Standard grade to be reviewed in New Year
But she did not say if it would be scrapped as an exam or a course. Peter Peacock, former education minister, seemed to favour the former, recognising that secondary pupils were over-examined but suggested the course was still of value.
Intermediate exams have eroded the place of Standard grade in some cases, and a powerful case for its removal was a feature of last week's report on Scottish school education by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Ms Hyslop said there would be a consultation in the spring on what kind of assessment and qualifications system might best serve the third and fourth levels of achievement (S1-S4), set out in A Curriculum for Excellence. This would be timed to follow publication of the final building blocks in the new curriculum, so assessment was not seen to be driving the curriculum.
The OECD report criticised Standard grade, saying it got in the way of successful learning, particularly of the vocational studies programme that is a central part of its vision for school reform in Scotland.
The report said: "Standard grades seek to conclude a stage of schooling. But it is not summative finality that is needed at this late compulsory stage: it is preparation and pathways building. Standard grades truncate the passage to a fuller educational experience, instead of preparing for it. More clearly defined pathways are needed to support further learning in a range of contexts, not a gateway which, for many young people, ushers them out of further learning."
The OECD says it could be argued that the third of pupils who leave school at 16 should have a report to represent their achievements, "however modest".
The report said: "What is better - a reformed programme of studies that is seen as purposeful and meaningful and can aim at high accomplishment in a range of areas, or a transcript of examination results which shows how little academic learning has occurred."
The report is not convinced Standard grade works for average or high achievers either. "They often stay on at school, are sometimes shocked at the extra work the exams did not prepare them for and ... can take as many more exams as they like to speak for them later."
But some defend Standard grade. The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association says the proposal to phase it out "fails to take account of those subject areas, such as modern languages, where Standard grade is an integral part of the process of learning a language and cannot be simply set aside".