nationwide. The proposed Comprehensive Holistic Academic Needs in Government Education Act (CHANGE Act) was introduced in the House in 1993 by MP Michael D. Edwards to establish a standardized baseline all students were expected to meet upon the conclusion of their grade year. The CHANGE Act also proposed implementing a gradual process of universalizing certain testing standards in mathematics, science, and English. The proposed bill received considerable backlash and inspired the parents' protest of 1994 during the final weeks leading up to the bill's vote on the House floor. The measure was narrowly defeated by 129–121 although portions of the bill would be adopted by a number of provinces afterwards.

Another major political issue in education during the 1990s was affirmative action. Laws on affirmative action in public education were already introduced in the Gold Coast, Laguna, and San Francisco. Proposals to introduce affirmative action for all universities in the University of Sierra and Sierra National University systems were met with intense controversy. Two main advocacy groups, the Sierran Civil Liberties Association (pro-affirmative action) and the Movement for a Meritocratic-Based Education and Civil Service (anti-affirmative action), were deeply involved in the national debate, and campaigned against each other. A series of legal battles reached the Supreme Court, culminating in the 1998 Supreme Court landmark case which struck down affirmative action in education as a form of reverse discrimination, holding that government accommodations to particular races or other minority classes constituted as unfair preference, and held that such actions were constitutionally prohibited.

In 2014, the Hong Ministry successfully passed a modified version of the 1993 CHANGE Act bill, with the support of both houses. The move expanded the role of the federal government in education and emphasized a shift away from standardized testing towards a holistic style of education that emphasized the "Three Cs of the 21st Century": critical thinking, creativity, and civics-based instruction. The legislation has been met with mixed opinion and has faced legal challenges in several provinces that have resisted standardization. Nonetheless, preliminary data between 2016 and 2017 have suggested rising test scores for PAPE and a downward trend in high school dropout rates. As of 2015, according to the Academic Ranking of International Universities, 10 of the top 20 universities in the world were based in Sierra, and the University of Sierra reported as the world's best university system by a number of organizations including the World Federation of Universities (WFU).

Statistics[edit | edit source]

A Sierran high school graduation ceremony commencing in 2017

In 2017, the Ministry of Education reported that over 21.3 million students were enrolled in schools from kindergarten through graduate schools. It also included individuals who were enrolled in vocational training, apprenticeship, independent study, or homeschool. Of those enrolled in elementary and secondary schools, 4.4 million were enrolled in private schools (both secular and parochial). Of those enrolled in colleges, universities, and graduate schools, 4.1 million were enrolled in private schools. During the 2017–18 academic year, about 87% of high school seniors graduated and received their high school diploma. The high school dropout rate nationwide currently stands at 8.8%, with the remaining percentage unaccounted for including fifth year seniors held back (super seniors) and students enrolled in special education.

Over 90 percent of the adult population have completed high school or received a GED, while nearly half of the adult population have attained a bachelor's degree or higher. About 12% of the adult population have attained a doctoral or postgraduate degree. The average salary for university graduates is more than three times greater than the national average of those who only possess a high school diploma. The 2017 unemployment rate for high school graduates was 10.3% while the rate was only 4.1% among college graduates.

Literacy in Sierra is determined based on a person's ability to read and understand written English or another recognized language. The Ministry of Education reported a basic literacy rate of 100% of all students aged 10 and up in both males and females, although the statistics excluded students with learning disabilities. Similar rates were observed among Sierra's adult population who were K.S. citizens. Among Sierra's immigrant population, about 70% had basic literacy in English, while literacy in any language was much higher, at 83%.

In 2018, there were 1,241 school districts in the country. All districts are subject to the jurisdiction of their respective PSA although there is a considerable level of discretion granted to districts. Most PSAs require school districts to remain open at least 180 days of the year. The academic school year generally begins around mid-to-late August or early September and ends in late May or early June. School years can be divided into three ways: in semesters, trimesters, or quarters. In semesters, the school year is divided into two terms, each lasting roughly 4½ months (18 weeks); in trimesters, the school year is divided into three terms, each lasting roughly 3 months (12 weeks); in quarters, the school year is divided into four terms, each lasting roughly 2½ months (10 weeks).

Budget[edit | edit source]

The responsibility for funding public and private schools in primary and secondary education falls primarily onto Sierra's provinces and Hawaii's states. In the Deseret, the areas receive funding allotted by the Deseret national government. Additional, supplemental funding from the federal government is distributed to each of the PSA's education systems. Current legislation mandates that provincial governments must agree to finance at least 40% of the funding it requires in order to qualify for federal funding without the need to change its standards or curriculum to federally established guidelines. The law allows provinces and states to divert some of the burden to its local governments. Most school districts receive funding from the county, counties, or cities they serve. The most common source of funding come from the provincial and local governments are property taxes and unclaimed lottery prizes. For public university systems and community colleges, funding is similarly shared between the provincial and federal governments, although the minimal percentage of financing required on the part of the provinces is only 20%.

