A single post-16 qualifications framework for all students in school, college, university, training and work, is proposed this week by Peter Hain, the Welsh Office minister.
The radical proposal, contained in the Wales Green Paper on Lifelong Learning, goes much further than anything so far proposed in the rest of the UK. It is the closest anyone has yet come to bridging the academic and skills training divide.
It will also fit in with the Government's proposals for broadening the A-level curriculum, due to be announced today.
The Welsh Green Paper is markedly different from its English counterpart published last month, with much greater emphasis on the need to address problems of literacy and numeracy.
"For instance, basic skills are worse here than elsewhere in the UK," it says. "There is a serious learning deficit; educational achievements are lower; barriers to learning stifle access and participation; education and training are not always appropriate to individual or society's needs.
"Existing patterns of provision are not achieving the best results - the qualifications framework is inflexible and there are persistent deficiencies of skill and capability in all walks of life throughout Wales," says the paper.
The Welsh paper proposes a new national skills strategy to look at the problems of lack of basic and intermediate skills, a manufacturing action plan to see how education and business can combine and improve training and competitiveness, and "a digital college" - a bilingual programme to develop Wales's strength in television and radio for distance learning.
Recommendations in the paper could help Wales regain ground lost after the Government rejected proposals last year for a Welsh baccalaureate to replace A-levels. "A single framework for learners would allow everyone post-16 to build up educational credits for all their learning achievements - at college, school, university, adult education classes, through employer training at work and through voluntary work," the paper says.
It would also provide flexibility to gain a qualification from a range of routes.
It states: "We envisage that the Framework for Learners post-16 would bring together all qualifications, including GCSEs, A-levels, AS-levels, GNVQ, Higher Qualifications and others into a single system of levels and credits."
Mr Hain told The TES that what they were trying to create was a sort of "comprehensive university". This was not a place but a concept, where there were no ivory towers, where education was accessible to all, and where links with the community were entrenched, he said.
"Ultimately there will be a seamless link between childhood and retirement.
"In future people will be able to learn in discrete blocks or modules which suit their individual circumstances at different times in their lives and then aggregate these together to gain life qualifications."
"People will accumulate credits, move from school and further education, then into higher education and sideways into training and back to work," he said.
Mr Hain chairs an education and training action group, which brings together schools, colleges, universities, training and enterprise councils, the CBI and employers. This will be a platform to discuss the new proposals.
The paper also proposes legislation to extend the remit of school inspectors beyond schools to all other training which leads to vocational qualifications. This would encompass training provided by employers at the workplace as well as that offered by commercial training providers.
The aim is to ensure that by 2002 up to four out of 10 adults have an NVQ Level 3 or equivalent and at least 5,000 more adults have better literacy and numeracy skills.
CLASSIFIED pages 35-41 TES april 3 1998 geoff Franklin industrial peaceJ33 Moves to end misery Building linksJ34 College schemes benefit schools Fifth anniversary Special edition Part 2 - looking ahead