Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 8 April 2020

Coronavirus: UAE pupils in limbo after UK and India cancel exams

Authorities have postponed or cancelled board examinations because of Covid-19

Pupils sit an exam in the UK. It is unclear if pupils in the UAE will be affected by the UK's decision to cancel GCSEs. Getty 
Pupils sit an exam in the UK. It is unclear if pupils in the UAE will be affected by the UK's decision to cancel GCSEs. Getty 

UAE pupils were left uncertain about their academic futures on Thursday after authorities in the UK and India cancelled board examinations.

GCSEs and A-level exams were due to start in May but were cancelled on Wednesday night as schools across the UK closed to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The Central Board of Secondary Education in India, which operates the CBSE curriculum, postponed their exams, due to be held March 19 to 31.

It said new dates would be announced next month after authorities assessed the situation.

Almost 80,000 pupils study at Indian curriculum schools in Dubai, most of which follow the CBSE curriculum.

The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations also postponed ICSE and ISC examinations – the Indian equivalent of GCSE and A-levels.

While the postponement will affect pupils in the UAE, heads of British schools across the country are working out how the UK's decision will affect pupils in the Emirates.

We have a blanket headline but the details will follow explaining what this will look like around the world

Fiona McKenzie, Carfax Education

As of Thursday, Cambridge Assessment, the body that oversees A-levels and international GCSEs, has confirmed the exams will go ahead according to schedule in countries where schools are open.

Oxford International AQA Examination, an awarding board of A-level and International GCSEs, also confirmed exams would go ahead as scheduled this summer.

“We need to work through the practical implications of this situation for our colleagues in the UK, but would like to reassure our schools, teachers and students that we currently intend to proceed with our summer series of international GCSEs and A-levels as planned," it said.

"We will keep you updated with any further news as soon as we can.”

British schools in the UAE offer a mix of GCSEs and IGCSEs, which may mean pupils would sit some exams while others would have theirs cancelled.

If all exams are scrapped, experts said universities will have to rely on predicted grades provided by schools or conduct entrance tests.

"We are not affected by any decisions over A-Levels in the UK,” said David Cook, headmaster at Repton School Dubai.

"If schools are unable to carry out either ‘in school’ or online assessments, awarding bodies will have to look at internal school data such as school mock or trail exams, and data from internal assessments, including predicted grades."

Brendon Fulton, principal of Dubai British School Jumeirah Park, said local authorities would have to provide permissions for examinations to go ahead. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National 
Brendon Fulton, principal of Dubai British School Jumeirah Park, said local authorities would have to provide permissions for examinations to go ahead. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National 

Fiona McKenzie, head of education at Carfax Education in Dubai, said the lack of clarity from exam boards was leading to confusion among pupils and schools.

"The announcement applies only to the UK but I do not think the global implications have been considered," Ms McKenzie said.

"Now exam boards will talk to schools and countries to consider the impact.

"Many schools are closed in a lot of locations where the exams are taken, so it would seem sensible that the ban on exams still applies.

"If schools are closed there is no way for pupils to take exams. We have a blanket headline but the details will follow explaining what this will look like around the world.”

Ms McKenzie said it would be unfair for some pupils to take exams while others would have theirs cancelled.

"It's not a level playing field,” she said.

In a letter to parents, Mark Leppard, headmaster at The British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi, said it was yet unclear if exams would go ahead.

"We are in regular communication with all of the exam boards and as soon as we have information that is clear and definite, we will communicate that with you immediately,” Mr Leppard said.

"The exam boards themselves have not had time to identify clear and fair alternatives at this stage, but will be focused entirely on this situation moving forward."

Gems Education, which manages 27 British schools in the UAE, said 2,800 pupils were due to sit GCSEs and more than 1,000 pupils were set to take A-level examinations this year.

Jodh Dhesi, deputy chief education officer at Gems, said the group was working with examining boards to establish what the announcement meant for their pupils.

"Each examining board will no doubt be working with governments to make sure that processes are in place to suit the context," Mr Dhesi said.

“Our advice to all families and pupils is to remain calm, to keep positive and to keep on learning."

Brendon Fulton, principal of Dubai British School Jumeirah Park, said he expected exam boards would consider the implications of the UK's decisions on British schools worldwide.

Mr Fulton said local authorities would have to provide permission for examinations to go ahead.

"Most British schools do a combination of GCSEs and IGCSEs so it could be that pupils would sit some exams and not for others," he said.

"Will exam boards provide international versions of the exams so all schools that can write exams can take the full GCSE or A-level courses?

"The general feeling is that this announcement was so unexpected that no one has been able to decide on the best thing to do."

Mr Fulton said exams may be postponed or cancelled, with schools required to provide predicted grades.

If exams go ahead, schools may have to make arrangements for venues where pupils could attend in small groups.

Some pupils could be placed at a disadvantage if they are judged on their predicted grades.

"On the flip side it could be an advantage as some pupils panic in exam situations," Mr Fulton said.

Updated: March 20, 2020 02:10 AM

SHARE

SHARE

Most Popular