According to a report by the OCED, Sierra spent $16,789 per student in primary and secondary education ($258.56 billion), nearly double the average for all OCED nations (at roughly $8,500), and the third highest amount spent per student in the world, trailing behind Switzerland, Kalmar Union, and Luxembourg. For postsecondary students, Sierra spent more than $15,000 per student, which was roughly $3,000 higher than the OCED average, and was only surpassed by the Northeast Union, Switzerland, and the United Commonwealth by that metric. Despite these figures, Sierra ranks 80th place in the world in the percentage of nominal GDP spent on education, which was about 5.1% in 2017, placing it on par with the United Kingdom and Korea. In addition, the amount it spends per student for postsecondary education is lower than students in primary and secondary education. Increased spending for higher education has been an important issue in Sierran politics due to rising costs in tuition and student loan debt.

Rankings[edit | edit source]

PAPE test scores among Sierran students average significantly higher than other developed nations, scoring on par with Scandinavia and East Asia in mathematics, science, and writing. Sierra regularly places in the Top 10 for mathematics, natural science, advanced physics, and reading. Similar rankings have been observed for other internationally standardized tests. ESL learners studying in Sierra have also scored higher than the average for international English examinations, including the International Assessment for Learners of the English Language (IALEL). Despite the high national averages, there is a level of discrepancy between provinces such as Imperial and San Joaquin, which consistently ranks below Sierra's average and the world's average for scores on PAPE and similar tests.

Educational stages[edit | edit source]

Compulsory education begins at the ages of 5 and 6, with parents required to send their students to a public or private school. Most provinces and states, as well as all of the Deseret and Sierra's overseas territories, require students to continue attending school until they reach the age of 18, although some allow students to leave as early as 16. Students are grouped with other pupils of similar age known as grades and advance one grade up each academic year. Most students begin their education in kindergarten, and proceed to advance from first grade to twelfth grade. Some students begin education earlier between the ages of 3 and 4 in prekindergarten, preschool, or nursery school, while some 6 year olds may start in first grade. Those who have failed to meet the academic expectations or standards of a given grade may be held back to retake the grade once. In some school districts, students who demonstrate extraordinary competence and mastery in their enrolled grade may be offered the opportunity to skip a grade. High school juniors who have completed most of their school credits with excellent grades may have the option to graduate high school and enter college early.

All provincial governments allow parents to homeschool their children, although each province and state maintains their own regulations surrounding homeschooling education. In all instances, parents or legal guardians in charge of homeschooling are expected to comply with local and provincial curriculum to ensure their students will be able to pass standardized testing and maintain competitiveness on college applications.

Ordinal numbers are used to identify grades and grades are generally divided into three stages: elementary school (K–5th/6th grade), middle school or junior high school (6th/7th–8th grades), and high school (9th–12th grades). There are variations between provinces, states, and areas, as shown below in the following table. In the Channel Islands, Beníeîle, and French-speaking majority school districts in Sierra, grades are arranged into stages known as sections. The French sections generally correspond directly with the standard Sierran pathway, following the 6–3–4 format (in contrast to the more prevalent 7–2–4 format). École élémentaire (elementary school) consists of maternelle–Petite section V (K–5th grade), collège (middle school) consists of Moyennes sections I–III (6th–8th grades), and lycée (high school) consists of Grands sections I–IV (9th–12th grades).

General level (or category) Level Student age range
(at the beginning of academic year)
Preschool Pre-kindergarten/Prématernelle 3–5
Compulsory education
Elementary
school
(École élémentaire)
Kindergarten/Maternelle 5–6
1st grade/Petite section I 6–7
2nd grade/Petite section II 7–8
3rd grade/Petite section III 8–9
4th grade/Petite section IV 9–10
5th grade/Petite section V 10–11
Middle
school
6th grade/Moyenne section I 11–12
Junior high
school
(Collège)
7th grade/Moyenne section II 12–13
8th grade/Moyenne section III 13–14
High
school
(Lycée)
Freshman/9th grade/Grand section I 14–15
Senior high
school
Sophomore/10th grade/Grand section II 15–16
Junior/11th grade/Grand section III 16–17
Senior/12th grade/Grand section IV 17–18
Higher education
College
(University)
Undergraduate
school
First year 一年生: "Freshman year" 18–19
Second year 一年生: "Sophomore year" 19–20
Third year 三年生: "Junior year" 20–21
Fourth year 四年生: "Senior year" 21–22
Graduate school
(with various degrees and curricular partitions thereof)
Ages vary
Continuing education
Vocational school Ages vary
Adult education

Following high school education, students may choose to attend a college, university, or vocational school in order to advance their studies and careers. The former two offer undergraduate degrees such as associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees. Community or junior colleges generally offer only associate's degrees while four-year universities offer bachelor's degrees. Students attending community colleges generally transfer to a four-year university upon completing their associate's degree. While all community colleges are publicly funded and part of the Sierra Community Colleges, four-year universities can be either public or private. All but four nonmilitary public universities in Sierra are either part of the University of Sierra system or the Sierra National University system. The four public universities which operate independently from the two systems are the King Smith University, St. James University, Norton University, and The University of the Pacific.

Curriculum varies from institution to institution, with undergraduate students typically able to choose their desired academic major or concentration. Students who have completed their undergraduate studies earns a bachelor's degree and they may choose to advance further into graduate school or professional school in order to obtain a master's degree or doctorate. Graduate schools geared towards academic research generally have their students work on coursework and personal research (in the form of a thesis or dissertation), while graduate schools focused on professional careers offer coursework and internships that train students in their respective fields.

