Exams Cancelled: International Schools React

The IB May 2020 and all IGCSE and A Level exams are cancelled. But what happens now? WSA speaks to the English Schools Foundation and other international schools to find out...
This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19
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This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

More than 2,000 students in Hong Kong will be affected by this week’s decision to cancel the IB, IGCSE and A Level exams. It's been another turbulent week in education as the government has also made it clear that schools are highly unlikely to reopen on April 20 as previously planned. 

Read more: IB Exams Are Cancelled and Cambridge International, Edexcel and AQA Cancels IGCSEs

Students are looking for answers as they come to terms with the news that the May 2020 exams for the IB Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme – and all Pearson Edexcel, AQA and Cambridge International IGCSEs and A Levels – are cancelled. Questions being asked include, will students still receive a grade? How will this affect students’ university applications?

As international schools deal with the aftermath of these decisions, we ask what will happen next?

The English Schools Foundation (ESF), which has seven secondary schools offering the IBDP and IBCP, was quick to reassure its students.

Belinda Greer, CEO for the ESF, said:

"Although there is not yet a consistent approach by all the Exam Boards in terms of whether or not examinations are proceeding, there is a consistent message for you to hear: even if an exam is cancelled, your child’s school and the Exam Board will make sure that your child receives an award that best reflects their performance.
"I know that this is a time of great anxiety for you and your family. I can give you my absolute assurance that we will mobilise every resource that ESF has in order to ensure that every single one of our students – whether they are able to sit their exams or not – gets the results that their incredible hard work deserves."

The IBO has said that, depending on what they registered for, the student will be awarded a Diploma or a Course Certificate which reflects their standard of work. This is based on student's coursework and the established assessment expertise, rigour and quality control already built into the programmes. More information regarding grading will be released by the IBO by March 27.

The ESF’s secondary schools are among the 25-plus secondary schools in Hong Kong to offer GCSE and/or IGCSE exams. Schools outside the UK can do both the GCSE and its international counterpart, the IGCSE; in many countries outside the UK, IGCSE is used predominantly for languages and humanities.

Commenting on GCSEs, which have been cancelled by the UK government, the ESF said: “The [GCSE] exams that were scheduled to take place in April and May have all been cancelled.

"The Exam Board is currently finalising the process that they will use, in tandem with your child’s school, to make sure that every student receives an award that reflects their performance over the course of the programme. As yet, we do not have a date as to when this will be in place.”

IGCSE and A Level exams are operated by a number of different exam boards worldwide, and Cambridge International, Oxford AQA and Pearson Edexcel exam boards have all cancelled IGCSE and A Level exams. 

ESF told parents: “Our schools will now be working with the Exam Boards on the arrangements that will need to be put in place to make sure that your child gets awarded the grade the best reflects their performance over the course of the programme.
"While this is worked out, it is absolutely imperative that all of our students continue to attend their online classes, continue to engage with their learning and complete any and all coursework. I don’t want a single one of our students to miss out on getting the right grade because they were unable to submit the evidence required to satisfy the requirements of the Exam Board."

Kellett School is the only international school to offer A Levels in Hong Kong, and is one of many to teach IGCSEs.

Commenting on the uncertainty around cancelled exams, the school’s CEO and principal Mark Steed, said:

“It is disappointing for any student to learn that the examinations for which they have been working for the past two years are cancelled, whether that be GCSE, A Level or IB Diploma.

"This is particularly the case for those students who hold conditional offers for universities around the world – they will be understandably anxious about their futures at this time.

“Students can draw some reassurance from the fact that this is a global problem that touches all examination curricula and all university admissions offices, and should draw comfort from the fact that universities and exam boards are working together with schools to ensure the best possible outcome for this generation of school leavers."

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