LIVE: I/GCSE Results Day 2021, Hong Kong

Just days after the release of A Level results on Tuesday, GCSE and IGCSE results are out today for students worldwide. So, how have schools in Hong Kong performed?
LIVE: I/GCSE Results Day 2021, Hong Kong
By Carli Allan
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Over 1,000 students at international schools in Hong Kong have received their I/GCSE results in an unusual year with results based on a mix of Teacher Assessed Grades and written exam results – and there’s a high percentage of students achieving the top grades.

In line with students worldwide, I/GCSEs awarded by Pearson EdExcel and AQA were cancelled due to the pandemic; Cambridge was the only A Level/IGCSE exam board to run its June 2021 exam series as planned, where it was permitted by national education authorities.

In Hong Kong, this meant that students sat written exams for some I/GCSE subjects and received Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs) for other subjects, based on mock exams, coursework, essays and in-class tests.

Schools in Hong Kong work with two main IGCSE examination boards, Cambridge and Pearson Edexcel, which have adopted the 9-1 grading scale to award most International GCSE qualifications across South East Asia.

The grading structure for GCSE exams is from 9 (the highest) to 1, whilst for IGCSE, it is from A* (the equivalent of a Grade 8) to G. A Grade 4 or C is considered a Pass.

For students who have received their GCSE and IGCSE results this summer, they are the pathway to future studies post-16 and beyond. Many universities and colleges look at GCSE and IGCSE results as an indicator of previous academic achievement, together with predicted grades as A Level or IBDP.

Cambridge International GCSEs

Exam board Cambridge International awarded IGCSE and O Level grades to more than 240,000 students worldwide this year. Overall, there has been a slight rise in the overall grade achieved compared with 2019 (when normal exams last took place) and 2020 (when all exams were cancelled), which is between half and two-thirds of a grade.

Almost three-quarters of Cambridge students sat formal exams in countries including Hong Kong, Mainland China, Malaysia and Egypt. Where exams could not take place safely, including in the UK, Cambridge offered a school assessment approach using students' work.

UK GCSE results roundup

GCSE students in the UK celebrated a record number of top grades following a second year without exams taking place due to Covid-19, with nearly a third of teenagers achieving 7/A or above. 

  • The proportion of students getting the top grades of 7/A and above is 28.9%, an increase of 2.7% on last year
  • 7.4% of students achieved the highest grade of 9 in this year's results, compared with 6.3% in 2020 and 4.5% in 2019
  • A total of 3,606 students in England received straight 9s this summer, compared with 2,645 in 2020 and 837 in 2019
  • 77.1% of students achieved a grade 4/C or higher, which is up 0.8% from 2020
  • Pass rate (1/G) dropped slightly by 0.6% from 2020

Read more: Full roundup of UK GCSE results 2021

Hong Kong: Results roundup

At Kellett School,  the Year 11s celebrated a strong set of examination results with 97.2% of all grades achieved at A*-B (and 6+), 87% at A*-A (and 7+) and 68.2% at A* (8/9).

12 students (14%) received all A* (9 grades); 24 students (28%) received all A* / (9 - 8 grades); and 54 students (63%) received all A* / A (9 - 7 grades).

Principal and CEO Mark Steed said:

"We are celebrating some exceptional GCSE results breaking records in terms of the percentage of A* (68%) and A*A (87%). We are delighted that the students have been rewarded for all their hard work over two very disrupted years in Hong Kong and we are confident that these students have laid a secure foundation for their A-level studies.

"Unlike most GCSE candidates this year, Kellett’s overall results are a combination of Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs) and formal examinations. Kellett students sat formal examinations in 8 out of the 25 GCSE subjects available because, was one of the few schools in the world (alongside a handful of schools in Singapore and Malaysia) which actually sat CAIE (Cambridge International) examinations this year.

"We are delighted that these students will be returning to school later this month to be part of the school’s largest ever Y12 cohort; and, what is more, they will be able to enjoy the amazing facilities of our new Sixth Form Centre."

Kellett School's GCSE results 2019-21

At Harrow Hong Kong, over 90% of this year's GCSE grades this year were 9-7 (A*-A), with 78% at 9-8/A* and 52% of all grades at the highest level 9. The 9 is a grade established to reward the most able pupils and is limited to those gaining the top 3% of marks.

Almost a third of students have been awarded honorary scholarships as they begin Year 12 at the school.

At the French International School, (pictured above) 46% of the Year 11 cohort achieved an A* and 70% were graded A*-A. One student was awarded 10 A* grades and five FIS students 10 A*-A grades. The pass rate was 100%.