Grading systems[edit | edit source]

Students in a university classroom

Students are assessed and evaluated for their academic performance and competence with letter grades, which are calculated based on percentages. Students' scores for individual assignments and tests are recorded in a grade book, alongside the maximum amount of points that can be earned in said assignments or tests. At the end of a term (i.e., a quarter, semester, or trimester) or year, progress reports or report cards are sent to the student and/or their parents/legal guardians to indicate their overall performance (generally based on the S–F grade scale) and whether the student passed or failed the class. S is the best possible grade in Sierran secondary and postsecondary education, which is reserved for students who have a perfect grade of 100% or earned higher than that through extra credit assignments and tests. The next best possible grade is A, and in chromatic grading scales, A+. The lowest possible grade is F (virtually no schools in Sierra assign an "E"), which is a failing grade. For most institutions, the lowest passing grade is D, although it is generally a conditional, limited pass wherein the student may only get partial credit or may be ineligible to advance towards a higher class until the grade is raised because it is an insufficient grade. Some institutions consider D a failing grade and consider C or C- as the lowest possible grade. C is universally regarded as the standard passing grade.

Students with excellent grades and academic performance may be recognized at their school as part of the honor roll. In high schools, colleges, and universities, students may be placed on a ranking system, which is determined based on GPA scores, calculated from students' class grades. Some institutions use the Latin honors system instead, and may or may not rank students. Students who have earned an A throughout their academic career are referred to as "straight A students". Students who have scored a perfect S in all of their classes are exceedingly rare and often reported on by the media and honored by officials due to its rarity and difficulty in achieving. The S grade was initially introduced in 1989 by the Hawkins Private Schools, before it became adopted by public schools and other private schools. The difficulty of earning an S and the pressure associated in the attempt to earn it has elicited controversy and criticism, especially among education critics who question the emphasis on grades. The grade has motivated some students to take on several extra credit assignments, which has led to accusations that such practices amount to grade inflation or even bribery between students and teachers. In addition, there have been notable incidents where students committed suicide due to their attempts to earn a perfect S record, often after they earned a non-S grade (such as an A+ instead). Some schools have omitted the S grade, and only assign A or A+ as the highest possible grade for their courses. Alternative approaches include assigning S the same point value as an A+ or A (not giving out any grade points higher than 4.0) or to replace A+ with S (allowing students to earn at least 97% to earn an S).

In Waldorf schools, democratic schools, and some private schools, written evaluations detailing the student's strengths, weaknesses, and progress are given instead of letter grades or numeric value. In addition, some school districts have adopted custom grading scales rather than the standard S-F scale. Since 2001, most elementary schools throughout Sierra have adopted the A–FBB scale, which assigns the grades of A (highest), P, B (passing), BB, and FBB (lowest) on an adjusted percentage scale.

Standard grading scale
S
Perfect
A
Excellent
B
Good
C
Satisfactory/Fair
D
Poor/Passing
F
Fail

4.66+
+
4.33

4.00

3.66
+
3.33

3.00

2.66
+
2.33

2.00

1.66
+
1.33

1.00

0.66

0.00
100.00+ 99.99–97.00 96.99–93.00 92.99–90.00 89.99–87.00 86.99–83.00 82.99–80.00 79.99–77.00 76.99–73.00 72.99–70.00 69.99–67.00 66.99–63.00 62.99–60.00 59.99–0.00
Elementary school grading scale variant
A
Advanced
P
Proficient
B
Basic
BB
Below Basic
FBB
Far Below Basic
100.00–90.00 89.99–75.00 74.99–65.00 64.99–50.00 49.99–0.00

K–12 education[edit | edit source]

Public education from kindergarten and 12th grade (K–12 education) is free. Most school districts operate a 7–2–4 system, wherein elementary school includes kindergarten to 6th grade, middle school includes 7th and 8th grade, and high school includes 9th to 12th grade. The second most common system is the 6–3–4 system, wherein elementary school includes kindergarten to 5th grade, middle school includes 6th to 8th grades, and high school includes 9th to 12th grades. An uncommon system is the 6–4–3 system in which middle school includes 6th to 9th grades and high school includes 10th to 12th grades.

All school districts are required to offer public transportation to and from their schools for all eligible elementary and middle school students who need it. The most common form of public transportation provided by the school district are school buses, with schools generally operating 2 buses to transport students whose parents are unable to provide reliable transportation and those who live too far from walking distance. Some high schools offer school bus services, although availability is limited and providing enough seats to accommodate students without reliable transportation is not required.

All schools from K–12 offer lunch around noontime, which is free or discounted for students from low-income families, and between $2.50–$4.00 for all other students. Nearly all schools allow students to bring food prepared at home or bought outside campus grounds. Lunch prepared and bought at school is often referred to as "hot lunch" while lunch brought from outside school is conversely referred to as "cold lunch". Some schools also offer breakfast and operate vending machines that sell snacks, salads, drinks, and pre-made meals.

