The Standard Grade exam would be axed in the shake-up
The Standard Grade and Intermediate exam system is set to be replaced with a new general qualification for pupils, the Scottish Government has said.
Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop also outlined plans for compulsory qualifications to test numeracy and literacy, but Higher exams will remain.
She told MSPs the changes would cut complexity in the system and better fit with ministers' aspirations.
Opposition parties supported the proposed changes.
The new certificates will be tested in fourth year through a mixture of an exam and assessment of general work through the year, in a vision which aims to "raise the bar" for all pupils.
"The shape of our future qualification system will be crucial for Scotland's young people and for Scotland as a nation," Ms Hyslop told the Scottish Parliament.
These [awards] will be below the new qualification standard and it is unclear still where in the child's progression these will be taken
Jeremy Purvis, Lib Dem education spokesman
"There is clear evidence that Scotland has a good education system. However, it can be better. Indeed, it needs to be better."
The changes would see separate awards for literacy and numeracy skills, where the exams would draw on evidence from pupils' work across the curriculum and partly be assessed through external examination.
And the brightest pupils would also be given the chance to begin studying for Highers a year early, in fourth year, while pupils would also be allowed to sit Highers over 18 months or two years instead of one, to tackle the so-called "two-term" dash.
Labour education spokeswoman Rhona Brankin said there was widespread recognition change was needed - but warned new literacy and numeracy awards would not in themselves guarantee youngsters would become literate and numerate.
Scotland's education secretary on the changes
Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith said the current system was failing too many pupils at lower levels and welcomed the "fine tuning" of assessment in fourth year.
Jeremy Purvis, for the Liberal Democrats, called for greater clarity over examinations.
He said of the proposed changes: "These will be below the new qualification standard and it is unclear still where in the child's progression these will be taken. It is also unclear whether all children will be required to take these."
The government flatly denied the claims - insisting the new literacy and numeracy awards would cover the same level as Standard Grades did currently.
The proposals are subject to a consultation, to run from June until October.
Meanwhile, pupils from eight Scottish schools joined with the charities Oxfam, Save the Children and the English Speaking Union to raise concern that 72 million people across the world had no access to education, in a special debate at the Scottish Parliament.
Abraham Conneh, of Oxfam Liberia, warned the clock was ticking on an international pledge made in 2000 to give every child access to primary education by 2015.
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