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Wales offers global A-level

A new A-level incorporating global poverty, social justice and fair trade is to be introduced by the WJEC. the Welsh examinations board, within a year.

The WJEC will be the only board in the country to offer world development as an A-level, having launched an AS in the subject in 2000. Supporters say the new qualification will tap into young people's interest in development issues, stimulated by last summer's Live8 concert and the Make Poverty History" campaign.

Last year around 500 students took AS world development, double the number of the previous year. Only around 40 of those were in Wales, but the WJEC is hoping to boost take-up in 2006. Interest in the A-level has already been expressed by schools and colleges from as far afield as Exeter, Cornwall, Manchester and the Isle of Man.

The Assembly government has a legal duty to promote sustainable development across all its policies and activities, and is currently consulting on guidance for schools. The WJEC is awaiting accreditation from ACCAC, the Welsh qualifications, curriculum and assessment authority, for the new A-level, which will give students the chance to learn about a variety of ethical, social and cultural issues.

"By having a complete A-level, students will be able to look at some difficult issues like world trade and sustainable development in more depth and develop their own opinions on them," said Raye Scott, the WJEC's world development subject officer.

"It will enable young people to respond to important issues, develop life skills and become better citizens. It is multi-disciplinary and incorporates politics, history, geography and economics."

The curriculum has been developed from the guiding principles of agencies such as the Council for Education in World Citizenship, Oxfam and Christian Aid, as well as the United Nations.

Its aim is to develop an understanding of world trade and it will also allow students to explore how a just and more equitable society could be achieved.

Rhod Williams, Oxfam Cymru's education officer, said: "The success of the AS in world development reflects the growing number of students interested in global issues and education for global citizenship.

"The number of students who took part in the Make Poverty History campaign earlier this year also reflects the increased awareness of the causes and consequences of poverty, and how they can help raise awareness."

At Bishop Vaughan Catholic comprehensive, in Swansea, 14 students have signed up to study the AS-level, which was introduced for the first time this term. Headteacher Joseph Blackburn says he is hoping to introduce the A-level next year.

"We wanted to widen the curriculum and to tackle some of the serious issues of globalisation. We are particularly impressed so far with the emphasis on economic systems and issues like trade and social justice.

"Unlike some other subjects, it's not theoretical but based on real problems. It is so easy to get locked into local issues. but this exam makes world development central."

Chris Despres, assistant head at St Ilan school, Caerphilly, which has offered the AS-level for several years, said: "It is important that children leave school with some knowledge of the problems of the wider world and the solutions that can be adopted."

An Assembly government spokesperson said: "If the A-level is accredited by ACCAC it will be a welcome addition to the portfolio of qualifications offered by WJEC, and will be available to learners in Wales and elsewhere."

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