In his recent ConHome article on school reform Michael Gove identified two benefits from the introduction of the English Baccalaureate: that it will help pupils access places at the best universities and that it will open doors to the most exciting careers. The English Baccalaureate will mandate all bar three options at GCSE: English, Maths, double Science, a language and History or Geography.
At the moment GCSE equivalence is afforded to vocational qualifications. My own school provides a sad example of the consequences, with only half of Year 11 taking science GCSEs and the rest doing an easier vocational qualification. Everybody is forced to take an internally assessed ICT qualification which gives the students 2 A*-C passes despite taking the same amount of time as Maths GCSE. Needless to say the pass rate is 100%. A year later 11 of the 19 people taking Computing at AS-level actually failed. Many teachers will cheer Mr Gove for abandoning the equivalence lie.
The principles lying behind the English Baccalaureate are therefore grounded in a sensible solution to a problem. Those principles have, however, been applied in an arbitrary manner in the selection of subjects. Why History but not R.E.? Why Biblical Hebrew but not Art? Why Geography but not Music?