The change: What it is designed to achieve

Against a background of greater exam achievement, Scotland had begun to fall behind other countries in the education standard of its children.

Although it was argued by some that this was more to do with other nations improving than Scotland slipping backwards, the previous Labour-Lib Dem Scottish Executive began to re-examine the school system.

Work on the Curriculum for Excellence formally began in 2004 and was continued by the SNP administration when it came to power in 2007.

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Unlike England, there is no statutory curriculum in Scotland, so anything published by the Scottish Government is simply guidance. This allows schools to decide what they want to teach.

However, there are subjects all schools will offer, including English and maths, plus any subjects universities may deem compulsory - such as languages.

The previous "rules" are known as the 5-14 guidelines, introduced in the early 90s in a drive to create a more socially equal education system. They have now been subsumed by the wider-ranging 3-18 Curriculum for Excellence, which, the Scottish Government hopes, will be more relevant to the skills needed by today's school-leavers - and more engaging for pupils.

It is also hoped it will create a more streamlined education system, with smoother transitions, particularly between primary and secondary - and a much stronger focus on Scotland's history and literature.

The new curriculum is based on the underlying principles that all young people should be able to become "successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens".

These are known as the four capacities and are at the very heart of the new curriculum. The initial review which generated these new guidelines focused on, not just how subjects are currently taught, but the whole ethos of schooling. The key change is in methodology.

Qualifications will also be affected by the change with new National 4 and 5s being introduced in 2013 to replace Intermediates and Standard Grades.

Highers will also be revised to fit in with the new system.