19 October 2017
The President of the Royal Society endorses the IB
Sixth form education needs a major overhaul to properly prepare pupils for the future, a leading academic has said.
Pupils are being put at a disadvantage by A levels, because it is a narrow system that is no longer "fit for purpose", according to Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society.
Britain is at risk of falling behind other nations by holding onto the qualifications, which encourage teenagers to specialise in a small number of subjects, he has warned.
The Nobel Prize-winning biologist called for a major shake-up to allow sixth-formers to study a wide range of academic and vocational subjects.
Sir Venki added that “this concentration of Stem learning is seeing the size of the pool of young people with good scientific thinking and skills shrink; less young people overall are studying a science at A level.”
"The UK risks falling behind its global competitors as a result of maintaining a narrow, outdated model of post-16 education."
He added “Our narrow education system, which encourages early specialisation, is no longer fit for purpose in an increasingly interdisciplinary world. Many countries have moved, or are moving, towards a broader and more diverse curriculum in order to equip the next generation with a skill set they will need.”
The concerns are not confined to science, according to Sir Venki. He said “Young people need to expand their language skills so that they can, in the future, express the complex ideas of their field of study or work."
"A narrow approach to education is producing students who are entering higher education without the necessary skills required for independent learning and research, or the ability to write and communicate."
The biologist called for a move to a broader curriculum in the long term. He argued that in the meantime Britain could learn from A-level alternatives such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), which sees sixth-formers studying a wider range of subjects.