Qualifications and Context
As ever, 2008 has seen developments in the world of education, training, and lifelong learning — from the continuing work on Scotland’s new school curriculum and qualifications, to further development of the skills agenda. Changes in economic circumstances will also bring new challenges for the world of education and training.
The Curriculum for Excellence programme will provide a seamless curriculum for young people from 3 to 18 in Scotland. It provides a framework that will enable children and young people to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens, and effective contributors. Together with our partners, the Scottish Government , Learning and Teaching Scotland , and HM Inspectorate of Education , SQA is a key player in this programme, with our principal role being to contribute to work on qualifications and assessment.
In June 2008, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop, set out consultation proposals aimed at bringing National Qualifications into line with the aims of Curriculum for Excellence to ensure that they meet the needs of the 21st century. New qualifications will be in place from 2013–14.
The areas that are particularly relevant to SQA are the Scottish Government’s directions that:
- Assessment be used to support, motivate, and challenge young people.
- There should be increased focus on literacy and numeracy and other skills for life and skills for work.
- All young people should be able to achieve their potential.
- There should be reduced complexity and increased flexibility in education.
- There should be a range of opportunities to meet the needs of all young people.
- The sixth year experience should be enhanced.
Also in June 2008, Fiona Hyslop announced the introduction of a Scottish Baccalaureate in Science and a Scottish Baccalaureate in Languages for pupils in the fifth and sixth years of secondary education. These are about preparing young people with the skills for work, learning, and life, and about a wider understanding of the application of science and technology, and languages, to the world of work.
The Baccalaureates will be based on groups of subjects at Higher and Advanced Higher level and an Interdisciplinary Project. This will allow pupils to build a significant body of knowledge, skills, and qualifications in science or languages. The first Baccalaureates will be taught from 2009, to be awarded in August 2010. More information on Baccalaureates is available in this Digest in the section on Advanced Highers.
On a related note, it has been announced that Scottish qualifications providing entry to universities and colleges throughout the UK are to be rated higher than ever before. UCAS, the body responsible for managing applications to full-time UK higher education courses, appointed a group of experts to carry out an independent review for the UCAS tariff. The UCAS tariff assigns points to qualifications to help higher education admissions staff treat applicants with different qualifications in an equitable way. For learners seeking entry to higher education institutions from 2010, the tariff scores for SQA Advanced Highers and Highers at A, B, and C have increased.
Fiona Hyslop said, ‘This review recognises the relative standing of Scottish qualifications. I welcome the higher scores which have been awarded as a result of this review, as good news for hard-working Scottish students and their teachers. These changes will ensure that their efforts are more appropriately recognised when applying for university courses, either in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK.’
Meanwhile, recent months have seen the publication of the Scottish Government’s Science for Scotland: a strategic framework for Scotland . The framework makes clear that science is vital for Scotland’s future and for meeting the Scottish Government’s five strategic objectives for Scotland — that it should become: smarter; safer and stronger; wealthier and fairer; greener; and healthier. This is perhaps especially relevant now.
The 2007 Trends in International Maths and Science Survey (TIMSS) showed that, whilst there are many strengths of the Scottish system, there is work to do to update the science curriculum 3-18. The calls to action specific to SQA are:
- Ensure, through a process of review, that the content and assessment arrangements for science qualifications are both up-to-date and relevant.
- Take opportunities offered by the development and promotion of Scottish Science Baccalaureates to encourage greater uptake of science in the later stages of secondary school, and enhance both links and transition between school, college, university and employment.
We are investing heavily in the revision and development of our science qualifications portfolio for use in schools, colleges, and in employment and training. Science and SQA’s science qualifications are discussed further later in this Digest.
In terms of the skills landscape, the year saw the creation of Skills Development Scotland — a skills body to take forward the vision set out in the Scottish Government’s skills strategy in 2007. Skills Development Scotland was created by merging Careers Scotland, learndirect Scotland, and the skills functions of Highland and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise.
While the global economic downturn and its associated issues mean 2009 will be a tough year, SQA’s qualifications mean that we are in a strong position to work with our customers, stakeholders, and partners to develop and lead initiatives that will help people across Scotland to re-skill and up-skill with qualifications that meet their needs.