Elementary school[edit | edit source]

Butterfield Elementary School in Lake Elsinore, Inland Empire

Elementary school or the equivalent level of primary education is compulsory and required for all students starting between the ages of 5 and 6. The actual school year a student enrolls largely depends on where their birthday falls in relation to the first day of school. In most provinces, students who are aged 5 on or before the first day of school must be enrolled in either a public or private school, or be homeschooled (if the household received prior approval from the provincial government). All children must be enrolled in school or receive homeschool instruction before or on their 6th birthday. Parents who do not enroll their students can be fined or imprisoned for violating truancy laws, and in some cases, can be legally pursued in court by the student's home school district. Some PSAs provide for exemptions to compulsory education, particularly for students with learning disabilities or serious health conditions.

Elementary school includes kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Elementary schools operating in a 7–2–4 system district have the sixth grade as their highest grade, whereas those operating in 6–3–4 or 6–4–3 systems have the fifth grade as their highest grade.

While curriculum varies from PSA to PSA, the primary function and purpose of elementary schools are to introduce students to basic concepts of the core subjects (mathematics, English, natural science, social science, history, and art), and to help students develop social, interpersonal, communication, writing, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. Physical education is integral in elementary school education, and recess is also considered an important time for early learning development. Most elementary schools have at least two recesses, of which one is 20-30 minutes in length and the other being 15-25 minutes in length. Some schools provide for a late afternoon recess or an early morning recess.

An elementary school in Anakotanoma, Plumas

Kindergarten and first grade students spend time learning the alphabet, basic phonics, simple addition and subtraction, civics, basic manners, roles and jobs in society, constructing simple sentences, basic anatomy, the seasons, animals, plants, and nutrition. Music, foreign language, and technology may also be introduced and taught during kindergarten. Sierran Hanzi writing is usually introduced during the first grade and approximately 20 characters are taught by the end of the year. Starting at the second grade, students are introduced to multi-digit addition and subtraction problems, and learn simple multiplication and division, and expand upon their writing skills, as well as learning basic grammatical rules and conventions. Physics is often introduced to students for science. For history, students learn about the monarchy, the federal government, basic geography, and the Sierran Cultural Revolution. In third grade, long division, estimation, and decimals are introduced; students are taught reading comprehension skills and may be expected to draw inferences or explain stories from selected chapter books, as well as the ability to distinguish a variety of genres in literature; basic chemistry and the physical sciences are further expanded upon for science; and students learn a more detailed timeline of Sierran history. In fourth grade, students begin to learn geometry and basic fractions, write five paragraph essays, understand Sierran politics and the history of their home PSA, develop leadership and collaboration skills, learn astronomy and more physics, and read more complex stories. In fifth grade, students are introduced to world history, with an emphasis on ancient civilizations. Basic algebra and geometry may be taught during this time, and exponents may be introduced towards the end of the school year. Biology is often the primary science taught during this grade, with concepts on ecology, biomes, and environmental interactions being introduced. In sixth grade, students learn how to develop longer essays to prepare for middle school assignments, expand on the math skills they acquired from fifth grade, learn world history of the antiquity and classical periods, and learn more about the natural sciences and geology, including evolutionary history and geological history. By the end of the sixth grade, students are expected to have learned and memorized all of the pre-intermediate Sierran Hanzi set as defined by the Royal Commission on Adapted Chinese Characters for English (RCACCE), which includes 1,110 characters. Students are tested for their knowledge of the characters during mid-May of their sixth grade year.

Middle or junior high school[edit | edit source]

South Pasadena Middle School in South Pasadena, Gold Coast

In middle school, students begin to have multiple classrooms and teachers, which are separated into periods, evenly distributed throughout the school day. It usually includes the seventh and eighth grades, although those operating in certain districts under the 6–3–4 or 6–4–3 may include the sixth grade and/or ninth grade(s). Essays, projects, and peer-to-peer evaluations are much more frequent in middle school education, in order to prepare students for high school and higher education. The level of difficulty and amount of Sierran Hanzi characters taught are also increased, and new subjects such as topics on health, sexuality, drug awareness, and birth control are introduced to students. In addition, students are assigned guidance counselors whose role is to prepare and assist students in their future, prospective careers. Students are also expected to commit community service hours in order to pass, with most school districts requiring students to put in a minimum of 10 hours of community service each term. Students may also engage in extracurricular activities at school grounds (such as sports, school dances, and other social functions) and participate in clubs organized by fellow students, as well as become involved in student government and other leadership roles. Although students are expected to take mandatory courses, they are able to choose a limited number of classes at their own discretion and pleasure. These courses are known as electives, and may be include classes for a foreign language, music (such as band), newspaper, or yearbook.

High school[edit | edit source]

For most high schools in Sierra, the first year is usually the 9th grade and its students are known as freshmen. Students in 10th grade are sophomores; 11th grade is junior; 12th grade is senior. Typically, freshmen and sophomores are grouped together as underclassmen while juniors and seniors are grouped as upperclassmen. Compared to middle school, students in high school enjoy a higher degree in choices when selecting courses and subject matter. In addition, students exercise a greater deal of autonomy as they are encouraged to engage in a variety of extracurricular activities and responsibilities, including sports, student leadership, recreational clubs, theater, music, and journalism. Engineering, nursing, business, and other special programs are typically offered at large high schools in well-funded school districts, and out-of-district transfer students may be able to attend such high schools for the programs. Some specialized high schools, especially private high schools, offer vocational-technical training in various fields including welding, horticulture, informational processing, culinary arts, and automotive mechanics. Select high schools operate Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs that are sponsored by the Sierran Crown Armed Forces that trains prospective cadets and prepare them for further advancement in military-oriented careers in higher education.

