Welsh Bac campaign is ready to roll

21st February 1997 at 00:00
By the end of the month every Welsh secondary school and further education college will receive a document containing proposals to change the face of post-16 education in the principality.

Its authors believe that the upshot will be wide-ranging support for the putative Welsh Baccalaureate which was launched last week at the annual conference of the Welsh Secondary Schools Association in Cardiff.

The Welsh Bac: educating Wales in the next century was produced after a lengthy gestation period.

Its joint sponsors are the Welsh Joint Education Committee and the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA), a pressure group chaired by Geraint Talfan Davies, controller of BBC Wales, which is becoming increasingly influential.

It claims that the A-level system, even with recently proposed modifications, fails to meet the needs of the Welsh economy and disadvantages young people who will be called on to staff new enterprises, like the Pounds 1.7 billion investment by the Korean electronics giant LG due to come on stream at Newport in a couple of years with over 6,000 new jobs.

A questionnaire circulated with the report invites schools and colleges to take part in a pilot project aimed at introducing a new curriculum for 16 to 19-year-olds by the millennium.

The authors - Colin Jenkins, head of Atlantic College; John David, former head of Radyr comprehensive in Cardiff; Juliet Pierce, a member of the Association of Further Education Colleges in Wales and John Osmond, director of the IWA- are dedicated crusaders.

Pointing to the success of the Republic of Ireland's system, they claim the proposed Welsh Bac follows the same route.

The swing towards a strong background in mathematics and science gave Ireland a distinct edge, Mr Osmond claimed. "Inward investors in manufacturing find the Irish workforce has a greater understanding of maths and science than we possess," he said. Unless this was addressed Wales would slip even further behind as the Irish economy, already marginally ahead of Wales, continues to improve.

Criticising A-levels' "narrow focus", the proposed curriculum lists six subject areas:

* culture - language and literature; * a second language; * a humanities or social studies subject; * a mathematical or science-based subject or its vocational equivalent; * a creative subject or its vocational equivalent; and * a subject of the student's choosing from the first five areas

Three subjects would be a student's main focus. As well as the six subjects, students would be required to complete core courses in information technology, global issues and the theory of knowledge.

Fending off suggestions of anti A-level bias Mr Jenkins commented: "A-levels have done a fantastic job. However the problem is what they don't do."

Schools and colleges had responded warmly during the long drawn out process of producing the report but Mr Jenkins conceded: "It would be arrogant to say that what we have produced is perfect."

Next month the authors will tour Wales to front a series of public meetings.

The Welsh Bac: educating Wales in the next century is available for Pounds 8 from the Institute of Welsh Affairs, Ty Oldfield, Llantrisant Road, Cardiff, CF5 2YQ

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