O-levels are far from defunct

3rd November 2006 at 00:00
According to your report about the international GCSE, "Adonis backs IGCSE exams for all" (TES, October 27), "the qualification has been available internationally since 1988 when the O-level was abolished". In fact, your proclamation of the O-level's demise is somewhat exaggerated.

The Cambridge board is currently promoting O-levels to the rest of the world as "established qualifications that keep pace with educational developments and trends, recognised throughout the world by academic institutes and employers as a mark of quality and evidence of real ability".

The Edexcel board is equally up-beat on the matter: "Students have successfully taken ordinary level for 50 years," it says. "It is probably the most recognised school-leaving qualification in the world. While O-levels have moved with the times, they retain the rigour that gives confidence to all in education."

Yet, in the United Kingdom, pupils are prohibited from sitting this British exam because it is said to be old-fashioned and based on rote learning.

Strange, then, that a "tiger economy" such as Singapore, with an economic growth rate that is way ahead of the UK's, should stick with an exam so vilified by educationists here for not meeting the needs of the 21st century.

Chris McGovern

Hampstead, London

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