QCA comparability study is not the last word on IGCSE says Cambridge Assessment

24 November 2006

Cambridge Assessment, today urged UK educators to look beyond the QCA comparability study which reviewed four International GCSE (IGCSE) and GCSE subjects.

To quote from the report: "probably the most significant limitation of the study derives from the fact that it did not consider student work... [This] has... implications in terms of the confidence that can be placed on the judgements about demand.” (page 10, GCSEs and IGCSEs compared, QCA, 23.11.2006).

Tim Oates, Group Director of Assessment Research and Development, Cambridge Assessment, said: "The QCA comparability study only allowed a limited range of evidence to be taken into consideration. Constraints of time and process meant that the study was precluded from looking at candidates' work in the way which is usually a feature of comparability studies. Without seeing candidates' scripts and mark distributions, it is difficult to determine the demand of the qualifications. It also failed to look at the IGCSE in a wider international perspective.

"QCA correctly acknowledges that, as a result, the study was unable to produce secure information on the level of demand of the IGCSE."

The report, from the English regulator, the QCA, also did not incorporate a full consideration of the way in which the requirements for qualifications in England are changing. With the move away from coursework and the commitment to greater flexibility in the national curriculum, compliance should become less important.

Exam board Cambridge International Examinations, part of the Cambridge Assessment Group, believes there are three main reasons why Cambridge IGCSE should be available to state schools:

  • Choice and diversity of provision - a key Government aim in education. There are alternatives already for this age range. Cambridge IGCSEs represent just another way of engaging students.
  • Equity - young people in state schools should be allowed to take the same qualifications as young people in private schools. This is the situation in, for example, New Zealand, the USA and Singapore.
  • Flexibility - A QCA spokesman recently said that 14-19 reform would "increase flexibility and reduce prescription”. (TES report 17 Nov 2006). In the same report the TES found that 66% of teachers believe the national curriculum is too prescriptive. Cambridge IGCSEs delivers this.

Ann Puntis, Chief Executive of Cambridge International Examinations, said: "There's no such thing as an 'average' learner or an 'average' school. Providing standards are comparable and young people who take alternative qualifications aren't disadvantaged, all schools should have a choice of specifications to suit different approaches to teaching and learning. It's all about fairness and choice."