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4.20 In order to encourage and facilitate a more rounded educational experience for all students we will create a new way of recognising those students, and schools, who succeed in achieving real breadth.
4.21 In most European countries school students are expected to pursue a broad and rounded range of academic subjects until the age of 16. Even in those countries such as the Netherlands where students divide between academic and vocational routes all young people are expected, whatever their ultimate destiny, to study a wide range of traditional subjects. So we will introduce a new award – the English Baccalaureate – for any student who secures good GCSE or iGCSE passes in English, mathematics, the sciences, a modern or ancient foreign language and a humanity such as history or geography. This combination of GCSEs at grades A*-C will entitle the student to a certificate recording their achievement. At the moment only around 15 per cent of students secure this basic suite of academic qualifications and fewer than four per cent of students eligible for free school meals do so57. So to encourage the take-up of this combination of subjects we will give special recognition in performance tables to those schools which are helping their pupils to attain this breadth of study.
4.22 Alongside the number of students who secure five good GCSEs including English and mathematics, the performance tables will record the number who secure the combination of GCSEs which make up the English Baccalaureate. Those schools which succeed in giving their pupils a properly rounded academic education will be more easily identified. This will provide a powerful incentive for schools to drive the take-up of individual science subjects, humanities such as history and, especially, foreign languages.
4.23 The proportion of young people studying a modern language at GCSE has fallen from 79 per cent in 2000 to just 44 per cent in 2008 and 200958. The introduction of the English Baccalaureate will encourage many more schools to focus more strongly on ensuring every student has the chance to pursue foreign language learning to the age of 16.
‘Ultimately, education is the great equaliser. It is the one force that can consistently overcome differences in background, culture and privilege. As the author Ben Wildavsky writes in his new book, The Great Brain Race, in the global economy ‘more and more people will have the chance […] to advance based on what they know rather than who they are.’Arne Duncan, UNESCO speech
4.24 The English Baccalaureate will be only one measure of performance, and should not be the limit of schools’ ambitions for their pupils. Schools will retain the freedom to innovate and offer the GCSEs, iGCSEs and other qualifications which best meet the needs of their pupils. Pupils will, of course, be able to achieve vocational qualifications alongside the English Baccalaureate. With the proper structures in place through the reform of the National Curriculum and the introduction of the English Baccalaureate schools will have the freedom and the incentives to provide a rigorous and broad academic education.
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