From education to employment

Lord Adonis on Baccalaureates and “A” Level Reform after CBI Skills Statement

After the results were published and the students either elated or deflated, Lord Adonis admitted that there might be something to the argument for the implementation of the International Baccalaureate system.

In his first ministerial post of Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, representing the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in the House of Lords, Lord Adonis said that the International Baccalaureate might indeed be more useful for students and for employers; a substantial difference from the statement by Secretary of State for Education Ruth Kelly in which she pledged continuing and unswerving support for the “gold standard” qualifications of “A” Levels and GCSEs.

In conversation with the BBC, Lord Adonis stated: “Having the IB [International Baccalaureate] as an option is a good thing where schools wish to offer it. But it is not a vote of no confidence in “A” levels; it is a different type of post-16 course.” However, he pointed out that the small number of schools currently offering this qualification represented little more than a “drop in the ocean”.

The CBI and Tomlinson

The debate on standards in exams and qualifications in schools has raged just as ferociously this year as ever, with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Director General Sir Digby Jones expressing the industry dissatisfaction in the skills levels of school leavers. Almost half of employers (42%) are unhappy with the basic skill levels of school-leavers and 50 per cent believe teenagers do not have sufficient communication, team-working and problem-solving abilities, according to results from the CBI / Pertemps Employment Trends Survey 2005.

According to Sir Digby Jones, it is not a problem that is situated in just one part of the education framework. Upon the release of GCSE results, after congratulating young people on their accomplishments in the exams, he said: “¦there is clearly a systemic failure in the education system as yet again almost half of GCSE entrants have failed to reach the basic levels of competency in the three Rs”.”

Worse than this in light of the existence of a global economy where language skills are sure to be of vital importance is the neglect of language education in Britain today. Schools are no longer required to offer a language subject at GCSE whilst in Europe pupils study two foreign languages for at least a year. As Sir Digby Jones said: “Anyone with a foreign language under their belt, whether at GCSE, A Level or as a graduate, will have an immediate advantage in the job market -because they can deliver their company an edge in the world market.”

Sir Digby Jones says that this situation is absurd and must be addressed before the decline in skills abilities becomes too chronic to reverse. “The UK is the fourth richest economy on earth,” he said. “Surely it cannot be beyond us to ensure all our young people have the basic skills they need to get on at work?”

In common with the short ““ sighted “bobby on the beat” approach to tackling crime and re ““ offending rates, as shown in Phillip Byrne’s article (to view, please click here), ignoring the importance of language and basic reading / writing skills is recipe for long term disaster. In the international marketplace, it is difficult to see how having an articulate and communicative workforce would be less desirable than a poorly trained workforce exercising the Anglo ““ Saxon prerogative of speaking only English; loudly and slowly.

Jethro Marsh

Join the skills debate in the FE Blog

Related Articles