The pandemic has disrupted the regular operations of almost every sector around the world, including education. The decision of Cambridge International and Pearson Edexcel not to hold examinations for the May/June 2020 session came as no surprise. However, theannouncement to award grades despite cancellation of the examinations created a shockwave of confusion. We sat down with Quazi Rafquat Hossain, director of British Columbia School and the founder of Think TankLtd,to gain an insight into the entire process of how exactly the grades are going to be assessed.
Questions:Since the examinations are not being held, instead of awarding the grades, don’t you think it would have been better if candidates were allowed to shift to the next session?
Quazi Rafquat Hossain: The candidates, at their discretion, can definitely decide to sit for the examinations in the next Autumn 2020 session if they do not want thepredicted grades. A substantial number of candidates are opting for centre assessment grades for several reasons. Some candidates were supposed to complete their A level examination this May/June session. They had already applied and had been accepted to overseas universities. They were supposed to start their university classes from September. Shifting to the next session is not the best option for these candidates. However, candidates who are determined to withdraw and transfer to the next Autumn session, must keep the deadline in mind.
Questions:Can you briefly explain how the centre assessment grades are going to be determined and are they going to be the same as the final published grades?
Quazi Rafquat Hossain: The schools will have to provide the predicted grades as well as the rank order of candidates within each grade for each subject. For example, if we predict a grade A for 5 physics students, we have to rank the students according to their competence from 1 – 5, with 1 being the most secure/highest attaining student. After we provide the exam boards with our predicted grades, they would carry out a standardisation process.The standardisation process would take into account, the historical outcomes for each centre, the expected grade distributions at national level and the prior attainment profile of students at centre level before publishing the final grades. Therefore, the grades that we predict may not be exactly the grade that will be finally published.
Questions:How are you ensuring a fair evaluation for your students?
Quazi Rafquat Hossain: We are working day in, day out to prepare a real time grading system for our candidates. We are well aware that some students may opt for unfair means, which is why we would be timing the entire assessment. We are also aware that some students may feel that their scripts may not be aptly checked. This is why we have chosen a computerised checking method to eliminate any form of human error in the evaluation process.
I would also like to stress that online assessments are not the only determining factor for the centre assessment grades. We would be considering a wide range of evidence to determine the predicted grades for our candidates. These would include any class work, assignments and any mock tests that the students might have taken throughout their entire course. Furthermore, for A2 candidates, their AS grades would be a very strong indicator of their A level grades. For example, a candidate who got an A in a particular subject in AS is most likely to secure an A in A Level for that subject.
Questions:Even though the exam boards have mentioned that centres are not required to produce any new pieces of evidence in order to predict the grades, why are you conducting online assessments for candidates of your school?
Quazi Rafquat Hossain: When the exam boards said that there is no requirement, they meant there is no requirement from their end. Since, the schools have been assigned the responsibility to predict the grades, it is our internal policy how we would evaluate our candidates. It is impossible to assess the grades for a significant number of candidates just based on their past records. Several other schools are also conducting online assessments to ensure the fairest possible predicted grades for their students. In fact, in a recent post by Cambridge International in their official website, they have clearly instructed that centres can also use work the candidate has produced remotely (i.e. online) after the centres have been closed. However, we should be confident that it is the candidate’s own work.
Questions:Do you have any final suggestions for May/June 2020 candidates?
Quazi Rafquat Hossain: In these times of uncertainty, it is quite easy to get manipulated by misinformation. My suggestion for candidates would be not to take any decisions without authenticating the information. I would also like to add that whether you opt for centre assessment grades or transfer to the next session, please continue with your studies. There are a lot of online resources that have been made free due to the pandemic and you have all the time in the world to prepare and produce a good grade.