Sam Nassiri was an intern at Bright Blue, and will study Politics at York University this autumn. He is writing in a personal capacity.
The Daily Telegraph claims the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma to be a means of fixing English students' lack of foreign language skills, as it forces all students to take a second language. Michael Gove wants more schools to offer the IB, as well as other alternatives to the A-level, such as the Cambridge Pre-U. Is it right that he should continue to encourage a marketplace of qualifications, whereby schools have a choice of examinations for post-16 students?
The market for post-16 qualifications is divided in three main ways. First, students have the opportunity to take either a more vocational route or an academic route. Second, if they follow the academic route, they increasingly have a choice of whether to take A-levels, IB or Pre-U. Third, if they take A-levels, they can take exams from different boards: for example, Edexcel or Cambridge Assessment.
Some argue that this plurality in qualifications enables greater choice, which will drive up the standards of the examinations on offer. But it is hard to see how the quality of examinations will be improved by a qualifications market. Many schools and pupils have an incentive in choosing exams which are in effect easier. Indeed, the grade inflation which Professor Robert Coe, an academic from Durham University, has observed in A-levels, could be partially attributed to the diversity of examination board on offer, all competing for the custom of schools.