LONDON — Rows of sweating, fidgety college-bound students sit waiting to collect their diplomas, half listening to the platitudes offered by principals and head teachers while their parents sigh with a mixture of pride and relief. It’s high school graduation season.

A century ago a high school diploma was both a certificate of academic prowess and a ticket to a good job, but in today’s competitive global market employers expect much more — as, increasingly, do universities. And where once upon a time every student in a given country worked for the same credential — a diploma in the United States, a baccalaureate in France, O-levels or A-levels in Britain — secondary school students, and their parents, now face a bewildering landscape of choices.

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