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 33.

    Children at British-curriculum schools overseas (often the offspring of British expatriates working there) can only sit the 'international' version of GCSE exams (IGCSE). The extended syllabus is no easier - probably a lot harder - than the GCSEs. But IGCSE does offer a two-tier approach, with a 'core' and 'extended' programme. Those sitting 'core' exams cannot pass with a mark higher than a D.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Parents should pay towards the education of their children, that way they might take a lot more interest instead of regarding schools as free state provided child minding facilities.

  • Comment number 31.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    @28. Name Number 6

    I think we'd see a lot of chinese and Indian kids, and not many british kids.

  • 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).

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    I can't believe we're still paying to 'educate' these feral offspring. We should have some sort off exchange scheme for the brightest children from the rest of the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Ok folks, it is along time since I was at, what used to be called "grammer school" At the age of 61, I now find it unbelievable that the current bosses of school curiculums do not emphasise on the basics, or that they do not promote youngsters into the need to grasp the 3 "R"s as a natural requirement to progress. Immigrant prejudice springs to mind

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    #23. chiptheduck
    "If everybody passes they're worthless."
    Pass rate at A-C last year for GCSE was 69%. Its only if you believe the Daily Mirror and count a grade F as a pass that 99% pass.
    Nearly 40% of Brits leave school with no qualifications whatsoever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Nice story and all that. But maybe at some point during the article, the writer might tell us what an iGCSE is? Yes, I know what it stands for, but what is it?

    Because this article surely doesnt tell me.

    Is it a british qualification for foreigners, is it a foreign qualification for british kids? Is it stuck in between in a beaurocratic nightmare?

    I don't know. Poor writing.

  • Comment number 24.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Doesn't matter what you call them or who sets them.

    If everybody passes they're worthless.

    Raise the bar!

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Perhaps it is time for people to realise that not every one of our 'precious' progeny is another Einstein or Dickens. Why not have a truly meritocratic system whereby the children with most capability are siphoned off to a more productive educational institution and all the other Johnnies can be sent to train as plumbers, winkle pickers and fresh cannon fodder for this country's great war machine!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    I recently asked a science master at one of our top schools [possibly THE top British school] about exam boards. His school's view, shared by him, is that most of the exam boards are rubbish, and they are actively seeking to replace them all, because the syllabuses [syllabii?] simply don't challenge the students. PS I only did Latin O Level, so my apologies for suggesting syllabii!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    These are 'own brand' exams and as far as I am aware Edexcel and OCR do not work to a common standard and even within each board different standards may apply to different countries, even for the same subject. So within the UK - as far as I am aware - Edexcel and OCR do not have a common standard for their IGSE 'own brand' examinations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    #14 Big John The Red
    You should look at the GCSE Physics paper for this year. I couldn't find any physics in it. It was the sort of paper that you wouldn't give to a 12 year old when I was doing "O" level Physics back in the 70s.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    The trouble has always been the stuffing in of subjects into an already crowded curriculum. Work it out, pupils study Maths, English language, English litereature, French or another language, history, geography, physics, chemistry, biology, technology, ICT, PE, PSE, and this is just at primary level! Why not concentrate on the 3Rs and then better prepare children for selective CGSEs at Secondary?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    As someone currently doing A Levels, I agree with the notion that the current system is not fit for purpose. Most GCSEs and A Levels can be passed with full marks by memorising the syllabus by heart and parroting it in an exam with no actual understanding of the topic. (There are of course exceptions to this). The exams are not easier; they are just easier if you have a photographic memory.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    International GCSEs? What a disgrace!

    Sounds like another loony left idea imported from the EU to further multiculturalize our already diluted English culture.

    They'll be expecting our poor kids to learn foreign languages next!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    For far too long the system has mediocratised every child so nobody feels left out by being less "gifted". Anything that helps children reach their academic potential has to be a good thing

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I recently looked at last year’s Physics A level and despite having a Science degree and 2 Post-Graduate Diplomas could not answer large chunks of it. There is a lot of rubbish talked about education standards and most of it appears to be in my experience ‘urban myth’.
    As Feynman said “If ever there is a golden age it is now.”


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