PISA chief: Pandemic has shown vulnerability of exams

Abrupt cancellations of exams in England shows risk of a single exam approach, Pisa chief Andreas Schleicher has said

Claudia Civinini

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England should reflect on the vulnerability of its assessment system to disruptions and consider how to modify them to avoid this in the future, according to, Andreas Schleicher, coordinator of the Programme of International Student Assessment at the OECD.

Commenting on how England cancelled its GCSE and A-level exams last year and this year following the disruption caused by the pandemic, Mr Schleicher told Tes: "I think the cancellations of exams in a quite abrupt way certainly was not a great sign of strength in the system."


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Presenting a new OECD report looking into how 34 education systems have responded to the pandemic, titled The state of school education One year into the Covid pandemic, Schleicher observed that countries that used a broader set of metrics to assess students were more likely to not have cancelled exams during the pandemic.

He said: "In the case of [England] everything is geared towards one specific way of measuring student success and that turned out to be difficult in the pandemic.

"[In] France or Germany, some of the standardised components were compromised, but other components remained, so students could get a good judgement by the system on their performance.

"I think that England has put all of its eggs in one basket, one single high-stakes exam, and of course that makes it quite vulnerable.

"Other European countries used a broader set of metrics, including oral exams, school marks… [if you do this] you become less vulnerable, you can keep your exams, while the pandemic goes on.

He concluded: "That’s something that I would reflect on as an education system, I think exams are really really important. They send very important signals to students so I think the key is to ensure they become less vulnerable to disruption."

The comments come as Tes reports the Department for Education (DfE) had asked exams boards if they could consider moving exams online for 2021.

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Claudia Civinini

Claudia Civinini

Find me on Twitter @claudiacivinini

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