Exam Boards: International Exams May Go Ahead

Two UK curriculum international exam boards plan to go ahead with in person examinations this summer, despite yesterday’s UK government announcement that GCSEs and A Levels will be cancelled.  The cancellations are a result of a second national lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Exam Boards: International Exams May Go Ahead
By Jenny Mollon
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Both Pearson Edexcel and Cambridge International exam boards have issued statements confirming that they plan to continue with international GCSE (IGCSE) and A-Level examinations in summer 2021. 

For clarity, the 'I' in IGCSE stands for International.  IGCSEs and A -Levels were created to be more relevant to students learning in an international or non-UK context.  International qualifications are a distinct from (but equivalent to) the ‘regular’ British GCSEs and A-Levels.

The news of the UK exam cancellations came as the government announced that exams would be cancelled due to the impact of a second national lockdown on schools and students. 

In a statement issued to schools yesterday, a Pearson Edexcel spokesperson said,

“At this time, our intention is to run the May/June 2021 series for International GCSE and International AS/A Level as planned. We are conscious that different countries and schools may still face different circumstances in May/June, and centres must always follow the most recent regulations and guidelines issued by their local government”.

Similarly, Cambridge International informed schools that,

“On 4 January 2021, the UK Prime Minister announced new national restrictions for England, including the closure of schools and cancellation of most exams for June 2021.

As an international organisation based in the UK, we want to update our global community of schools on our position on the 2021 exam series following this announcement. A number of schools have asked if there will be any change in our policy.

We work with schools in 160 countries and most of our schools are telling us they want to run exams in June 2021 and expect to be able to do so, in line with guidance from their national and regional authorities”.

It has not yet been announced if Oxford International AQA IGCSE and International A and AS Level exams will still go ahead. Oxford AQA made this statement yesterday (Jan 5):

"If you have students sitting January exams with us, these should still go ahead where it is safe to do so and your local authorities permit it.

"As regards the summer exams, we're sorry that we don't have any more details to provide you with right now, but we promise that we'll keep you updated as soon as we know more. Like you, we want to make sure that all students who are studying for OxfordAQA qualifications receive the grades they deserve. As always, our Fair Assessment approach continues to be at the heart of everything we do, and every decision we make.

"Our assessment experts are working hard to develop and review the various options for this summer, taking into consideration the needs of students around the world to receive fair grades that will enable them to progress in their studies and future plans."

Dr Simon Hyde, General Secretary of the HMC (Headmasters' & Headmistresses' Conference) association of heads of independent schools worldwide, welcomed the statement from Pearson regarding IGCSEs.

"We believe their stated intent of giving schools and colleges the option to choose whether to proceed with examinations as planned or to move to an alternative form of assessment is both fair and proportionate. Further, this approach supports all pupils, teachers, schools and colleges at what is a particularly challenging time for all."

What is now unclear is how parity between international students and those in the UK will be maintained, given that UK students are now likely to have their examination grades based upon some form of assessment (information on how results will be calculated in the UK is expected later this week). 

Many educators, including Mike Lambert of Dubai College, feel that assessed grades will lead to significant grade inflation.  How will this impact those international students who continue to sit their examinations in person?  We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com believe that this is likely to be a significant concern for teachers, parents and of course, students.  That said, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic remains unpredictable, and we may yet see further changes to policy. 

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