IGCSE rejected for state schools

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The Government has rejected the use of some IGCSEs in state schools for under-16s because it does not “meet the requirements of the curriculum in the key subjects of English maths, science and ICT”. Government funding has been given for nine other subjects but not the core subjects.

The physics, chemistry and biology certificates do not explicitly cover elements of the curriculum on data, evidence, theories and explanations, practical and communication skills and the applications and implications of science. The maths certificate omits requirements on applications and problem solving.

The IGCSE or International GCSE has become increasingly popular amongst independent schools and is currently taught in more than 300 independent schools in the UK. Originally  the IGCSE  was developed as an international alternative to the UK GCSE and is now the world’s most popular international qualification for 14 – 16 year olds. 

The examination is based mostly on a final examination which some schools consider to be more of a challenge for brighter students.  The syllabuses use international examples and avoid terminology only used in the UK. The IGCSE is also intended to be suitable for students whose first language may not be English.

The IGCSE is available in more than 100 countries and is delivered by the Cambridge Institute of Education.   Edexcel also now offer their own suite of IGCSEs which are internationally available. In February the IGCSE syllabus received Ofqual accreditation.

However, it is not popular with everyone. In 2006 the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said that the IGCSE was not suitable for assessing what pupils in England learn. There are differences in the content of the exam, for example there is no compulsory study of Shakespeare although it is offered as an option.

The structure of the IGCSE is different to that of the GCSE:

  • Courses are linear and assessment tends to take place at the end.
  • Content is not split up into modules and examination papers cover content from throughout the course.
  • The course is not interrupted by regular assessment points, as with the new modular GCSE.
  • The examination is not unitised, so students do not retake individual parts

Differences in content include:

  • There are separate English Language and English Literature syllabuses
  • Mathematics includes a paper that has longer and more complex questions
  • There are over 30 languages syllabuses including First Language, Second Language or Foreign Language papers.
  • There are separate and combined Science courses available, including the international version of Twenty-First Century Science.

Coursework is optional.

In 2006 the QCA completed a comparability study to determine the suitability of IGCSE for use in state-maintained schools in England. English, French, maths and science were chosen. The research suggested that there were major differences between the IGCSE and the GCSE examinations in the same subject. This recent announcement about Government funding has come as a disappointment to the CIE.