Should A-levels be replaced by a Baccalaureate style exam? Watch

Armadillo
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Axe A-levels for Bacc-style exam, say UK scientists


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-28002101

This bbc article suggests that we need 'more than a million new science, engineering and technology professionals would be needed by 2020' and we should aim to do this by teaching maths and science to all students in school with a bacc-style exam!

What do you think about these changes? Would you be happy to study a different qualification? Do you think we need more students skilled in science and maths?
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Paralove
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No not at all. Having studied A-Levels while my friend did the International Baccalaureate I can happily say not studying the IB was the best decision I ever made. It's not good to force students to study subjects they hate at this level because more often than not, they do not do that well in them and this will cost students university places.
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chazwomaq
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I agree with a Baccalaurate.

IB is harder than A levels and this is a good thing to maintain declining standards.

We also specialise very early in the UK, dropping subjects at 16. This makes it almost impossible for people to study science and arts or humanities at advanced level, and forces people to choose between them (or take 4 or 5 A levels).

It also discourages people from taking maths at advanced level (only some scientists do), which hampers students numerical skills, including many scientists. For example, I think those studying any science or economics or sociology should have maths, but many psychologists and biologists do not.

I fully support the Royal Society report.
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Petulia
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The IB qualification would be too much work for most people, which is why only a handful of students in the UK do it. It works in countries like France, because there's less emphasis on GCSEs and IB is done for 3 years (starting in Year 11) there rather than just 2.
There's core subjects that you'd have to study until you're 18, like Maths and a Language, and I just think that most students would struggle with this.
A lot of students studying A Levels are interested in STEM subjects. The issue is that it seems to be impossible to become successful by studying a science-related degree, unless you pursue Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy or Engineering. For those who want to pursue research & development / basic lab work etc it's not easy to find a well-paid job.
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dada55
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I think the A level system is really good in terms of allowing you to only pick the subjects that are relevant to you. Sure it doesn't help out to those who want to study more subjects or are not sure what to pick but for a lot of people, it lets them focus on the subjects that they actually care/need to succeed in their future.
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Damask-
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Scrapping A-Levels to make science compulsory is not how you'll get more girls to take the STEM subjects at uni. That starts much earlier. All this will do is discourage many from taking the Baccalaureate altogether.
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chazwomaq
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(Original post by dada55)
I think the A level system is really good in terms of allowing you to only pick the subjects that are relevant to you. Sure it doesn't help out to those who want to study more subjects or are not sure what to pick but for a lot of people, it lets them focus on the subjects that they actually care/need to succeed in their future.
I think this is a problem with the A level system. It really restricts your future. If you know exactly what you want to do, then it's OK (although I would dispute that many 16 years can plan that well. I didn't know what I really wanted to do until I was 22 or so). But if you don't, choosing only 3 subjects limits what degrees you can take.

I did 4 A levels, but looking back I would have liked to be have been able to do a foreign language, and economics as well.

We specialise too early in this country. You can see this with subjects like GCSE psychology and economics. I'm not even sure these should be A level subjects let alone GCSE. You have to have a good grasp of other subjects before you pursue specialist knowledge. That's why I support an ebacc type thing at GCSE too.

I also think it's generally a good idea for future scientists to be well versed in literature, languages and humanities, and it's good for humanities students to be scientifically and mathematically competent.
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username1230881
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Maths and Science, compulsory until 18? No thanks. If they want people to be more familiar with Maths and Science, increase what's taught at GCSE level and maybe make it harder... oh, wait, they're doing that already. A lot of people know or have an idea of what they want to do when they're 16 - at least which subjects they enjoy - and forcing people to do subjects they hate to a significantly higher level will just lead to worse grades and an unhappy experience. Encourage more Maths and Science, but don't force it.
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dada55
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(Original post by chazwomaq)
I think this is a problem with the A level system. It really restricts your future. If you know exactly what you want to do, then it's OK (although I would dispute that many 16 years can plan that well. I didn't know what I really wanted to do until I was 22 or so). But if you don't, choosing only 3 subjects limits what degrees you can take.

I did 4 A levels, but looking back I would have liked to be have been able to do a foreign language, and economics as well.

We specialise too early in this country. You can see this with subjects like GCSE psychology and economics. I'm not even sure these should be A level subjects let alone GCSE. You have to have a good grasp of other subjects before you pursue specialist knowledge. That's why I support an ebacc type thing at GCSE too.

I also think it's generally a good idea for future scientists to be well versed in literature, languages and humanities, and it's good for humanities students to be scientifically and mathematically competent.

