Announce Plan: After the A-level examination crisis of 2002, we can see how they are not only limiting but also exclusive and should be replaced by a model that is alike to the 1968 international Baccalaureate by adapting it to a national baccalaureate.
Loss in confidence: In the a-level education system. The crisis in 2002, meant that 91, 000 students had their work re-graded due to the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA examination board (OCR), the board at the centre of the Summers’ A-level crisis. The allegations were that marks had been fixed to hide the overall increase or decrease in passes of exam grades in A2 marks from previous A1 grades.
Many Students grades were higher than their predicted grade. This meant that students missed out on the opportunity to get into the Universities and study the subjects of their choice. The Tomlinson report (former Ofstead (office for standards in education) (the inspection service) chief) suggests that the marking system was due having three separate exam boards not having the right boundaries for the grades. It is understood that in the case of some units in some subjects, grade boundaries appear to be out of line with historical patterns and may need to be adjusted. The candidates in the middle ranges were often dropping two grades in their A2 marks to fall in line with their previous A1 marks.
Estelle Morris wants pupils to have a ‘broader curriculum’. She sees that ‘something is not right’ with the 11th hour alterations of grade boundaries by the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA exam board (23.9.’03)
What’s wrong with them? Too narrow a focus. People as young 16 often feel restrained to study just 4 subjects
Examined in their first year, not enough time to grasp hold of the subject. The result of which, students often choose what they are good at rather than having a broad education, exploring more areas and choosing subject areas that are perhaps different from their backgrounds. 16-19 should be a time of exploration into a wide variety of areas. Trying to squeeze a speciality out of them at an early age invites narrow-mindedness and hegemony.
By the time of examination they should feel that they’ve had long enough to grasp an understanding of the subject not only that interests them, but also gives a good grasp of issues in the world. It’s long enough time period to see the larger picture and also sharp enough to delve into the subject in greater depth. It doesn’t just involve learning verbatim that current GCSE’s encourage.
This furore has revived debate over the post-16 qualifications over the first two part A-level marking fiasco:
We see from this that the difficulty with AS/A-level system is the marking and assessment.
Learning time has been curtailed, and there is very little time for assessors to make valid judgments about their work before the University scoop begins.
The dilemma is that students should have lots of choice, which means broadening the curriculum, but something has to give.
Assessment needs to be tailored to what is really sensible. So that the students have enough time for both learning and assessment as well as extra-curricular activities that employers are looking for.
One of the suggestions by Estelle Morris was to delay the intake to Universities until January leaving enough time for entrance according to actual rather than predicted grades.
However, since Estelle Morris has resigned, it seems there movement on this.
In addition this would give time for students to go on to VSO or other related community/socially related activities that they found too difficult to complete during the schedule.
Another suggestion was to have a matriculation diploma that would not change the system of exams of the current a-level/AS system but alterations suggested introducing a matriculation paper that showed their vocational qualifications as well a-level/as grades. This was quietly dropped as Universities and colleges didn’t approve….however…
The chancellor of the Universities welcomed the idea of bringing in a broader qualification that could promote mobility of students in Europe. Universities UK, which represents the vice-chancellors, said it ‘looked forward to discussing possible changes with schools’.
If it’s not the universities that disapprove of a change, then the question is who is it? It’s the employers.
A-levels: Employers Elite: Top graduate employers are looking back to A-level grades to sift out the high achieving graduates from top universities, however, people who succeed in business for example, are not necessarily those that would succeed in academic A-level subjects. Those that haven’t done necessarily well in Academia, but who are good at business, find that they have to go to business school in order to make the entry level positions. Similarly those that have done well in academia at A-level, may be pressurized into something that they don’t want to pursue, like the top graduate employers in business, the perception is that the successful route of high achievers, is to the top graduate employers and that anything less would be ‘dropping out’ or ‘failure to succeed’. High achieving graduates of Philosophy find themselves applying to McKinsey for example. It’s not only the actual qualifications that need to change but also the perception, but the perception can change if the labour market recognises that there needs to be a greater involvement by employers into education and training.
