More pupils taking international GCSEs

Books Pupils starting GCSE courses this autumn will mainly do exams at the end of two years

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More pupils in the UK are taking international GCSEs, figures from exam boards suggest.

In England, the increase has followed a lifting of a ban which stopped state schools from entering pupils for them.

The exams - known as IGCSEs - are taken at the end of two years - unlike many GCSEs, where students take exams in stages over two years.

Overall, UK schools made 50,000 IGCSE entries this year, this compares to the more than 5m GCSE entries last year.

From September, pupils in England starting GCSE courses will mostly take exams after two years.

In 2010, the coalition said state schools should be allowed to enter pupils for IGCSEs.

Until then, the qualifications could not be counted in school league tables.

Two exam boards which produce the qualifications are reporting increases in take-up.

Cambridge International Examinations says 400 state schools in the UK are now preparing pupils for IGCSEs, compared with 97 in 2010.

Among private schools, 500 are using IGCSEs, compared with 320 in 2010.

The Edexcel exam body also has IGCSEs and says the number of schools and colleges entering pupils for them in the UK more than doubled in the past two years, rising to just under 2,000.

'O-level style' exams

A spokesman for Pearson, Edexcel's parent company, said: "The continuing popularity of IGCSEs in this country and abroad supports our view that students should be able to choose the qualifications that suit their interests, ambitions and style of learning."

Peter Monteath, from Cambridge International Examinations, said: "The feedback we are getting from schools is that they like the flexibility of these syllabuses, which gives teachers more scope to explore different topics with students.

"Their linear structure also gives students space and time to study topics in-depth."

Some have voiced concern about the move away from modular exams, where students can revise particular topics for an exam rather than the whole syllabus.

The change applies to exams taken by pupils in England.

Education ministers in Northern Ireland and Wales are considering whether to follow England or keep existing styles of exam.

They recently wrote to Education Secretary Michael Gove to complain they were not consulted over leaked plans to make further changes to GCSEs for England - billed as a return to O-level-style exams.

The Welsh government is conducting a review of qualifications for teenagers and says it will make a decision after that is complete.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Given the amount of debate WITHIN the teaching profession about the benefits and disadvantages of modular and non-modular examinations, it seems sensible that both GCSE in its current state and iGCSE should be available... then teachers and institutions can make informed choices about the best qualification for their pupils without interference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    I have taught both GCSE and iGCSE English. I don't believe that there is a significant difference in the difficulty (not surprising as both are moderated by the same standardising authority). However, iGCSE tests a far narrower range of skills, and is probably best suited for preparing students for academic study, rather than the full range of adult literacy needed for GCSE and by students.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    iGCSE Maths is certainly more demanding than GCSE Maths. However, that doesn't mean that the iGCSE is better or fairer. However, iGCSE includes calculus: this provides more fun for the students and is a better basis for advanced study. Calculus used to be part of the O-level syllabus and should have been included in the GCSE. It was left out because it was too difficult - what nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    As someone who has experience of both the GCSE and the IGCSE (I currently teach the latter and have marked GCSE exams, as well as sitting them myself), I welcome this move. The IGCSE (for the person who asked) mostly relies upon final exams at the end of the course. There are no modular exams and hardly any of the courses have coursework. This is a positive thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    I took the IGCSE exams ten years ago as I grew up and attended an International school in Cyprus. I have no experience of the British GCSE, but can say that kids joining our A level Maths class with A* grades at GCSE struggled with basic concepts that our class managed with few problems (and our class average for Maths was more like a C than anywhere near an A).


Comments 5 of 9


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