KARACHI: Like every other aspect of life these days, the education sector has also been dramatically transformed because of Covid-19. As a result, many educational boards and schools have been forced to change their schedules, dismiss their academic activities, and cancel their exams to cope with the situation.
The Cambridge Assessment International Education has also decided to cancel the May/June 2020 examinations across the globe for the safety and well-being of students and teachers alike.
Although the move has significantly impacted millions of students worldwide, Cambridge has made sure that students’ academic progress is not hindered and they can move forward with their future study and career plans. To this end, the body has collaborated with different schools and has developed a process in lieu of the May/ June 2020 exams. Under the new process, students’ knowledge and abilities in each subject area will be assessed and graded by Cambridge accordingly.
Flexibility offered to schools
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Cambridge International’s Country Director for Pakistan Uzma Yousuf said that the newly-devised strategy is very similar to the one adopted in the United Kingdom and applies to Cambridge-affiliated schools across the globe.
“[In keeping with the ongoing situation], schools have been given two options. They can submit their students’ academic performance reports and receive a grade for the May/ June 2020 examinations. Alternatively, schools can register their students in the conventional way to sit in the October/ November 2020 exams,” Yousuf said.
She explained that Cambridge has included 15 additional subjects in the October/November 2020 session so that candidates will be able to sit in the exams of their choice and would not have to wait until the next year.
“For the first time, students from Pakistan will be able to appear in exams of subjects like Urdu in the October/ November session.”
Handing in the assessments
Schools that opt to get grades for May/June 2020 session will be required to submit the required information soon, after which assessment professionals at Cambridge will work on the submitted evidence and combine it with other necessary data related to global performance.
“Once the process is completed, students across the globe will be graded on an equal basis. The result will be announced by August 13 per the previous schedule,” she said. “Moreover, any student who wishes to improve their grades obtained in the May/June session will be able to take the exams in October/November 2020 for a discounted fee.”
Will the assessment grades be accepted in Pakistan?
Even though Cambridge has decided to introduce the new system to facilitate students in the smoothest possible way, some schools and parents have shared their concerns regarding the acceptance of grades based on academic assessment instead of examinations.
“As a parent, the decision has personally affected me as two of my children are supposed to appear in their Cambridge examinations this year,” the Parliamentary Secretary for Federal Education Wajiha Akram said. “I hope that Cambridge will [help students in every way possible] and continue to innovate and find solutions for quality education”.
Yousuf clarified that the grades awarded in the May/ June 2020 session will carry the same value as grades awarded in any other examination, therefore, they will be widely accepted in Pakistan and afield.
“The assessment-based grades will be accepted in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Pakistan, and many other countries of the world.”
What about private candidates?
Speaking about the plan for private candidates in Pakistan, Yousuf said that the option for assessment-based grades in the May/June sessions is only for registered schools in Pakistan.
“Many private candidates attend tuition centres but it is very difficult to obtain the evidence of their year-long performance, therefore, all private candidates will have the option to appear in the subjects of their choice in the October/ November exam,” she explained. “The results for the October/ November 2020 exams will be out within three months, so students’ time will not be wasted.”
When questioned about the possibility of cancelling the October/November exams in case the Covid-19 situation is not controlled, Yousuf said that both schools and Cambridge will be ready to come up with a solution.
“We will work something out. This is a global situation, so students should not worry about it. But for now, we will stick to the plan,” she assured.
Uzma added that Cambridge is also working closely with relevant government bodies and higher educational institutions in Pakistan to ensure a smooth transition for A-Level students, who are planning to move onto undergraduate courses.
“Many institutions in Pakistan have modified their admission policies to respond to the situation while others are working on them. This is an unprecedented situation and I hope we all come out of this together, much stronger and more resilient.”