Coronavirus: British exam board latest to cancel secondary education tests amid global pandemic battle

Chan Ho-him

Britain’s Pearson Edexcel, whose curriculum is studied in more than 80 countries, on Wednesday became the latest international testing body to cancel its International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) exams amid the growing coronavirus pandemic.

The move comes a day after rival exam board Cambridge Assessment International Education announced the cancellation of its own IGCSE exams scheduled for May and June, which are taken by pupils at more than 4,800 schools in more than 150 countries.

Thousands of students in Hong Kong sit for the two exam boards’ IGCSE tests at dozens of international and local schools each year, including more than 900 students at five international schools under the English Schools Foundation.

Thousands of Hong Kong students sit for International General Certificate of Secondary Education exams each year. Photo: Dickson Lee

“This rapidly evolving global situation continues to present significant challenges, changes and uncertainty for everyone,” Pearson Edexcel senior vice president Sharon Hague said in a written statement. “We remain committed to ensuring that all students internationally receive a result and a grade.”

The company, which is also cancelling its International A Levels and GCSE exams, said grades would be awarded to international students following the same principles used to determine GCSE and A-level qualifications in Britain.

The British government earlier announced that GCSE, A and AS-level students would this year receive a grade based on previous mock exams and internal assessment results now that exams have been cancelled over health risk considerations.

Cambridge IGCSE the latest international school exams cancelled amid pandemic

British-based exam board OxfordAQA, which also provides IGCSE and A-level exams worldwide, has also decided to cancel all its exams for this summer.

On Monday, International Baccalaureate, or IB Organisation, made the unprecedented decision to cancel global exams scheduled for more than 200,000 students between April 30 and May 22, including about 2,000 candidates in Hong Kong.

IBO director general Siva Kumari revealed on Tuesday that moving the exams online had been considered but later rejected this option out of fairness to concerned students, as well as the additional demands it would have placed on schools.

“Not every student has access to online tools to sit for exams, and we are not currently able to put the infrastructure into place to remove that barrier,” Kumari said.

Siva Kumari, director general of the International Baccalaureate, on Monday said they had made the unprecedented decision to cancel global exams for more than 200,000 students. Photo: Handout

IBO said students would still receive IB diplomas or certificates and their performance would be assessed based on multiple internal assessments and using predictive analytics tools. The organisation said more details would be announced to schools by Friday.

Kumari added that the IBO has had ongoing discussions with universities, saying she believed they could still make informed decisions without an exam score.

“It’s important to remember that universities are also adjusting to this new reality, and are trying to approach their usual decisions with a new degree of flexibility,” she said.

Both the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Chinese University said in a reply to the South China Morning Post that they had been in close contact with international exam boards, including IB, and would continue to monitor developments.

A University of Hong Kong spokeswoman said the school respected international exam bodies’ ability to assess students’ achievements.

“The university will continue to fairly assess all applications, whilst being flexible to students who have been impacted by Covid-19,” she added.

Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.

More from South China Morning Post:

This article Coronavirus: British exam board latest to cancel secondary education tests amid global pandemic battle first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.