Increasing take-up of the international baccalaureate is not a vote of no confidence in A levels, Schools Minister Lord Adonis has insisted.
About 200 schools are now offering the diploma alongside A levels but Lord Adonis insisted that did not mean a lack of faith in the exam system.
He said 200 schools were just a "drop in the ocean".
"Having the IB as an option I think is a good thing where schools wish to offer it," he said. "But it is not a vote of no confidence in A levels, it is a fundamentally different type of post-16 course."
Schools opt for the baccalaureate because it offered a broader education with pupils required to study languages and maths.
Lord Adonis said he was "sympathetic" to the view that that was beneficial for some students. But it did not undermine the value of A levels.
Ministers are facing fresh demands to scrap A levels after record numbers of students scored top grades again this year.
National results showed
22.8 per cent of A level entries were awarded an A-grade in
Lord Adonis said only a minority of youngsters even sat A levels in the first place and he insisted they had not been "dumbed down".
"The Government's own independent advisers have said that standards are robust, they are being maintained, including the international director of the OECD ... who looked at our system six months ago and said we could have full confidence in the way standards were maintained," he said.
In the interview, on the BBC's News 24 Sunday programme, Lord Adonis insisted the Government was not complacent.
He said individual unit grades for A levels would now be released as well as overall marks to allow universities to differentiate between pupils. In addition tougher questions would be brought in.