Govt, Cambridge Apathetic to Our Pleas Against Exams Amid COVID
It is not safe for anyone to be taking an exam amid such high incidence of cases.
I am an 18-year-old studying at a Cambridge International school. The board is a global qualification provider that offers international qualifications, which help students apply abroad for their higher education.
The qualifications that are meant to jumpstart students’ careers are IGCSE (grade ten), AS (grade eleven), and A2 (grade twelve), also known as the the A Levels. I will be appearing for the exams in June at my school in Pune. Given the high incidence of cases in Maharashtra, and the fact that a majority of us have not been to school since March 2020, it is unfair for our fears to be disregarded. Cambridge has deemed it safe and fair for us to come to sit for an exam after what is now a year of online and unstable learning, and has left it to the discretion of the country in which the exam is to be administered.
Other exam boards like Oxford AQA and Pearson Edexcel that offer the same qualifications have cancelled exams globally in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
Most recently, Cambridge International exams were cancelled in the UAE, which adds to the list of many countries that have already taken the initiative to cancel exams.
These boards have not opted for a bipartisan route like Cambridge, where certain countries will be graded on coursework, homework, and past papers, while the rest will be writing exams as normal. How are we to be compared fairly? If the basis of assessment is different, how is it fair that we’d be held to the same standards when competing for the same universities, scholarships, and financial aid packages?
Not to mention that local boards (Maharashtra Board for me) have got syllabus cuts and modifications, but we’ve got nothing. We are not equipped to write the exams mentally, academically, or physically. It seems as if they don’t recognise the impact this past year has had on us.
No Level Playing Field
Rising cases in India, Maharashtra specifically, seem to be uncontrollable. We haven’t heard a peep from the Education Ministry or Cambridge International on how we are to move forward in this environment. It is not safe for anyone to be taking an exam right now.
Young people could be super-spreaders because it’s likely that we would be asymptomatic. I wouldn’t be surprised if a newfound cluster of infections is detected after this exam season, if it were to move forward.
Competing with students who won’t be writing exams as we are is the epitome of disparity. There’s no other way to make this fair, they need to cancel the exams internationally.
COBIS, the global organisation of British international schools also released a survey, which shows that most schools worldwide don’t feel that exams are a fair way forward at present, but Cambridge International seems to be paying no heed. There is also the consultation result from Ofqual, the regulating body of exams in the UK, which states that a majority of Cambridge International schools want Ofqual to prevent the moving forward of these exams internationally. A Change.org petition makes the same plea, but has not been addressed yet.
Cambridge’s updates are made public on their website every Friday but they are hardly so. Most of the time, the content is vague and non-coherent, much like the emails students receive from them whenever we have queries. Even though they do occasionally reply to students’ emails, their answers are never clear, precise, or transparent; most pass the buck to the Indian government.
Cambridge says it is in direct contact with schools, but even if have sent any communication regarding exams to our schools, students do not receive anything personally. Phone calls and emails to the Education Ministry have always been a dead end. The one time that I did get a chance to speak to someone, they said they have no autonomy over these exams.
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