I agree that at 16 a lot of people will not be sure what they want to do but that doesn't mean that the system is bad. Maybe they should promote/teach IB more to accommodate people that would prefer it but I don't think that removing/changing A levels is necessarily needed.

I would have never bothered with education post 16 if I knew I was going to be forced to take certain subjects. It is just pointless for me and for many others. I understand your point about scientists to be good at literature and vice versa but in my opinion if people have not been taught to a decent level after GCSEs then its GCSEs that should changed/improved so that they do.
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Kathiye
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I think that the problem is that, at most schools at least, you can only choose 4 subjects at AS and 3 at A2, perhaps with an extra if you're prepared for a lot of hard work. It would be better if we were simply able to study more subjects, if in a little less depth, while still being able to freely choose which ones. I know that I, personally, as well as some other people (particularly girls) didn't choose to do physics at A level, despite an A or A* at GCSE, and now regret it. Instead I did Biology, Chemistry, Maths and German, all of which I am glad to have studied. I think that girls in particular don't want to drop other subjects because of the pressure to have breadth and because they want to leave their options open, so instead they drop physics as it is seen as the harder end of science and life sciences is more appealing at first glance. But if I'd had the space to do physics as well I could have applied to a STEM subject - too late now, I guess.
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StarvingAutist
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I completely disagree. The main appeal of A levels was that I got to drop the boring subjects. I also enjoy being able to learn my subjects in more depth than either IB or GCSEs allow. Any less depth would be painfully boring.
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SecretDuck
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My school was pretty **** at teaching Science, hence why I never took it further. Having the IB would make matters worse.

Also, after GCSE, I liked that I could specialize in the subjects I enjoyed and then at uni, pick the most interesting subject.
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Frank the Tankk
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I think we should either allow more people to study the IB or allow more breadth in studying at advanced level. I kind of agree that we specialise too early....perhaps something akin to the Higher system in Scotland? They study 5/6 subjects at higher before dropping to 2/3 for advanced higher and teach a broader spectrum of subjects. We absolutely shouldn't force people into sciences and maths but it should be encouraged...make the GCSE a better balance between rigour and enjoyment.
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Namige
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(Original post by SecretDuck)
My school was pretty **** at teaching Science, hence why I never took it further. Having the IB would make matters worse.

Also, after GCSE, I liked that I could specialize in the subjects I enjoyed and then at uni, pick the most interesting subject.
Did you specialise in English?
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SecretDuck
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(Original post by Namige)
Did you specialise in English?
I normally spell it like "specialise" IRL - but "specialize" on the internet.

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Kvothe the Arcane
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I'm all for diversity until uni. I like how my friends are educated in America.
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antia
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I grew up abroad, and I think earlier specialisation gives you a big advantage when you leave school. Most of the material (enough to get an above-average pass) in American SATs and Malaysian STPM I'd already covered when I finished my GCSEs.
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seaholme
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Diversity is good, but it should be diversity of choice. Not compulsory! People need to be inspired and encouraged to study science and maths, not MADE to. That's where the problem is.

Making people do science and maths against their will is unhelpful to everyone and does them a dis-service by making them waste their time on it. It's why the IB will never catch on for everybody. I did the IB and had to take Maths when I would NEVER in a million years have done it for A Level, and passing that subject for me was like pulling my own teeth out. I did pass it, but all it did for me was pull my overall grade down and damage time I would have spent on other subjects.

I agree that we close our options way too early in the UK - you essentially have to select your future at 16 if you want to apply to a specific course, because otherwise you might be missing required subjects. Greater variety up to 18 would be really nice. Just not enforced! IB gives the illusion of variety, but at the end of the day you have to do Maths & English so really you're still only picking 4 subjects.
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William Turtle
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It seems to me unlikely that the way to encourage more enthusiasm for science is to force it down people's throats. Putting that aside, since almost everyone here is getting caught up on the more incendiary issue (a common problem with the politicised nature of our education system), I'll try and point out a couple of encouraging points that were apparent in that article.

1. That such esteemed bodies as the Royal Society are making an effort to get involved in education policy making could be extremely beneficial, were it to continue. Their suggestions for independent organisations, made up of experts, which would decide upon the content of curricula would be a very worthwhile stabilising influence. Removing education from the political roulette wheel would, as suggesting in the article, remove pressure from teachers, allowing them to better teach their subjects, in such a way that uni freshers don't forget 60% of what they learnt at A level in the three months before university.

2. The above might assist in the improvement of society's view of teachers. Increased esteem in a more professional career would encourage better quality teachers to train, and would be likely to come with a raft of other benefits. Happy, well-respected teachers would lead to good teaching.
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dakni
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EWWW no we have this in France :mad:
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