ACCORDING to WB Yeats, "education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire”.

Since devolution, the Welsh Government has merely been filling the bucket as opposed to igniting a spark in the minds of Welsh pupils.

With respect to the former education minister, Leighton Andrews AM, I admired his ambition to raise standards but believe his policies were based on political ideology rather than practicality.

The most important measure of success for any educational policy is how enthusiastic the students feel.

I was contacted recently by a student studying the Welsh Baccalaureate who was disappointed that the content of the course included litter-picking.

Personally, I struggle to see howan activity used as a punishment for criminal offenders is relevant to education and the workplace.

To ignite a fire, education should be inspiring not punishing.

The Welsh Baccalaureate was designed as a vocational qualification for all students to develop skills an employer values.

As it currently stands, a pass in the Welsh Baccalaureate is the same as an A-grade at A-level. So a student who passes a Welsh Baccalaureate and two A-levels is just as likely to be accepted onto a university course as a student who studies three A-levels.

However, the hard-work and academic effort required to get an A Level cannot be compared to a course that involves litter-picking.

The Welsh Baccalaureate does not challenge or stimulate pupils. As shadow minister for equalities I am dismayed that A-level students are discriminated against in access to higher education institutions in this way.

Until recently, fewuniversities and fewcourses would accept the Welsh Baccalaureate in place of an A-level for these very reasons.

Recent research by Cardiff University has also suggested that Welsh Baccalaureate students are less likely to get a ‘good’ degree and are more likely to drop out of their course.

Either the Welsh Baccalaureate is failing to prepare students for higher education or we are channelling these students in the wrong direction.

A recent reviewhas suggested that the Welsh Baccalaureate becomes an overarching qualification for all GCSEs and A-levels for pupils in Wales.

While I agree with the reasoning behind this, the practicalities are concerning.

It takes fuel, heat and oxygen to light a fire. Similarly, it takes a strong curriculum, a talented teacher and sound practical policies to inspire a student. Until these elements are in place we need to restrict the political tinkering of our educational system.

I hope the new education minister, Huw Lewis AM, will at least plug the hole in the bucket while we look for a way to ignite the fire.