Many high schools offer honors, Accelerated Learning (AL), or International Scholar (IS) courses. Such courses are comparatively more challenging than their standard coursework equivalents, and typically teach college-level material. Students taking AL or IS courses are able to earn higher GPA points in their weighted averages when compared to non-AL or non-IS peers earning the same raw grades. In addition, both AL and IS offer examinations at the end of the year to test students of their knowledge in their class. High test scores from these examinations are often accepted at various universities and colleges worldwide and allow students to earn credit towards their undergraduate studies.

High school has been viewed as a critical moment in one's life in Sierra, as it is seen as the final developmental years of a teenager before they become full-fledged adults. A number of traditions associated with juniors and seniors have been romanticized in Sierran entertainment and popular culture, including homecoming dance, prom, field trips, and senior ditch day. Once students have attained a minimum amount of credits, they are eligible for graduation and are usually honored at a graduation ceremony at the end of their senior year where they receive a convocation, graduation robes, decorative cords, and a diploma.

The standard bell schedule for high schools is between the hours of 7:30 AM and 3:00 PM, with most schools remaining in session between six and eight hours. The earliest time for high schools to start the school day is 6:00 AM, although some schools offer students a "zero period", which is an optional class that is held before official opening times, and can be held as early as 6:30 AM. The latest time schools remain session can be 4:00 PM, and many schools offer after-school programs for its students. Minimum days or early release days are universal throughout Sierran high schools, with most schools offering at least one minimum day per week on a fixed day (usually Wednesday or Friday), and offering more minimum days during the weeks of midterms and finals. Minimum days often feature shorter class periods, or entire periods removed, and end the school day by about one to two and a half hours earlier than the standard school day.

Prior to graduation, students must take a number of standardized tests to gauge their academic performance and curriculum competence. One of the most famous tests is the Comprehensive Sierran Hanzi Assessment (CSHA), which tests students' knowledge to read, write, and understand the 2,200 characters listed by the RCACCE as the essential characters that are used at college-level Sierran Hanzi. In addition, all PSAs require high school seniors to take pass the provincial or state high school exit examination before graduating. Often, such test is either a standardized assessment that reviews English language composition, mathematics, natural science, and history, although some school districts may opt for the alternative portfolio assessment wherein students are asked to submit a series of projects and essays that demonstrate academic and personal growth during the students' time in high school.

Higher education[edit | edit source]

View of the University of Sierra, Berkeley from Evans Hall, with San Francisco City and Oakland in the background

Higher education in Sierra is the final, optional stage of formal education that follows secondary education. In 2018, the Ministry of Education reported that there were a total of 379 four-year universities and graduate schools (both public and private) and 1,001 community colleges in the Kingdom of Sierra, including its territories and crown dependencies. In 2013, 46% of enrolled students graduated from college in four years and 67% completed their undergraduate studies in six years, at the same college they enrolled in. Sierra ranks among the top 10 countries in the world for percentage of adults with college degrees.

Most Sierran high school students apply for colleges and universities during the fall semester of their senior year. Usually, students apply to several different institutions, and provide entire transcripts of grades, AL test scores, and other documental information. The majority of higher education institutions return acceptance or rejection letters between the months of April and June, allowing students ample time to prepare and decide among the schools they were accepted to. Financial aid is usually filled out and processed during the summer before fall classes begin in order for incoming students to cover tuition dues. Some Sierran colleges and universities require students to also submit an essay.

Schools differ in competitiveness, reputation, and prestige. Private universities such as Stanford University and Mulholland University have acceptance rates lower than 6% while older, well-established public universities such as the University of Sierra, Berkeley and the University of Sierra, Porciúncula have similarly low acceptance rates due to various factors ranging from limited class size to the high volume of prospective applicants. Such schools evaluate students holistically, choosing among students who demonstrate academic rigor, community involvement, high test scores, well-written essays, and class rankings during high school. Although affirmative action laws have prevented universities from allowing race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation to play a major role in applications, they remain permitted as long as they account for a small factor to the overall student's profile. Generally speaking, socioeconomic circumstances and other notable handicaps, such as the death of an immediate family member or foster child status are indicators that have continued to be allowed to factor into applications significantly. Nearly all community colleges accept applicants without regard to transcript grades, extracurricular activities, or other exhaustive criteria, with priority given to applicants residing within the community college's home district. Few community colleges have admission requirements and standards as high as an average four-year university, although this has become the case for a number of urban community colleges with a limited student population capacity within the vicinity or in the partnership of prestigious universities. Some community colleges feature programs (such as nursing) which have different admission standards from general admissions and may thus exhibit competitive and rigorous application pool similar to those in four-year universities.

The Lattie F. Coor Hall Building at Sierra National University, Tempe

Students enrolled in community college or a four-year university are known as undergraduates. They take courses and required classes based on their field of concentration known as a major. Some students choose to pursue double majors or "minor" in another study in addition to their major. For students in community college, after they have completed two year's worth of credits and classes, they earn an associate's degree. Students who have completed four year's worth of credits and classes usually receive either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS). Sometimes, other bachelor's degrees are given at certain institutions, depending on the major the student completed during their time attending.

