Absurd baccalaureate is copper in the guise of gold

17th September 2010 at 01:00

I was interested to read the comments of the staff at George Heriot's in your September 3 issue. They gave a thoughtful overview of the practical issues affecting the new so-called Scottish Baccalaureate.

In theory, the SB is an interesting idea in that an interdisciplinary project can be productive if supervised and certificated effectively. However, Scottish it may be but a baccalaureate it ain't, if you understand it to be the same as in France or the IB, the top qualification for school leavers.

It is absurd to have a baccalaureate which is limited to two subject areas, and to call something a baccalaureate when, to get a distinction, you do not require top grades. It is also absurd that candidates who achieve much better grades, say 4 A1s at Advanced Higher, cannot even qualify for it if their subject combination doesn't fit.

It was jolted into existence without proper forethought and seems to be a political sticking plaster to show that the Government is trying to do something about the decline in modern foreign languages and sciences in Scotland. That is a worthy aspiration, but the Scottish bacc is not the answer.

To improve science and modern languages at this level, we need dynamic and enthusiastic teachers who know their subjects backwards and respect their pupils, and who are not bound by often infantile resources and teaching materials. The Scottish Baccalaureate is copper pretending to be gold, so it is not surprising that it is suffering from a mighty credibility gap in universities and schools.

I really feel for the Scottish Qualifications Authority on this one, charged with selling this academic Darien Scheme to sceptical investors.

John D Halliday, rector, High School of Dundee.

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