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Could the British Baccalaureate replace A Levels? Here’s what we know

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The British Baccalaureate is the headline recommendation by the Times Education Commission to revamp the British education system. Source: Jane Barlow/ Pool/AFP

Studying A Levels might be a conventional step to kickstart a tertiary education in the UK, but that might not be the case soon. If you’re looking for UK exam updates, the Times Education Commission recently published a report which, among other changes, proposes the introduction of the British Baccalaureate, a new curriculum to replace the A Levels in the UK.

According to the commission’s 12-point plan for education reform, this new curriculum will be “an equally rigorous but broader qualification than A Levels” where students at the age of 18 can choose to pursue an academic route (Diploma Programme) or vocational route (Career-related Programme).

“There would be the option for students to ‘mix and match’ elements of both programmes to create the qualification that best suited them,” read the report. Students would do an extended project, community service and some literacy and numeracy, whole digital skills would also be woven through the curriculum.

At 16, students would sit for a slimmed-down set of exams in five core subjects, with continuous assessment and online tests contributing to their grades. This new approach lowers the stakes and reduces the time spent preparing and taking the exams.

“It mirrors the IB Middle School Programme and other European systems such as the French brevet. Schools would be required to teach a broader curriculum including the subjects that were not covered by exams,” said the report.

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Britain’s former Prime Minister Sir Tony Blair are one of the 12 individuals supporting the Times Education Commission’s plan to reshape the British education system. Source: Toby Melville/Pool/AFP

UK exam updates: What we know so far about the British Baccalaureate

The British Baccalaureate will be based on the International Baccalaureate (IB), an alternative to A Levels that are studied mainly by young students in year 12 and 13

According to The National, the plan to reshape UK education saw former prime ministers Sir Tony Blair and Sir John Major, as well as 10 former education secretaries, as co-signatories of a letter in support.

“We welcome the work of the Times Education Commission and urge the government to look seriously at its recommendations,” the group explained in their letter. “The pandemic has created a reset moment and it is imperative that education is put back at the top of the political agenda to boost productivity and make a reality of the levelling-up agenda.”

Uk exam updates

The British Baccalaureate would build on the expertise of the IB. Source: Thomas Coex/AFP

Apart from the British Baccalaureate, the twelve-point education plan also highlights suggestions such as a laptop or tablet for every child and a greater use of artificial intelligence in schools, colleges and universities to personalise learning, reduce teacher workload and prepare young people better for future employment.

Another point in the plan is an “electives premium” for all schools to be spent on activities including drama, music, dance and sport and a National Citizen Service experience for every pupil, with volunteering and outdoor pursuits expeditions to ensure that the co-curricular activities enjoyed by the most advantaged become available to all.

The Times Education Commission was set up in June last year and aims to examine Britain’s whole education system and consider its future in the light of the COVID-19 crisis, declining social mobility, new technology and the changing nature of work.