John Swinney is being urged to ditch the SNP’s flagship Scottish Baccalaureate qualification after it emerged that only 103 pupils achieved the award this year.
The qualification was introduced seven years ago with the aim of raising the profile of sciences and languages in schools.
But it has suffered from a lack of interest among pupils more focussed on Highers, which are traditionally seen as the route to university and employment.
Labour now say it should be replaced with a new Scottish Graduation Certificate for the senior phase of secondary school, which would involve vocational courses, work experience, voluntary work and traditional exams.
This is similar to the approach in Wales where the ‘Welsh Baccalaureate’ takes this broad approach, and has been much more successful.
Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said: “Every young person should be able to achieve the qualifications to get on to college or university and all of the opportunities that brings.
“With falling pass rates for this year’s new Highers, coupled with falling attainment of the Scottish Baccalaureate, it’s now time for John Swinney to seriously consider reforming the senior phase of high school and introduce a Scottish Graduation Certificate.
“This certificate would be a useful qualification for young people applying to college, university or to a potential employer. For employers it would give a more complete and rounded indication of the young person’s potential. In Wales, for example, the baccalaureate is already considered equivalent to an additional exam pass by universities. We should follow that lead.
“Traditional qualifications don’t work for everyone, but we should make sure our education system does. A Scottish Graduation Certificate will work for thousands of young people across the country who have skills and talents that simply aren’t recognised by today’s education system.”
Only 73.6% of the 140 pupils taking part in the qualification this year achieved the baccalaureate.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is determined to make further improvements to our education system and will consider all relevant suggestions on this matter.
“SQA exam results, published last week, show that qualifications recognising life and work skills – such as Awards, National Certificates and National Progression Awards – are up 22.8 per cent.
“This is very encouraging, as we support schools to do more to prepare our young people for the world of work.”