GCSEs should be scrapped and A-levels should be replaced by a mix of academic and vocational subjects, according to some experts.
Robert Halfon, chairman of the Education Select Committee, made the controversial claims earlier this month, proposing an overhaul of England's exam system and the introduction of a new one designed to give young people a much broader range of skills for their working lives.
The former Tory minister said GCSEs for 16-year-olds have become "pointless", while the Department for Education (DFE) defended GCSEs as "gold standard" exams.
The exams taken by 16-year-olds have actually been reformed very recently in England, with the introduction of a new numerical grading system from nine to one.
And the DFE, which shows no sign of supporting calls to scrap GCSEs, says that about 47% of young people who take GCSEs stay on to study A-levels.
Rebecca Garrod-Waters, CEO of Ufi Charitable Trust, says: “Our education system exists to equip people with the skills they need to join the workforce and to become productive members of society.
"What the education system needs is investment in vocational technology that allows learners and teachers to focus on the basic reasons why we educate: preparing people of all ages for the workplace. Whether that’s when they are young or as they upskill and reskill throughout their working lives."
“Robert Halfon is right that the current system is not meeting the needs of our young people, employers or businesses. The way we work has changed, and the pace of change continues to increase. And yet, there has been no significant change to our education system in living memory. Whilst qualifications have been tweaked and refined, at no point has the basic format of the UK education system altered.
“Our education system is not only failing to equip young people with skills they need in the future, it is failing to give people of all ages the skills they need today. This isn’t going to be fixed by scrapping GCSEs. Nor will focusing purely on reforming schools.
“The digitisation of the workplace is not some distant future loosely imagined, it is here now. And employers urgently need workers with the skills to manage in a digital workplace. What the education system needs is investment in vocational technology that allows learners and teachers to focus on the basic reasons why we educate: preparing people of all ages for the workplace. Whether that’s when they are young or as they upskill and reskill throughout their working lives.
“The workplace of the future will be underpinned by disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence and augmented reality. This change is not to be feared. We do need to ensure people can adapt quickly and effectively to changes in the needs of UK employers. This means using new tools that take advantage of this digital technology to ensure that teaching and learning is cheaper, more effective, and more accessible.”