Monday 31 March 2008

A confused decision on the IB

The government's plan to scrap Tony Blair's commitment to enabling at least one school or college in each local authority to provide the International Baccalaurate is a regressive decision that reflects the confusion at the heart of the government's Diploma programme. Diplomas were not initially intended to replace A-levels, but the IB is a well-respected alternative route for students seeking to pursue a broader academic curriculum, one which is different from the planned specialised Diplomas in humanities or science, because the IB requires study of both, as well as the core subjects and languages. Of course, there was considerable resistance from the education establishment to Blair's decision, not least because they knew that as an independent qualification, it set a high competitive bar for A-levels (and perhaps for Diplomas). Unlike Applied GCSEs or Applied A levels, for example, which it makes sense to drop, the IB is different from Diplomas (just as A levels are too), and the more the government confuses the issue as in its consultation today, the harder it will be to establish their credibility. In reality, as Friday's TES reported, a growing number of state schools and colleges will decide to go for the IB, and are doing so. But it is petty-minded to renege on a promise to provide some minimal funding to help them to do so. Why is the government unwilling to maximise choices for young people, and provide those that want it with the breadth of academic study taken for granted in most other developed nations?

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