Former Education Secretary and ex-Birmingham MP Estelle Morris has urged the Government to consider scrapping A levels.
Lady Morris, the former MP for Yardley in Birmingham, was speaking as youngsters waited to learn their A-level results, which will be published on Thursday.
She said Ministers were " fiddling at the edges" by promising to reform secondary education but ruling out any replacements for existing qualifications.
Should A-levels be scrapped? Click here to email The Post.
But Lady Morris rejected claims exams had become easier. She said: "I don't believe A levels have been devalued."
Controversy about the qualification is likely to be re-ignited if grades reach new record highs this week, as expected.
As Education Secretary, from 2001-2, Lady Morris appointed Sir Mike Tomlinson, former Chief Inspector of Schools, to conduct a wide-ranging review of education for pupils aged 14 to 19.
He recommended replacing A levels and GCSEs with a new diploma system, bringing together academic and vocational qualifications.
The plans received widespread support from teachers, school inspectors, and exam chiefs but were rejected by Ruth Kelly, the current Education Secretary, before this year's General Election.
Lady Morris said: " The Government should be brave enough to have a really open debate. At the moment, it says it wants to look at 14-19 education but not A levels and GCSEs.
"If you do that, you are just fiddling at the edges.
"What A levels were set up to do was to be a way of choosing who goes to university. This was when ten per cent of the population went to university.
"But the world has changed, and now we are aiming for 50 per cent going to university.
"And many of those who don't go will be doing vocational qualifications, rather than heading straight into employment."
Education had changed and the qualifications needed to change with it, she said.
"There are so many ways education has changed that I think the assessment system has got to be kept up to date. A levels were set up in a time when children specialising at 16 was seen to be the best thing go do. But I'm not sure it is the thing to do now.
"We need a qualification which offers the same depth, but more breadth. I'm not saying Mike Tomlinson's proposals were perfect but they are a good way forward for the debate."
Replacing A levels could be politically difficult, she said.
"Somebody once said to me that nobody wants to be the Secretary of State that is known as having abolished A levels.
"I think there is another way of looking at that. I think the 14-19 exam system is now ripe for modernisation, ripe for renewal.
"I think Ruth has the opportunity to be remembered as the Secretary of State for Education who actually had the courage to grasp that and to move ahead."
However a spokesperson for the Department for Education said: "We are taking forward the vast majority of the Tomlinson proposals and in some cases we are going even further. But, let us be clear, A levels and GCSEs are here to stay. We will build on these qualifications that are tried, tested and trusted."
Bill Anderson, of the Birmingham branch of the National Union of Teachers, said: "There are so many different sorts of certification that it would be much better to consolidate the whole lot in to an overarching certificate. We have some criticisms of Mike Tomlinson's proposals but we do want the Government to take the debate seriously."
Headmistress Elspeth Insch, of King Edward VI Handsworth School in Birmingham, said: "A levels are fine as they are now. However the range of qualifications for people not taking A levels does need reform."