GCSEs and A-level exams to be cancelled as UK closed all schools indefinitely. Photo for illustrative purpose only Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: UAE educators on Tuesday said students would be able to obtain qualification and grades for IGCSE and A Level even though the Cambridge International exams have been cancelled for the May-June series amid the spiralling coronavirus pandemic.

The school leaders’ comments come a day after the UK-based exam body that holds its exams internationally announced it will globally halt the exams, whose grades are used for university admissions.

Students assured

The assurance echoes Cambridge International’s statement: “We will be working with schools to assess students’ achievements using the best available evidence. Students will receive a grade and a certificate from Cambridge International, given the knowledge and skills they have acquired in their programmes of study.”

Schools will receive an update on the situation on Thursday and then ongoing advice, Cambridge International said on its website, www.cambridgeinternational.org.

“We will provide guidance to schools on how students will receive those grades. We are talking to universities worldwide, and they are factoring these unprecedented circumstances into admissions decisions, so students can continue with their education journeys as soon as possible.”

Other UK boards that also hold their exams internationally version had not announced a final decision whether they will go ahead at the time of this report.

The development closely follows the cancellation of IB Diploma exams worldwide as well this summer.

How will it work?

In the UAE, the Taaleem group of schools assured its students’ assessments will “truly reflect” their performance. In a press release, Taaleem outlined how the process will work.

“Our teachers will submit assessment data of their achievements using ‘the best available evidence’. These assessments will be used and moderated by The Cambridge International Examination Board to award final examination grades. After moderation by the examinations board, students will receive a grade and a certificate from Cambridge International, reflecting the knowledge and skills they acquired during their studies.”

Critical months

The global disruption to traditional education wrought by the COVID-19 emergency has closed schools, cancelled exams and forced educators to reshape how students learn and qualify for further education.

Jodh Singh Dhesi, deputy chief education officer at GEMS Education, the UAE’s biggest private school operator, said: “Even without examinations, these are critical months for Year 11 and Year 13 students, as well as those in Year 12 undertaking AS levels. This is because the work that they complete now may be used by their teachers to inform the final grades awarded and will be used for evidence of progress, knowledge application and estimated grades.”

Stay engaged

He added: “The learning and consolidation that students do now will be essential for a successful transition to sixth form and university. As such, we are strongly urging all students to continue to engage fully with their remote learning programmes over the coming weeks to ensure that they cover all areas of the curriculum.”

‘Right decision’

With schools shutting down in many countries, the decision to cancel exams “is the fairest way to ensure a level playing field for students across the world”, Katherine Clifford, vice principal and head of secondary at Horizon International School in Dubai, said.

“As a school, we are waiting to hear from other examination boards including Oxford AQA and Pearson Edexcel IGCE and IAL to ensure that our decisions mirror guidelines set by governing bodies,” she added.

“We understand the decision to cancel examinations and believe that it is the right and safest decision to help ‘flatten the curve’ of this global pandemic. Examinations, in spite of their flaws, are a way of standardising student results across the globe. Therefore, as schools in different parts of the world close, the decision to cancel exams is the fairest way to ensure a level playing field for students across the world.”

Clifford said it is “vital”, more now than ever, that students are assessed objectively.

She added: “With the importance that is carried by exam results in terms of university places and careers, it is vital that students entering the British system qualifications are assessed in a fair and equal way across the globe. With the likelihood that exam results will be teacher-assessed, our teachers have, and continue to gather, a wealth of evidence to ensure that grades are administered both accurately and fairly.”

New era?

She said the unprecedented disruption globally amid the coronavirus outbreak “perhaps leads to a system where students are judged by more than just exam results”.