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Wednesday, 9 August, 2000, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Highers: The big picture
Ken Macdonald exams graphic
BBC Scotland education correspondent Ken Macdonald explains the new Highers system

For a start, the Scottish Qualifications Authority will thank you if you stop calling it "Higher Still".

That was the name of the development programme which produced this new system, but these days they prefer to refer to them as "Scottish Qualifications".

Familiar names like Standard Grades and Highers are still there, although in the latter case the existing courses are steadily being supplanted by new, modular Highers.

This step-by-step approach is being used to deliver qualifications which combine the best of both academic learning and vocational training.

Three units

A new Higher course, for example, will typically consist of three units, each tested by the school or college; then the student will sit the final exam for the overall course award.

But even if they fail that exam their certificate will still give them credit for the units they've completed.

It's on the rungs of academic ladder between Standard Grade and Higher that the real revolution has been taking place, creating courses tailored for young people who may not be high flyers in every subject but who will now receive credit what they do achieve.

They're able to take courses at three new levels below Higher:

  • Access

  • Intermediate 1

  • Intermediate 2.

Each uses the same modular system as Highers to create qualifications designed to achieve the right mix of the academic and the vocational.

Above Highers there are Scottish Group Awards - new programmes which mix units and courses for students who have a particular interest or follow a particular career like science.

From next year there will be Advanced Highers, typically two year courses designed to rival A Levels in depth and breadth of study.

And there's more: in recognition of the fact that academic performance isn't a full summation of a person's abilities, the new qualifications are designed to encourage and reward five core skills: communication, numeracy, information technology, problem solving and working with others.

It means parents, colleges, universities and potential employers should get a clearer picture than ever before of what a young person has learned and achieved - and what sort of person they are.


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See also:

16 May 00 | Scotland
15 May 00 | Scotland
21 Sep 99 | UK Education
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