‘The esteem for qualifications comes from their relevance to the labour market’. A specialist Bac will carry more clout with employers than many current alphabet soup qualifications. And the learning skills that a student develops, particularly at an advanced level, will make any subsequent progression to a foundation degree aqt University more feasible. If there is one central point from which all people graduate post-16, I don’t think this will completely eradicate the low self-esteem, as there will always be categories, humans categorize all the time. However, it will give a more coherent structure to post-16 qualifications that the labour market can recognize, and there will be less of a “it’s a-levels or nothing attitude” for the top graduate employers.
The French take their Breve in Britain’s year ten, this enables people to have another year before they decide which subjects they should choose for their Bac. This also gives students two years of not being examined and a greater depth and breath.
So, what’s the alternative?
Independent organization, non-profit established in 1968. The IBO is governed by 16 member council of foundation. It is funded by fees from IB world schools with additional income from workshops and catalogue sales.
The international Bac is six subjects over two years. These must include English, maths, a science and a humanities subject and a second language. Exams are taken at the end of the second year, and three subjects are studied at standard level and three at higher. But all are examined only at the end of two years. In addition, pupils have to write a dissertation, sit a paper on theories of knowledge and complete more than sixty hours of community service.
The IBC is based on three fundamental principles, the need for a broad, general education establishing the basic knowledge and critical thinking skills for further study
The importance of developing an International understanding and citizenship for a more peaceful, productive future
The need for flexibility of choice amoung the subjects to be studied, within a balanced framework, so that the students options can correspond as far as possible to their particular interests and capacities.
This general education is a process rather than content. The Peterson model is breath, depth and flexibility that applies to the international Baccalureate. There are six subject groups concurrently over two years that represent major domains of learning across all subject areas of the discipline.
The National Baccalaureate:
The proposal set-out by two academics at London University Institute of education, Ken Spours and Ann Hodgson, have long been working on.
The English Bac would be four different types of diploma that Spours and Hodges are proposing: general and three specialist variants. One would be called the baccalaureate, whereas the others would be diplomas. At each level, there would be a common core of learning and options for specialisation and breath.
Like International Baccalaureate
Contains a prescribed “core of learning” which would have a variety or ‘basket of academic subjects that would both wide ranging, national and international in scope and….
include specialist research study carried out by the student, which is like the international baccalaureate’s extended essay
Theory of knowledge extended essay.
Of the Specialist Variants:
One is “domain-based” which means it is rooted within a broad category such as humanities or sciences.
Another is ‘broad vocational’ and rooted within a wider category such as leisure and tourism, or business.
The third is ‘occupational’ focused on a particular occupation, for instance electrical engineering, a modern apprentice would follow this route.
These allow greater equality, in 16-18 year olds and will be pursuing the same qualification, but in they will also be pursuing different elements at the same time with a singular refernce point. It would include vocational or applied education at all levels, underpinned by a general education. It would provide a single point of recognition for achievement of work-related learning, with each student developing their strengths whilst not being seen as anything less than their contemporaries.
Comparisons Between the International Baccalareate and A-levels
The International dimension of the IB colours much of the subject matter studied. The range of possible texts for English Literature and World history offer a much more multi-dimensional view.
The subject that has seemingly equal emphasis between the IB and A-levels but in differing areas is mathematics. In the IB it is pure, because of the need to cater for the core mathematic requirements in a wide range of countries. In A-level math reflects the greater need for a more diverse client group, it has a highly complex and flexible structure: Pure mathematics, Statistics, Mechanics and applied mathematic, further mathematics and statistics.
Comparing A-levels with Baccalaureate is problematic because the A-levels are much more linear and modular. How much easier is it for a candidate to be assessed on a much more focussed content that is closer in time to those that have been taught and not assessed. Conversely, how much time does a candidate gain in knowledge and understanding of a topic, from the opportunity to see it in the context of the full content. Which is the better view the broad view making connections, synthesis and analysis or taking the more examined and personal view.
