EDUCATION is the greatest gift we give to our young people – that is why any debate about how it is delivered should be firmly based in evidence and experiences.

We already have evidence which shows improvements within our schools but, of course, we want to be assured that young people are not just attaining the highest level of qualifications they can but that they are also receiving the best possible experience at school.

I welcome the interest Parliament has taken in subject choice because the future of our young people should go beyond party politics.

The Education and Skills Committee inquiry has already provided a range of perspectives on how subjects are being delivered and I think it is important we reflect on all of the evidence that is forthcoming.

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The introduction of Curriculum for Excellence completely transformed how our young people learn. It also firmly established the ethos still at the heart of Scottish education that simply passing exams is not the same as learning.

We live in a country that doesn’t just place empPastehasis on the retention of facts, our curriculum was specifically designed to ensure our young people become four things: successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.

I am not aware of anyone who disagrees with these ambitions and I can’t fathom why anyone would.

Last year a record proportion of young people went on to positive destinations including work, training or further study.

In addition, the gap between the most and least deprived communities for young people entering work, training or further study is half what it was in 2009/10. A higher proportion of students from our most deprived areas successfully completed college courses last year and a record number of students from the most disadvantaged areas gained a place at university last year.

Under the previous system S4 marked the end of a phase of learning with a focus on ensuring young people gained as many Standard Grades as possible.

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It had little flexibility and was more often than not based on a fairly set route of progression from Standard Grade, to Higher, to Advanced Higher.

Now S4 is the start of a new phase of learning which aims to deliver the highest levels of attainment possible. In some schools, young people can choose to study Highers over two years and completely miss out Nat 4 and Nat 5 levels altogether.

It is entirely up to schools and local authorities to decide the best approach for their learners and this will inevitably lead to different approaches – that diversity should be seen and celebrated as a strength.

We have to move the debate away from focusing solely on qualifications. We need to make it clear that university is a great achievement but it is equally a moment of celebration if someone goes to college, gets a modern apprenticeship or enters the world of work.

Through increased collaboration between industry and education, the routes and options into employment available to young people are the most diverse they have ever been and the uptake in vocational qualifications has increased substantially year on year.

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For our young people there is no wrong path to their career of choice and it is the job of everyone working within education to help them get there.

I regularly see schools across the country working closely with colleges, youth work and employers to ensure that young peoples’ learning is relevant to their future learning and career pathways.

So, we must focus on ensuring that Curriculum for Excellence is delivering in a way that meets the needs of Scotland’s learners.