Is it wacky to bring in the baccy?

13th June 2008 at 01:00
At long last it is here, or maybe I should say le baccalaureat nouveau est arrive!?
At long last it is here, or maybe I should say le baccalaureat nouveau est arrive!?

Talk of a baccalaureate being introduced in Scotland seems to have been around for as long as I can remember. Yes, before Standard grade took an age to replace the Ordinary grade, only to endure a slow, unattractive death almost from birth.

If there's one thing Scottish education is known for, it is the long gestation period of any change. That's why Michael Forsyth was such a dangerous revolutionarybreath of fresh air when he was education minister back in the late 1980s. Bringing in school boards and self-determination overnight, how dare he?

There was no green paper, pilot scheme, how? eh? committee or any of the other pre-requisites that would allow the real forces of Scottish conservatism - the unions - to slow down the process.

But what of this wacky baccy plan? "Well, it's a baccalaureate, Jim, but not as we know it", one might hear McCoy say, were he examining the performance of Fiona Hyslop.

The international baccalaureate, which our tartan type is presumably trying to emulate, is recognised for the breadth of knowledge it covers. One is expected to show an understanding of science and the arts to an admirable level before achieving it.

In Scotland, the baccalaureat nouveau will be a far narrower beast, recognising a student's specialised success in the sciences or languages. As I'm mixing metaphors, I might as well ask "will it fly?". Maybe when Leonard Nimoy comes to the Edinburgh Fringe this year, he can tell us if he detects any sign of life.

Thinking of still warm corpses, and typical of today's topsy-turvy times, was the Tory reaction: accusing the SNP Government of making an already complicated qualifications scene even more complicated. This struck me as a press officer looking for a sound bite - and failing.

I used to think Tories believed in choice and markets - but that's me being old-fashioned. Ask five Tory MSPs what their party stands for and you'll get five different answers; now that's what I call complicated.

So it falls to the SNP, and free-market-averse Ms Hyslop, of all people, to bring more competition, more choice to the Scottish qualifications scene.

The old certainties of Higher and Standard grades have gone; now schools have a veritable kaleidoscope of awards to offer. Is this such a bad thing?

When Scottish education was fixed to the gold standard (some would say it WAS the gold standard), having such certainties made sense. Now, when Scotland even ranks behind England in some performance tables, there is a good argument for taking away the powers from the centre and letting schools decide what is best to offer pupils.

It's a sort of free market in certificates, and that requires competing choices, including some new brands to try out. Vote SNP, get Tory? Fiona Hyslop must have difficulty sleeping at nights.

Brian Monteith used to be a Tory, but he's alright nuh-owww.

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