It seems that for both A-level and IB the structure should synthesise in terms of reviewing and assign standard performance. In a Report on the comparability between GCE and International Baccalaureate Examinations by the qualifications and curriculum Authority, the ideal situation would be to consider the whole work of candidates achieving particular scores.
However, the logistical demands this is intractable (difficult to govern)For the A-level and it’s modular structure, it is almost impossible to put together all of the candidates work, without requiring awarding bodies to hold onto scripts for at least a two-year period. Instead a pragmatic view was taken that the study should focus on performance on individual units/ components from each examination.
There is some justification for adopting this approach: grading decisions are originally made at this level (the second level) in both qualifications. That should be the final answer in the basis of how the national Bac should be formulated.
Less Confusion: there is no confusion and assumption about the final grade obtained by the candidates whose work was used for study. This made it easier to decide to use only A2 units.
Welsh Bac : This will begin next year, running in four schools.
Judith Norrington director of Curriculum and Quality at the association of colleges (AoC) supports the Bac. The system was not inclusive enough and was letting the students down in terms of the changing demands of employers
The benefits are not just focused on community work, but also on the fact that the sheer:) amount of work generated by six individual topics, rarely gives the opportunity to indulge in the free periods other contemporaries enjoyed, but probably wasted. This may reduce junior delinquency that is related not only to ignorance, but also boredom.
The general focus on subjects like maths, languages or sciences is invaluable at a practical level, helping later in life by reading financial accounts and reports and foreign travel and medical support. Students can develop their own interests.
The A-levels have a clear philosophy towards the individual and how well that individual does in examinations with having no overall philosophy beyond the aims and rationale in each subject. The overall philosophy of the International Baccalaureate is that there is it looks beyond just the subject and to a breath of understanding about the contribution to the world.
Possible arguments against
The head of education at the NUT, said the exams should not be scrapped as a result of the grade fiasco as the problem was with the marking methods not the curriculum
That may be the result of what is actually the source of the problem. That there is not enough evidence in year one and half of year two to make an accurate predicted mark for the universities. Having a broader scope across the subjects and not being examined until their second year, allows a longer time for the students to develop a deeper understanding of their chosen specialities: a dissertation, a paper on the theory of knowledge, whilst not loosing focus on broader subjects that will aid them later in life, as well as leaving enough time and 60 hours of community service
John Bangs (head of NUT (National Union of teachers) suggests that the English Bac may be in danger of becoming an elite qualification for the entrance to elite universities
Current state of affairs : It is A-Levels are encourage elitism. Their focus is on Academia, excluding others that take on an alphabet soup of vocational examinations that employers are confused by. Skills based education is not recognised.
I’m not suggesting that we should completely abolish the non-fee-paying system, I’m saying that we should take on the model of the IB and implement it into the existing system. They are international in scope and enable children to receive an education that doesn’t narrow their options too early.
See evidence on the specialist variants.
To sum up: so it is easy to see how the A-levels are in danger of causing a nation of students that believe knowledge is assessed not by how well they grasped an understanding of subjects, but rather how their aptitude measures to the performance of examinations. In turn, this will produce workers that have a labour market assessed by individual performance, rather than a grasp of the content of the job but also the wider framework of how their work operates within the larger social framework and global economy. Competitiveness will rise for competitiveness sake, at the expense of not only individual aims, but also the aims of the group, company or institution and in turn society. This kind of competitiveness equates with the free market, the corporate market, where individual success equates with company success that can be directly measured and rewarded. One of the most obvious examples of this happening, is the bee line that Oxbridge graduates make to the city in high finance or corporate jobs. If there was a broader emphasis on the actual knowledge itself rather then performance and achievement for that sake, and greater involvement of employers in this stage of development, then we may produce worker s in the labour market that have a much broader outlook on their work and the effect that it has on society as a whole.