After undergraduate study, students may proceed to graduate or professional school where they can pursue graduate study in order to earn professional degrees in law, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, and other fields. Although these professional fields do not require a specific undergraduate major, certain fields such as medicine require prerequisite courses (usually in mathematics and science) that must be taken prior to enrollment. Similar to four-year universities, graduate schools have varying admissions standards, and often require students to take specific tests to determine their relative competitiveness and competence. Graduate and professional schools offer advanced degrees such as master's degrees. The highest form of degree conferred onto graduate schools for most programs is the doctorate, which comes in a variety of forms, but is most commonly rewarded to students as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). For some programs, especially those related to medical fields, post-graduates are required to undergo an apprenticeship in the form of internship or residency prior to receiving a license that certifies the individual has been fully trained. Law students often need to take their provincial bar exam before they can legally practice.

Cost[edit | edit source]

Annual tuition for four-year universities and graduate schools vary widely from institution to institution and province to province. In addition to tuition, other fees and associated expenses that are required are generally unaccounted for in the actual tuition price. Although the University of Sierra and Sierra National University campuses are funded and operated at a national level, each campus receives additional funding from their home PSA and thus, each campus charges higher tuition for out-of-state students (students living outside the PSA or qualifying neighbor PSAs). Private universities tend to cost more than public universities as the latter is substantially supported by the federal and provincial governments through taxation.

Although community colleges do not charge tuition as four-year universities do, students must pay individual fees associated with each enrolled class, as well as other schooling and administrative expenses (i.e. school parking, student association fees, textbooks) and may utilize financial aid options in order to pay for such expenses if needed.

The federal and provincial governments provide a variety of methods and options to assist students with tuition costs and fees. Financial aid in the form of grants and subsidies are common for students from working-class and middle-class families. Low-interest loans are offered for students of households earning above a fluctuating income ceiling. Various private companies also offer student loans, although interest rates are often much higher compared to government loans. In addition, there are hundreds of private charities and associations which reward scholarships of variable amounts to students based on various criteria.

Adult education[edit | edit source]

In some provinces, there are public adult schools (also known as continuing schools) that offer secondary education to adults who have neither completed high school nor acquired a GED certification. The purpose of such schools are to ensure adults who have missed the opportunity to finish high school to do so affordably and quickly. Such schools are highly popular among first-generation immigrants, many of whom emigrate from poor socioeconomic backgrounds without quality education. There are no adult school districts or systems in existence, as most adult schools are operated and controlled by local school districts, while a few are independent (directly controlled by the province). Some community colleges have created programs to fast track and eliminate the educational gap between diploma-less adult students and undergraduates by offering programs that allow students to earn credits and receive education from both high school-level classes and entry-level college classes, and thereby reducing time needed to obtain a GED and applying to a four-year university thereafter.

Unlike Sierran high schools, there are generally no exit examinations required to take in order to obtain a GED. In addition, students are not required to prove competency in advanced Sierran Hanzi literacy, although they are encouraged to do so if they seek to advance their academic pursuits at certain universities and colleges.

Languages[edit | edit source]

Although Sierra has nine official languages, the primary language used in instruction and general education outside of foreign language classes is English. English is considered the standard language for education throughout the Kingdom and is the language studied in composition, literature, and writing classes. In addition, learning Sierran Hanzi is mandatory as it is deemed integral in Sierran English education, with students expected to memorize and understand over 2,100 characters by the time they graduate from high school in order to prepare them for college-level reading comprehension. In areas and regions where one of the other official languages (Spanish, French, Tondolese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, or German) is spoken, schools may teach all classes, except in literature arts, conducting in those languages. Furthermore, federal anti-discrimination law guarantees the right of every student to receive education regardless of their primary language and therefore, native speakers of non-official languages such as Dutch may still receive education at certain schools which have been allowed to specialize teaching students in a particular language. Such schools have historically been prevalent in linguistically pluralistic provinces such as Shasta and Plumas, and have declined as usage of English as a primary language has grown in such areas. French is the only standard language used for all classes, including literature arts, in the Channel Islands and Béneîle, while Spanish is the only standard language in the El Norte territories.

Standardized testing[edit | edit source]

Standardized testing, in all of its various forms, exists at all levels in Sierran education and all PSAs. In elementary school, students are required to take at least one standardized test at the end of the school year, which is usually a provincial-wide assessment used to gauge the academic performance of the students based on material covered over that year. The national Sierran Hanzi examinations are taken by sixth graders and twelfth graders nationwide, while numerous other Sierran Hanzi tests, issued at the discretion of the PSAs are taken for other years. For high school, all students are required to pass the provincial high school exit examination or complete an alternative high school academic portfolio in order to be eligible for graduation.

ABA[edit | edit source]

The ABA, originally called the Academic Baseline Assessment, is the primary standardized test used by colleges and universities to determine students' readiness for college-level education in mathematics, writing, and critical reading. The test is administered and owned by the Governing Council of Anglo-American Colleges (GCAAC), a gentrified trust that works closely with partnering colleges and universities to ensure a comprehensive entrance examination used by various institutions for freshman applications. The ABA is largest and most popular form of test used and administered in Western Anglo-America, and competes with the United Commonwealth-based CAT (College Admissions Test) in Eastern Anglo-America.

