Bac plan is death knell for A levels

July 4, 2003

All existing school and college examinations would be swept away or "re-engineered" under a baccalaureate scheme proposed by academics at the Institute of Education.

An English baccalaureate or diploma, with four levels from entry to advanced, is proposed by the London-based institute and is a leading contender among qualifications models being looked at by former Ofsted chief inspector Mike Tomlinson to replace the current system.

The proposed scheme takes features from the International Baccalaureate and examinations such as GCSEs and A levels. It would transform A levels, which would no longer be self-standing qualifications.

Each baccalaureate would include four core elements: English, mathematics, modern foreign languages and information technology. The qualification would allow students to build other subjects around the core to develop "specialist research skills". Critical thinking, theory of knowledge, and extracurricular activities would also be included. A credit-accumulation system would span the entire framework.

Institute senior lecturer Ann Hodgson, who presented the proposals to an Association for College Management conference today, said the baccalaureate would have to be an entirely new system, rather than a "wrapper" for existing qualifications.

She said: "It would be worth looking at what is already there to see what could be included, but it is unlikely that any of the current qualifications - except perhaps the A2 - would be useful as they stand within the baccalaureate system."

Dr Hodgson said that even if current qualifications were used, they would have to be "re-engineered".

She added that the core elements of the new qualification should not be considered the same as qualifications such as GCSEs as they would be more flexible and "broadly conceived".

"The study of languages could be something to do with international relations rather than just learning that language, while English and mathematics could be much more applied than they are at the moment," she said.

Mr Tomlinson begins a wide-ranging consultation on reforming the qualifications system this month.

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