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Last Updated: Monday, 4 October, 2004, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Baccalaureate schools 'to treble'
Classroom
Bac students take six, rather than three, subjects
Almost three times as many British schools will offer teenagers the International Baccalaureate (IB) within five years, it is predicted.

Bob Reed, chairman of the IB schools and colleges association, said he expected the figure to reach about 200, from the current 70.

The bac offers students aged 16 to 19 a greater range of subjects than the traditional A-level.

Mr Reed said this would increase knowledge and overall quality.

'Complete package'

Students taking the bac choose a subject from each of six areas: English, a foreign language, a humanity, a science, maths and the arts.

This appeals to head teachers who criticise A-levels for having too narrow a focus.

Mr Reed, head of the Anglo European School in Essex, told BBC News Online: "It's about creating a balanced learning programme.

"It gives you a complete educational package; it is not just focused on improving language skills."

For the international bac, introduced in 1968, students take three of the subjects to "standard" level and three to "higher". This, Mr Reed said, was equivalent to at least four and a half A-levels.

Students have to submit a long essay during the course and are also taught critical thinking, with the aim of giving them a more in-depth understanding of subjects.

Later this month, Mike Tomlinson, who is heading a government working group on education in England, will unveil his final proposals for a four-part diploma to replace GCSEs and A-levels.

Like the bac, one of its aims will involve creating more breadth of learning from ages 14 to 19.

Top grades

However, the Tomlinson diploma will be for all ability levels, ensuring standards of literacy and numeracy are kept up.

The bac is intended only for brighter students. It does not encompass vocational learning, unlike the Tomlinson diploma.

Mr Reed said: "The bac is only relevant to academic students. It is not going to meet the needs of work-based learning, such as apprenticeships and vocational A-levels."

He added: "Throughout the bac, students are asked to reflect on their learning, so they get used to structured thinking."

The marking system was better than A-levels at telling the brightest students apart - a key issue for universities

The top grades (6 and 7) in bacs were the equivalent to a lower and top-of-the-range A grade at A-level, Mr Reed said.

This year, 22.4% of A-level entries in the UK gained an A grade.

Mr Reed said the figure for a grade 7 in bacs was between 5% and 10%.

When the figures for schools internationally were compared, those offering the qualification in Britain did well.

Mr Reed added: "The A-level system is OK. We are actually very good in this country at teaching at sixth-form level.

"We talk ourselves down a lot but maybe we should start praising ourselves a bit more. Hopefully the bac can show the world how good we are."

Mr Tomlinson's final proposals are due to be published on 18 October.




SEE ALSO:
Baccalaureate could replace A-levels
21 Jan 03  |  Education
A-levels and IB 'hard to compare'
29 Dec 03  |  Education
Pros and cons of replacing A-levels
19 Jan 04  |  Education


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