The test is administered biannually during the months of May and November, with testing sessions offered on multiple dates during these two months. The ABA is divided into three sections, one for mathematics, one for writing, and one for critical reading. The overall test has a time limit of 180 minutes (excluding mandatory break times, which cumulatively is an additional 45 minutes), with each section lasting exactly an hour. There is an additional essay section that lasts an hour, although it is optional. Scores on the ABA range from 2200 to 4200, and students' scores are compared to others' based on a bell curve.

Multiple versions of the test are produced each time. Questions and answers to the tests are kept confidential except to certified graders and reviewers working for the GCAAC, although practice examinations and sample questions are released to the public to teachers, students, and parents frequently. Many students often take tutoring services in order to score high or improve their existing scores at tutoring centers or cram schools on the ABA test.

Extracurricular activities[edit | edit source]

High school students practicing Anglo-American football in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara

Extracurricular activities and programs are integral in Sierran education at all levels. These activities includes sports, clubs, community service, leadership positions, speech, student government, and other extracurriculars. Most extracurricular activities take place after school, although many school districts allow clubs and other activities to take place during breaks within the bell schedule (such as during lunchtime or recess). The Sierran educational system emphasizes the importance for students to participate and engage in extracurricular activities to allow students to develop their skills in communications, teamwork, interpersonal relationships, leadership skills, civic duty, finding interests, building self-esteem, and self-discovery.

While the extracurricular activities of students are typically restricted to sports and other physical activities for elementary school students, the range of activities and clubs offered is expanded starting in middle school. From middle school to high school, students are required to dedicate a minimum amount of community service hours each academic term in order to graduate.

University students attending a social function organized by an extracurricular club

In 2017, 1,384 organizations had chapters and clubs in schools, colleges, and universities nationwide. Many clubs require students to pay membership dues or fees in order to certify official membership status although various schools often subsidize students to pay for these dues. Notable clubs include the community service-oriented Wheel Club, Physicians Without Borders, Organized Clubs for Training of America (OCTA), and the Sierran Red Cross. Each club and organization are often run and organized by local and regional leadership, consisting of students and sponsoring educators. Bylaws, fees, events, and other aspects of clubs are common.

In colleges and universities, most campuses have active Greek life that includes fraternities and sororities. Fraternal organizations offer social networking for their members and can be social-oriented, academic-oriented, or combined. Generally, fraternities and sororities are gender-based although there are numerous coeducational fraternal organizations organized in Sierra. Similar to extracurricular clubs, fraternal organizations have their own bylaws, organized hierarchy, leadership, and membership dues. Most also require initiation known as "pledging" wherein an initiate must undergo a probationary period prior to becoming accepted as a member. Initiates are formally invited to become pledges during a period known as "rushing" when fraternal organizations allow non-members an opportunity to participate in their parties and social functions, and be evaluated by existing members. Historically, fraternities have often resorted to hazing practices towards initiates although many campuses have taken up an official policy banning hazing and similar practices due to past incidents involving serious injury or even death. Some campuses with an active Greek presence have housing facilities dedicated for fraternities and sororities either on or near campus, while others forbid such housing arrangements.

School and collegiate sports play an important role in Sierran education and society on a greater scale. Most high schools and colleges put in significant investment to their sports teams and athletics program, with Anglo-American football, basketball, and tennis often cited as the most popular sports. Various other sports, often segregated by sex as well as skill and seniority (non-varsity, junior varsity, and varsity) are also prevalent in many schools. Athletic high school students who perform exceptionally well in their field may receive full-ride scholarships to attend a particular university in order to play for them at the collegiate, and possibly professional level. Athletes who also excel in their academics may also be recognized for their dedication and efforts, and honored for their dual distinction as an athlete and a scholar. Certain sports, particularly Anglo-American football, are often the main focus for school's athletic programs as their games tend to attract the most community support and attendance during home and away matches. Other notable spectator sports that are featured are association football, water polo, volleyball, wrestling, baseball, softball, hockey, and lacrosse. Dancing, gymnastics, cheerleading, and color guard are also viewed as forms of sport and receive similar levels of support as spectator sports at large high schools and postsecondary schools.

Criticism and issues[edit | edit source]

Curriculum[edit | edit source]

The standard Sierran curriculum has been criticized for a variety of reasons, and depends between PSA to PSA. Critics have questioned the effectiveness and usefulness of rote memorization as the primary method of learning and test-taking strategy in most classes. The perceived overemphasis on math, science, writing, and history found in most PSA curricula have also raised concerns, as the arts and humanities have been neglected. The Sierran educational system has been accused of stifling creativity and inhibiting students' ability to express themselves within the traditional classroom. In addition, companies and businesses have often complained that young applicants who graduated from high school or universities often do not possess the real-life or relevant skills needed to function or meet the changing demands in the workforce and corporate world. Elementary and middle schools have been criticized for focusing primarily on preparing their students for high school, whose students are in turn prepared for college-level education. Critics have argued that the current general curriculum does not allow for a more holistic, comprehensively open platform that allows students to explore multiple options, such as vocational training or alternative career paths, rather than one geared primarily to universities.

There have been efforts to centralize or nationalize Sierra's curricula into a core, generalized curriculum under the Ministry of Education. While education has traditionally been the domain of the provinces, states, and areas, numerous educational organizations and social reformists have called for a more cohesive system of national standardization across the entire Kingdom in education. Such efforts have been met with mixed opinion and uneven results, often meeting opposition from federalist-minded voters who are concerned over delegating more power to Porciúncula.

