Upper-secondary education student assessment in Scotland: A comparative perspective

Primary Author or Creator:
Gordon Stobart
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Fast Facts

Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is a pioneering example of 21st century curriculum reform.

More details

With Scotland positioned within the historic British examination tradition, qualifications for upper-secondary school students have seen far less reform. The cancellations of examinations in 2020-21, and the crises these generated, have provided an opportunity to reconsider the upper-secondary assessment system.

This paper compares the Scottish system to five other legacy traditions, as well as four other British legacy systems, to offer insight for how Scotland could further improve the alignment between CfE and upper-secondary assessments. The analysis is guided further by theoretical considerations on what constitutes a dependable and trustworthy assessment system, to refine the reflection around possible options for the Scottish system.

Three major themes emerge from this comparative review. One focuses on how the external assessments could be more innovative in order to capture a wider range of student capabilities. The second is to rethink the role of teacher assessment, with more emphasis placed on continuous school-based assessment. The third is to better integrate the academic and vocational strands with the assessment system which, given SQA’s responsibilities for both, would offer a broader range of curriculum options.

OECD Education Working Papers No. 253