IGCSEs: Stop The Panic!
So, this cobbled-together graphic (not from gov.uk might I add) was making the rounds on social media over the weekend. Its misleading content wreaked a fair bit of havoc, and caused many parents here in Malaysia a lot of stress and worry. After all, IGCSEs are by far the most common qualification offered by international schools here.
So my child's IGCSE qualification is worthless now?
Does this mean my child can't go to university in the UK?
Why is my child's international school offering IGCSEs if they aren't worth anything?
Please rest assured, parents: this image is nothing more than malicious clickbait. While elements of it are true, it really doesn't have an impact for international schools or their students.
Let me explain.
GCSE is the Secondary qualification sat by 14-16 year olds in the UK.
IGCSE is the equivalent Secondary qualification sat by many 14-16 year olds attending independent schools in the UK, and by students at over 300 schools across the world.
There are a number of differences between the qualifications, but they are both rigorous, valued equally, and recognised equally by universities both in the UK and internationally. Check out Cambridge's brief explanation here.
So, what's the story? Why the fuss?
Back in 2010, Michael Gove said it was totally fine for British state schools to choose whether they offered IGCSEs or GCSEs to their pupils. From what I've read, it seems both state and independent (private) schools loved being able to pick the qualifications that best suited their students.
However, a few years ago, and for a variety of complicated political reasons, the British government decided to drop all funding for the IGCSE core subjects in state schools. That basically meant that state schools couldn't offer them anymore: they had to offer their newly-reformed GCSEs (Absolutely no IGCSE subjects will be funded in state schools from November 2019 onwards).
Five years ago (2014), and again for a variety of complicated political reasons, the British government also decided to remove the IGCSE qualification from the British Secondary performance league tables, which rank British school's GCSE and A Level examination results. So, now just the GCSE results are compared.
Many people in the UK think the whole thing is ridiculous, by the way, and wish state schools could choose whether they offer IGCSE or GCSEs to their pupils. After all: if independent schools get the choice...why not state schools? Removing funding for IGCSE in state schools seemed blatantly unfair, as did taking them off the league tables.
At any rate, most independent schools in the UK - including such prestigious institutions as Eton College - will continue to offer IGCSEs. And there's absolutely no impact on international schools offering IGCSEs in the 100 countries that they're currently being offered - including Malaysia!
Have they removed IGCSEs from the British league tables because they aren't as good as GCSEs?
No! In fact, many Education spokespeople have gone to great lengths to reassure families that the IGCSE is an 'equal' qualification, and that it matches what they call the "gold standard" of the GCSE. That part of the graphic is simply untrue.
They just argue that, for various reasons, they've decided to remove funding for it and basically force state schools in the UK to only offer their newly-reformed GCSE qualifications.
Will my child's IGCSEs still be recognised by universities in the UK?
Yes! They're still completely recognised by UCAS and given equal standing to the British GCSEs.
What about universities in other countries?
This political decision has absolutely no bearing on how IGCSEs are perceived by international universities. IGCSEs are still very highly regarded, and considered an equivalent to the British GCSEs.
Will IGCSEs be removed from international schools at any point in the near future?
It's highly unlikely. This whole issue is a British-specific one, not an international one.
Should I be worried about any of this?
As a parent of a child in an international school: No. I promise! (Unless you're the parent of a child in a state British school, in which case you're well within your rights to be pretty annoyed).
I've done my best to ensure my facts are accurate, but if I've got anything wrong, please let me know & I'll sort it out as soon as I can: firstname.lastname@example.org.