The registration fee for candidates taking the International Baccalaureate (IB) is being scrapped in a bid to get more pupils to take the qualification.
The news comes amid fears that new proposals from the UK government for post-16 qualifications could prevent pupils in state schools in England studying the alternative to A levels.
The IB requires pupils to take at least three subjects at higher level, and normally three at standard level, plus an extended essay and a course in theory of knowledge.
In a statement, the International Baccalaureate organisation said: “The IB is proud to announce the elimination of the $172 [£139] candidate registration fee, effective with the November 2019 exams.
“We believe this will make it financially feasible for more students to take additional exams, pursue a full diploma programme or join the community of our more than 5,000 schools worldwide.”
The organisation said that with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, the IB was “more meaningful than ever”.
Setting out the reasons for eliminating the fees, it said: “IB schools raised concerns that the high assessment fee was a barrier to the growth of student cohorts in schools, deterring some students from taking more than one exam and impeding the adoption of the diploma program (DP) among new schools.
“This candidate registration fee elimination reflects IB’s commitment to being responsive to the IB school community and to foster a culture of transparency, collaboration and a meaningful feedback loop that lifts us all.
“We are able to eliminate the candidate registration fee as a result of smart financial controls and a considerable investment in technology to modernize IB’s assessment systems over the past 10 years.”
In May, concerns were raised about the effect of the DfE’s plans for post-16 qualifications on the use of the IB in the state sector.
John Oakes, headteacher of Dartford Grammar School – among the largest schools to teach the qualification – said changes proposed in the consultation Review of post-16 Qualifications at Level 3 and Below in England could make it uneconomic for state schools to teach the IB.
At the time, a DfE spokesperson said: “The aim of the post-16 qualifications review is to ensure that every single qualification approved for public funding is high quality, has a clear and defined purpose, and offers progression into higher education or skilled employment.
“At this stage, other than those listed in our consultation, we have made no decisions on the future of any of the qualifications in the scope of the review. As part of the first stage consultation, we are seeking views and evidence on which qualifications are needed given changes, including the introduction of T levels, now underway.”