The British Are Coming: A Level, IGCSE U.S. Inroads

The British Are Coming: A Level, IGCSE U.S. Inroads
By David Westley
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IGCSE and International A level via Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) are to be offered in the fourth largest school district in the U.S.: Miami, Florida. The move, as reported in TES Schools, is designed to give the students a “competitive edge” as the school district aims to raise standards.

Over the next three years some seventy schools will be given the option to introduce the external examinations, further expanding CIE’s global coverage. Its examinations are already offered in some 160 countries around the world.

In part, this is driven by the increasing importance of global data on educational attainment such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) and the consequent league tables they generate. This was confirmed by Michael O’Sullivan, chief executive of Cambridge International Examinations, who advised that this was being driven by fears over the loss of competitiveness in U.S. education.

“There is a lot of angst in the U.S. about comparative performance in education compared to other countries,” he said.

He is also quoted as saying that this is “an aspect of globalisation and, a fear of competition in the developed world.”

The TES Schools article goes on to cite the director of school choice at Miami-Dade County Public Schools, as saying that this will put his district at the “cutting edge” of a trend towards offering a more international education. According to Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of schools, “Miami-Dade is the highest performing urban school district in the U.S., as well as its most diverse….[and] in a knowledge-based economy, the partnership with Cambridge provides students [with] an international competitive edge and is a perfect match.”

There has often been debate and occasional worry amongst parents in the UAE over the validity and credibility of the IGCSE, GCSE and the GCE AS and A level as post-sixteen examinations in the international setting. A move such as this by Miami-Dade confirms their place as an increasingly important benchmark and reference point of standards of attainment, much like the International Baccalaureate Diploma.

Fortunately, the UAE is well served with schools that offer all of these well regarded qualifications as a good currency for university admissions.

(2009 Pisa tests, the most recent, placed the US 14th in reading, 23rd in science and 25th in mathematics.)

This article was written by Which School Advisor's Education Consultant and senior educationalist, Dr Michael Biggs.

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