One of the exam boards that sets IGCSE and International A-level exams has today confirmed they will be cancelled this year.
OxfordAQA said it had made the decision after "listening to the views of teachers, parents and students around the world" and concluding that the fairest option would be to switch instead to the same teacher-assessed grades system being used in England.
The move comes after exam boards Pearson and Cambridge Assessment International Education had announced in early January that International GCSE and International A-level exams would take place, causing concern in the international sector.
At that time OxfordAQA said it was still reviewing the situation before making a decision.
Teachers had feared this plan would create an uneven playing field between international students and those in England, and would pose a health risk if exams had to take place amid coronavirus restrictions in different nations.
IGCSEs and IA levels 2021: 'The fairest thing we can do'
OxfordAQA managing director Sadie Visick said that while it had hoped to return to exams this year, it had "become clear that this just won’t be possible".
"The fairest thing we can do is ensure a level playing field for all students, and follow the same approach to assessment as in England. We know how crucial fair assessment is in preparing students for their futures and enabling them to progress to the next step.”
Qualifications: GCSE and IGCSE exam divergence risks students’ futures
OxfordAQA said it would work with schools to help develop guidance on how best to process teacher-assessed grades after the outcome of the Ofqual consultation on UK qualifications next month.
"This will include ensuring that teachers are fully supported to assess students accurately and fairly, following a rigorous and robust process, so that all students receive the grades they deserve this year," Ms Visick added.
There has been no word as yet on how this will affect the fees that international schools usually pay to sit these exams. A Q&A section on OxfordAQA's website states: "We will review our fees for the May/June 2021 series when more detail is known about the teacher-assessed grades process and the costs of delivering it."
Tes contacted Pearson and Cambridge Assessment International Education for comment and any update on their plans.
Pearson said it had no information at this time
Cambridge Assessment International Education said it still intended to proceed with exams but was considering its position in England on whether or not to proceed with exams.
“We continue to prepare for exams to take place this year and are providing a range of measures to help our students and schools manage the impact of the pandemic.
“With regard to our schools in the UK, we are monitoring very carefully proposals from the Department for Education and Ofqual about alternative arrangements for awarding results for the June 2021 series in England. After the Ofqual consultation closes at the end of January, we will give more details about how we respond."
Although the move is likely to be welcomed by many international schools, others may not be so pleased. As Tes reported recently, some school leaders were happy that exams were taking place, believing it would offer a better chance at meaningful assessment.
OxfordAQA said it was aware some schools wanted to be able to sit exams but said having a mix and match approach would not be fair.
"It’s very important that we align standards with those for the comparable qualifications in England. The safest way to ensure that alignment is to have one process – and the same process – for assessing student performance," it said.