Academic and vocational experts claim post-16 courses in England and Wales lack breadth and rigour compared with those in other leading industrial countries and that current reforms are making things worse.
"The examination system is shameful in the degree to which it is variable and subjective, if not debased, making a mockery of any claim to represent a national gold standard," said Politeia's director, Sheila Lawlor.
The report calls for the abolition of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Government's exams watchdog, and its replacement by independent central bodies to safeguard standards.
The body overseeing academic exams would be linked to the universities. Politeia also wants to see the creation of a distinct, vocational strand in schools from the age of 14, leading to separate, externally set and marked exams.
"Comparing Standards Academic and Vocational, 16 to 19-year-olds" is available, price pound;12, from Politeia, 22 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0QP. (fax: 020 7240 5095, email: firstname.lastname@example.org)