The English Schools Foundation (ESF) has five secondary schools across Hong Kong, and the largest number of IGCSE students collectively.

Year 11 students from ESF’s King George V School, Island School, Sha Tin College, South Island School and West Island School have all received I/GCSE grades this year. 

At Sha Tin College, 98.4% of students achieved five or more A*-C or 9-4 grades; 43% were graded the top A*. At South Island School, 98.4% of students achieved five or more A*-C or 9-4 grades.

Results will be added to this article as we receive them. If you would like your school's results to be added, please email them to us at [email protected].

What is the difference between IGCSE and GCSE?

Whilst IGCSE exams – as the name suggests – have a more international focus in terms of content (where relevant), GCSEs are the courses followed by students in the UK. Hong Kong schools tend to offer IGCSE in the main, or with a limited number of GCSE, although schools that have more traditional ties with the UK generally offer more in the way of GCSEs.

How were GCSEs graded this year?

This year's GCSE exams were cancelled for the second year in a row due to Covid-19 restrictions. Similar to this year's A Levels, GCSE grades are based on teacher assessments. Students were assessed only on what they had been taught and were assessed on multiple pieces of work, giving them their best possible chance to show what they can do.

Grades were subject to checks by schools with further checks of samples by exam boards – and one in five UK school had a sample of their grades checked by exam boards.

Students receiving GCSE results in England get numerical grades for all their subjects as all courses have now moved over to the new grading system. 
Traditional A*-G grades have been scrapped and replaced with a 9-1 system amid reforms, with 9 the highest result and a 4 broadly equivalent to a C grade, while a 7 is broadly equivalent to an A.
The grading structure for some IGCSE exams still remains A* (the equivalent of a Grade 8) to G, where C is considered a Pass.

Explaining the award process, Cath Jadhav, Director of Standards and Comparability, said “In summer 2021, teachers will judge the standard that a student is working at, based on a range of evidence produced by that student over their course of study, and covering only the content they have been taught.

“Teachers will make the initial judgements and they will then be subject to internal quality assurance within the school/college, and grades will be signed off by the head of department and head of centre – usually the headteacher or principal – before they are submitted to exam boards.

“In simple terms, a GCSE student who is performing consistently at a grade 6 standard, should be awarded a grade 6. It should be no harder or easier to achieve a particular grade than it is in a normal year when examinations take place.”

Ms Jadhav added: “We are asking teachers to take an evidence-based approach, so that students, their parents and carers, and all those who use the grades awarded this summer can see how their final grade has been arrived at and know that they have been determined objectively.”

Schools and colleges have been asked to judge the standard of students’ work against the standards set in previous years, to try to keep grades consistent year on year. However, with numerous assertions about grade inflation irrespective of Exam Board – with this year’s International Baccalaureate results and latterly, this week’s A Level results, showing clear evidence of the highest levels of awards ever – it can be reasonably expected that the same will be true for I/GCSE.

How much this matters, given that I/GCSE results are largely used internally for progression to post-16 education is a moot point. Many believe that this year’s students deserve recognition for the incredibly difficult two years that have passed with the pandemic causing wide disruption in terms of consistency of education.

Today’s results will therefore be a celebration of the ability of 15 and 16 year olds to cope with an unprecedented situation and they should and will be congratulated for their achievement.

Why are I/GCSE grades important?

For students who have received their GCSE and IGCSE results this summer, they are the pathway to future studies post-16 and beyond. Many universities and colleges look at GCSE and IGCSE results as an indicator of previous academic achievement, together with predicted grades as A Level or IBDP.

This is the second year that students can move on to study T Levels, with seven new subject choices available from September, including Healthcare, Science and Onsite Construction.

Students typically need to obtain at least a Grade 4 or 5 (formerly a grade C) in English and maths, as colleges and Sixth Forms look for these grades as a basic requirement to continue their studies.

Appeals and resits

Students can appeal their I/GCSE grades, and this year there is no charge for appeals. However, results can go down as well as up.

Ofqual brought results day forward to provide more time for student appeals – particularly for those students who are waiting on A Level results as part of their university application.

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) guidance says:

“Requests for appeals on the grounds of academic judgement (unreasonableness) will only be considered by awarding organisations and not by centres.
"In these cases, an initial centre review must still be completed to ensure that the centre has not made any procedural or administrative errors. The centre should not review its academic judgements during the centre review stage."

The deadline for GCSE appeals is September 3, 2021.

Alternatively, students can retake I/GCSE exams in November.

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