The closure of schools and the cancellation of exams in all parts of the world is causing students and parents great concern. The exams have been cancelled due to the spread of the pandemic Coronavirus (Covid-19) and the resulting restrictions and lockdown of populations worldwide. Exams have been cancellations all over Europe, in the US and Canada, in Australia and New Zealand, and in South Africa. In China, and surrounding Asian countries, things are getting back to normal with exams still to take place.
Besides cancellation of primary, secondary and university exams, qualification exams for professional bodies, trade bodies and competency (such as in IT and networking subjects) have also been cancelled.
The major concern in the US and in other places around the world, is that the results and grades of tests and other exams, are to be based on mock exams and course work, which is to be assessed by the teaching staff. This would not be a problem if every student worked extremely hard throughout the year and did not leave the deep-dive revision until a few weeks before the exams. So, in many cases, the students will end up with a lower grade than they would have, if the exams had taken place.
The other issue is the careers of the students themselves, as it is not really known for how long the schools will be closed and when full-time education will restart, so some students could struggle to keep up with lessons when they restart.
Many schools are getting online lessons on a daily basis using Microsoft Teams Video Conferencing, Zoom, Skype and similar applications. Whilst the interactions between student and teacher are slightly limited by the applications, the lessons are taking place on a regular basis.
There are millions of students in the United States that were to take the standardised mandated test exams this spring. For 2020, the tests are cancelled due to the increasing number of cancellation announcements from individual states. Some states have asked to still run the tests and asked the US Education Secretary if they can do this without penalty during the pandemic.
At the time of writing, some 44 states, Washington DC and many other districts in other states, have closed schools. It is estimated that this has affected at least 47.9 million students. Although teacher assessment can be used, with President Trump’s announcement that he wants everything open by Easter, maybe the exams will go ahead.
In the UK all schools are closed and exams cancelled. Whilst some online teaching is taking place, it tends only to be for students in later years of their schooling when exams would normally be set for students leaving for higher education.
The other thing that is happening in some UK schools, is that year 11 and 13 students are still being asked to submit work for their final exams online which actually solves the major concern, and has the added benefit for students as they are able to seek help before submitting their work.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in India has cancelled exams for classes 10 and 12, plus the Joint Entrance Exam and the National Open School Exam. However, the CBSE is planning to re-evaluate the situation at a very early stage.
The situation is mixed in different parts of India with many States still going ahead with exams, although at later dates than originally scheduled. In Uttar Pradesh for example, exams will take place on 2nd April and in addition, all students in classes up to class 8, will go up one year without taking an exam. A similar situation exists in the Maharashtra state in that classes 1 to 9 will no longer need to take the end of year exams. Although schools and colleges have been closed in many other parts of India, the class 10 and 12 exams will take place either at the end of March or within the first two weeks of April. Evaluation of the exam papers will take place with teachers working at home.
The International Baccalaureate has cancelled all the April and May exams and this has affected over 200,000 students in Europe and worldwide. The exams were supposed to take place between 30th April and 22nd May. This decision is a blow to students aged between 16 and 19.
Similar to the UK, assessment for the award of a Diploma or a Course Certificate will be based on course work. In some parts of the world, oral exams had already taken place and obviously this will be taken into account. The deadline for submitting coursework has been extended by a few weeks as has the teacher assessments.
The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) series of tests scheduled for May, have been cancelled due to the pandemic, although the initial reason was due to absenteeism, schools closed due to infections and private schools working remotely. However, many schools are now closed in various parts of Australia, although the Prime Minister has been advised by medical experts that children should be in school. There is much debate on this taking place.
The situation regarding grade assessment of exams is not that clear as there is disagreement regarding the national comparability of the national marking centres, school closures, whether teachers can work at home and whether the brand-new national literacy and numeracy tests should be scrapped. This is a bad situation for students as they do not know when, and if, they will be graded for their year’s work.
Oxford and Cambridge International Exams
The Cambridge International Board has announced the worldwide cancellation of its exams as has Oxford AQA.
This will affect over 10,000 students in over 160 countries world-wide and places the students in a difficult position as there may be no alternative exams to take, unless their local schools and colleges can award each student with a grade based on course work and local assessment. This will not be available to students that are were working by themselves to get qualified.
Many schools have been closed in Canada and consequently diploma and provincial exams have been cancelled.
In Alberta, many students will receive their exam grade and their report card at the end of the school year. Students will move up to the next grade, based on their progress throughout the year. Other provinces in Canada are taking a similar line.
Due to the pandemic and the risk of widespread infection, many teaching establishments have been closed and exams and tests cancelled. Where teacher and course work assessments are being used, some students will find this acceptable, but for many this could result in an unfair grade being given as the student would have had the chance of an even higher grade by pre-exam cramming. Also, the education of each student is in jeopardy as it is not known when full-time education will restart and it could be that some students will find themselves many months behind others.