Published Monday, 30 September 2013
Education Minister John O'Dowd presented the CCEA's report to the Assembly on Monday.
It contains 49 recommendations but found that there is "no case" for replacing the examinations in the short or medium term - however it does acknowledge the need to "embark now on a long-term vision for learning, assessment and qualifications".
The report suggests "streamlining" GCSE English and English Language into one subject.
It also calls for consideration to be given to a second GSCE mathematics qualification which deals with usage in everyday life, as well as a "more specialised" GCSE IT qualification.
The report was ordered by the Sinn Féin minister after wide-ranging changes to the examinations system in England were announced by the Westminster government.
Mr O'Dowd said: "Last autumn I commissioned CCEA to undertake a fundamental review of A level and GCSE qualifications.
I don't believe there is anything fundamentally wrong with the GCSEs and A-levels we currently have and CCEA's report confirms this.
John O’Dowd, Sinn Féin
"This is an important piece of work and provides an unprecedented opportunity to set out our own stall for learners here. The recommendations articulate what we should do to improve the life chances of our young people.
"The report allows us to pro-actively determine what is right for us in the context of our own curriculum and to align our qualifications to our curriculum in the interests of all learners."
The CCEA report recommends that changes in England and Wales should be kept under review and discussions should be held about the use of the GCSE and A-levels names.
It said the course should have modular or linear (testing at the end) assessment, and modular GCSEs and A-levels should have only one resit opportunity per unit.
The report explains: "Changes made in similar qualifications in other jurisdictions should be kept under review, in particular the risk of damage to the perception of Northern Ireland qualifications as a consequence of changes elsewhere or unsubstantiated claims that explicitly undermine confidence in GCSEs and A-levels."
A consultation period will now take place.
It is important that any change to our system of qualifications has first and foremost the support of the practitioners and those teachers who have ensured delivery of grades in our system that are the envy of other parts of the United Kingdom and further afield.
Mervyn Storey, DUP
Avril Hall Callaghan of the Ulster Teachers' Union urged Mr O'Dowd to take on board feedback from teachers.
"Our biggest concern is that Northern Ireland pupils should not be disadvantaged by any changes," said Ms Callaghan.
"Northern Ireland has traditionally produced some of the UK's top performing students and any changes to the system must ensure this gold standard remains.
"As it is invariably the teachers who are left to implement decisions taken at higher levels we welcome this period of consultation and urge the Minister to take on board the input from those at the chalkface who work with the system and the pupils day in day out."
Rebecca Hall, president of the NUS-USI student movement, hit out at any plans to remove the opportunity of second resits.
She said: "This could have a very negative impact upon people's ability to fulfil their potential and have access to the widest possible range of opportunities. Opportunities in education should be widened and should not be closed off or reduced.
"We believe that there is a very strong case to retain resits in their present format, and we would encourage the Minister to change his mind on this important issue."
DUP chairman of the education committee Mervyn Storey called for the minister to "exercise caution" in making any changes.
He said: "I have some concern that the suggested abolition of the word 'good' in reference to 5 GCSEs could be seen as a 'dumbing down' of the current high expectations and excellent outcomes for our best pupils. This approach has given rise to the current debate in England and the Review must not lead to any reduction in standards."
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