Testing[edit | edit source]

Critics have complained about Sierran schools teaching test preparation over natural learning. In virtually all grades, there are forms of standardized testing students must take that they will be evaluated by and against other students and schools. The prevailing system of financial appropriations and funding in Sierran education have prompted schools to push their students towards scoring higher on standardized tests in order to obtain more funding compared to weaker performing schools. Similar criticisms have also been lashed out against college entrance examinations, particularly those for the University of Sierra campuses and select Sierra National University campuses where examinations are often the primary determining factor for acceptances, and promotes a highly competitive environment that encourages elitism among dedicated students and negative effects on rejected applicants. Higher suicide rates before, during, and after midterm or finals week have also been attributed to the elevated importance and emphasis on test-taking and its contribution towards students' perceived and actualized academic successes.

The focus on testing has been criticized for forcing students to develop counterintuitive or detrimental learning practices, such as cramming or cheating. The prevalence of cram schools and other tutoring centers have also been similarly criticized as they are indicative of a test-oriented educational culture. The rising use of free response questions alongside the standard multiple choice format has been one of the responses designed to address concerns that Sierran testing encourages memorization and educated guesses at the expense of critical thinking and long-term retention.

Bullying[edit | edit source]

In a 2017 report by the Ministry of Education, it revealed that 1 out of 4 students in Sierran schools, colleges, and universities have been affected by bullying at some point in their academic career, and that 22% of surveyed respondents admitted to engaging in bullying behavior or actions at some point in their academic career. It found that certain groups, particularly LGBT students and racial minorities, faced even higher rates of bullying by their peers. Cyberbullying incidences have increased since 2008 as more students have access to the internet and social media via computer, laptop, or smartphone, and it has been regarded and designated as a local "epidemic" in some school districts, especially urban, high-density ones. Bullying is universally condemned and forbidden at every school district and at every level of education as Sierran schools maintain an official zero tolerance for such behavior, and the Ministry of Education publishes an annual report for educators, parents, and students on the dangers and consequences of bullying, and counteracting solutions to the problem. Bullying is subject to disciplinary action and severe or sustained, habitual bullying can warrant a student's own expulsion. In particularly extreme cases, bullies can be tried as criminals if their actions cause significant bodily or mental harm, or even death to a victim. Hazing in colleges and universities is generally also considered a form of bullying and treated similarly by the educational system and prosecutors.

Mental health and suicide[edit | edit source]

Depression, often academically-related, is the leading cause of disability in Sierra in both the general population and student population. Each year, around 12,000 students commit suicide while more than twice that number of students attempt to commit suicide. Studies have revealed suicides, both successful and failed, often take place immediately before, during, and after important testing weeks, especially among upperclassmen and graduate students. Over 60% of students surveyed in the Ministry of Education's Annual Student Mental Health Report (ASMHR) reported that they slept less than 6 hours more than three times a week due to coursework or testing directly related to schooling. About 42% of students reported "spending more than 50% studying" during their free time rather than engaging in other activities such as leisure, socializing, or exercising.

In most provinces, states, and areas, there are laws in place that require every school or university, both public and private, to have at least one full-time counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist on-site to provide mental health support and consulting services for its students. Many school districts have comprehensive policies surrounding mental health and suicide, which include providing student support services, annual events highlighting mental health awareness, and promoting a welcoming environment for all students. In some high schools, students are paired (usually between an underclassman and an upperclassman) in a buddy system to hold each other accountable and safe. Schools also host programs to teach better parenting, early intervention, and suicide prevention among peers and the community to ensure students are able to remain happy, safe, and concentrated on schoolwork and socializing.

Textbook controversies[edit | edit source]

The primary source of controversy for Sierran textbooks used in public schools are history textbooks, particularly those that focus on the Sierran Cultural Revolution. Sierran history textbooks have been criticized for romanticizing and whitewashing the development and maturation of the Revolution from its principles to its leading figures, while downplaying the actions of the Sierran government and paramilitary forces such as the Order of the White Rose. The most contentious and controversial period of the Sierran Cultural Revolution, known as the Approbatio or the "Lost Years" has been the predominant point of dispute among historians, historiographers, educators, and activists. Textbook reformers have argued that the textbooks should portray the Revolution from a neutral point of view that discussed both the positive and negative events and effects of the Revolution fairly and evenly, and remove any intentional framing that casts the Revolution and its propagators in a disproportionately favorable light. Defenders have counterclaimed that the purpose of the textbooks is to instill students a sense of patriotism, national pride, and reverence for the nation's history, and to teach students of the importance and impact that the Revolution brought upon, which was a multiethnic, pluralistic, multilingual society bound by common heritage and struggle.

In 2015, cultural republicans, Landonites, and dissident republicans objected to San Joaquin textbooks' negative portrayal of Isaiah Landon as a war criminal and dictator. Among the descriptive terms used for Landon, the man was labeled "bloodthirsty", "opportunistic", and "impish", which triggered public outcry from these communities and political movements. Following an evaluation by the San Joaquin Board of Education, the textbook publishers were forced to remove slanted words and revise several written sections in the textbooks.

See also[edit | edit source]