The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (the "UK") or Britain includes England, Scotland, Wales and North Ireland. Lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland, the country has an area of 230,600 km2, 14 overseas territories away from its mainland and has great and far-reaching influence on language, culture, politics and legal system of its former colonies.
2. Political and Legal Systems
The UK applies parliamentary system of governance. Its capital city is London with three devolved administrations, Belfast in Northern Ireland, Cardiff in Wales and Edinburgh in Scotland. Britain is the world's first constitutional monarchy and the current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II. Both English law, which applies in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland law are based on common-law principles.
3. Economy and Diplomacy
The United Kingdom was the world's first industrialized country and the world's superpower during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is the major victor of the World War I and II, with nuclear weapons state and its military expenditure rank the fourth in the world. The UKis one of the five permanent member states of the United Nations Security Council, with veto rights of the Councils's resolutions. It is a member state of the European Union (EU) and a founding member of NATO. As an important trading entity, an economic super-power and financial center, the UK is the world's sixth largest economy system, and also one of the world's richest and most developed countries with the highest living standards. Service industry, especially banking, financing, shipping, insurance and business services sector accounts for a significant proportion ofits GDP.
4. History, Culture and Transportation
The UK enjoys beautiful natural sceneries, lively cities as well as quiet towns.People can fell its long history and taste its ancient and modern cultures and arts. It also has a multicultural and open-minded society. London is a world metropolitan, only second to New York in ethnic diversity. The British society is quite peaceful with stable life and low crime rate; and the country has a mild and rainy weather. It seldom suffers from disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons or tsunamis; It is also very convenient to travel through the UK to the rest of the world with its efficient highway, railway and aviation.
In the UK, children of 5 to 16 years old are compulsory to receive education by law. British education is generally divided into five stages: kindergarten education for children of 3 to 5 years old; primary school education for those of 5 to 11 years old; secondary school education for those 11 to 16 years old; high school education (or university preparatory education) for those of 16 to 18 years old; and higher/university education thereafter, the length of higher/university education is slightly different in different places, different colleges/universities and different majors.
The British public schools are government funded. Students below 16 years old are exempted from paying tuition fees. Private secondary schools are famous in their excellent teaching qualities, rich resources and advanced equipment and attract students from all over the world.