The government's planned reforms to the GCSE system in England will raise the quality of exams and ensure qualifications are on a par with the best in the world, a minister has said.
It has been reported that the government is preparing to scrap GCSEs in England from autumn 2014.
Education Secretary Michael Gove has ruled out creating a "two-tier system" - but said a consultation on the subject, expected in the next two months, would set out ways to "improve GCSEs and get world-class qualifications".
Giving evidence to the Education Committee on 27 June 2012 Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the current system needs reforming.
He said half of all children leaving secondary school have not achieved a C grade or above in English or maths, creating a "two-tier system".
"We need to get more young people leaving school with a sophisticated level of mathematics and literacy," he told MPs.
When asked about the government's plans, he said: "I am determined that whatever qualifications we decide that we will have for 16-year-olds in this country, that the vast majority of pupils will take those exams.
"Now it may not be they take them when they're 16, it may be that for some children who are less able they may need another year, or two years, or three years."
It would be up to Wales and Northern Ireland to decide whether to follow suit, as education policy is a devolved matter. In Scotland, pupils take Standard Grades and Highers rather than GCSEs and A-levels.
The government's pupil behaviour tsar, headteacher Charlie Taylor, testified at the committee before Mr Gibb.
Mr Taylor was appointed by the education secretary to look at the issue of school attendance and improve behaviour in the wake of England's riots in 2011.
In his review he recommended that parents of children in England who persistently truant have their benefits cut; and called for a clampdown on term-time holidays.
He has also urged primary schools to pick up on patterns of absenteeism earlier.