UK: ABacc Qualifications Aim to Make Students ‘Russell-Ready”‘

To accommodate the new Advanced Baccalaureate certification in British schools, league tables (rankings) may be revised to show how many "Russell Group ready" students each school produces every year. Students will be considered Russell Group ready – having the qualifications to meet the admissions requirements of the prestigious British universities that make up the Russell Group – if they have completed the ABacc, which includes writing a 5,000-word dissertation and undertaking community service commitments.

In addition, those who aspire to the Advanced Baccalaureate will need to take one additional A-level in a subject that is unrelated to the three core A-levels required for the current top certification.

The Government said the plans – currently at a draft stage – were intended to make sure teenagers were better prepared for the demands of university, particularly elite institutions belonging to the Russell Group. It is believed that the proposals are being driven by Elizabeth Truss, the Tory MP for South West Norfolk, who was promoted to post of Education Minister in the recent Government reshuffle.

During her time as a backbencher, Truss authored a report that called for schools to be evaluated based on how many of their graduates qualify for admission to Russell Group schools. She believes that the new ABacc certification will be a positive step to put students from diverse economic and ethnic backgrounds onto a path to a high-quality university degree.

Labour Party's voice on education policy, Shadow Education Minister Stephen Twigg, says that the ABacc requirements aren't broad enough — and the four A-level requirements should allow room for vocational subjects like engineering and computer science. Although Labour supports the idea of another qualification more rigorous than the current A-levels, the program as proposed by the Coalition doesn't go far enough to encourage students to specialize in subjects that will be critical to British workforce in the future, they say.

"Unfortunately, [Education Secretary] Michael Gove seems to be ignoring important subjects like computing and engineering which are critical for the modern economy."

Upon the release of the ABacc proposal, a spokesman for the Department of Education reiterated that this doesn't mean that A-levels will be abolished — just that there is an effort underway to reform them.

Anthony Seldon, the Master of Wellington College, said: "Michael Gove's recognition that the A-level system needs an overhaul is long overdue and to be greatly welcomed. I am strongly supportive of his thinking, as it will render A-levels even more like the best exam system in the world, which is the International Baccalaureate Diploma, offering a final exam at 18 with no modules over two years.

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