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Plans to Change A-Level Schooling System in the UK to Baccalaureate

To retain their place as a competitive nation in an ever increasingly globalised world, the UK is considering a change to its established A-level system.

International competition and increasing standards of job applicants within the UK mean that the government and educational specialists are constantly attempting to investigate and implement new ways to improve students’ versatility and employability. Following a recent suggestion to replace degree classifications with a grade point average, or GPA, within universities, a debate has arisen regarding A-levels versus alternative courses prior to degree level study. The Royal Society is concerned by the decreasing popularity in studying A-level Physics (with 16% of institutions now no longer teaching it at all) and wants a reform for A-levels towards the International Baccalaureate.

The strengths of the IB programme involve the concepts of breadth, independence, internationalism and stretch. For example, IB pupils study six subjects instead of the traditional four. These subjects include a requirement of maths, a science, a humanities subject, a foreign language, one’s own native language and one other ‘elective’ subject. This also prevents those young people who are not yet ready to specialise from feeling they have to narrow their choices down too much.

The present proposals suggest that the current overhaul of A-levels could see the creation of an Advanced Baccalaureate. This would include a range of A-levels, with an expectation that pupils would study a wider selection of subjects – such as studying both the sciences and the arts. The AS-level would continue as a separate qualification.

The Department for Education stressed this would not mean the end of A-levels but the addition of an A-Bacc, as a new measure for schools. Labour’s Stephen Twigg said that he supported the ‘concept of an A Bacc’, but said that it should have a range of subjects including computing and engineering and should work alongside their proposed ‘Tech Bacc’ for vocational courses.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has previously called for a more academically rigorous approach to A-levels with greater involvement from universities. Universities have complained that the A-level system does not challenge pupils sufficiently or give them the intellectual independence and curiosity needed for degree-level study.

Ofqual is consulting on whether modular A-levels should be scrapped and replaced with an exam at the end of the two year period, and is also looking at ideas such as limiting the number of re-sits. It has also been suggested that pupils would have to write a 5,000-word extended essay, adding a component that is a key part of the International Baccalaureate.

The ATL teachers’ union criticised how this information was reaching the public.

Nansi Ellis, head of education policy and research, stated: “(Gove) shows contempt for teachers, pupils and parents by once again discussing this with journalists before talking to those who will be affected by it, or those with the expertise to ensure a changed system works.

“This is piecemeal change, dreamt up by politicians, which means no-one is quite sure what will happen next.”

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1 Comment

  1. I did the IB, but I’m not sure it’s for everyone. Whilst I believe there should be reform, this probably isn’t the way to go, and wouldn’t make those forced to stay in post-16 education still want to be there.


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