British Baccalaureate

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Debate about the desirability of a coherent examination system for post‐16 pupils which placed value on vocational or applied skills and knowledge as well as on academic achievement has its origins in a pamphlet published by the Institute of Public Policy Research in 1990 which called for the introduction of a British Baccalaureate. This would provide a broader range of study than the traditional General Certificate of Education Advanced Level curriculum which then dominated the post‐16 examination system, and would attract a wider range of pupils to stay on in education after the age of 16. One of its co‐authors was David Miliband, who later went on to become Schools Minister at the Department for Education and Skills. Taking as its models the French baccalauréat and the International Baccalaureate, it was proposed that a British ‘Bac’ would be modular, with an educational core and subject‐based options. All students would take core modules in three domains: social and human sciences; natural sciences and technology; and arts, languages, and literature. In addition, they would undertake at least one work or community module in which their theoretical studies could be practically applied. The idea behind this model was that a unified examination system of this type would encourage late selection and high participation. The government's disinclination to engage with these proposals in the early 1990s coincided with a shift in policy emphasis to the reform of the vocational route as a means of providing breadth in the post‐16 curriculum. It was this line of reform which eventually led to the development of General National Vocational Qualifications. The argument for a British Baccalaureate reignited as speculation grew over the possible outcomes of the Tomlinson review of 2003 of the post‐16 qualifications framework.

Further Reading:

D. Finegold et al. A British ‘Baccalauréat’: Ending the Divisions between Education and Training (Institute for Public Policy Research, 1990).

Subjects: Education.

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