IGCSEs 2021: Tens of thousands demand exam cancellation

International students say cancelling IGCSE and IA-level exams in the UK but going ahead with them overseas is unfair

Catherine Lough

IGCSEs and IA levels 2021: More than 32,000 have signed a petition calling for Cambridge International to cancel exams overseas this year

Tens of thousands of students worldwide sitting Cambridge International GCSE and A-level exams have called for their cancellation.

In a petition to the exam board, signed by more 32,000 students, those sitting exams say they are at an "unfair disadvantage" compared with peers in the UK, where exams will not be going ahead, with grades awarded through teacher assessment.


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The petition also calls on Pearson Edexcel to cancel exams for its international qualifications – which it did earlier this month

"Following the UK cancellation of A levels in 2021, international students are at an unfair disadvantage as their UK peers have cancelled their A levels and IGCSE," the petition says.

"There may be a high risk of inflated grades based on teacher-assessed grades, while...international students are left to write the exam," it adds.

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"This will leave us at a disadvantage as we are also competing to enter universities also in the UK, and UK students will have it easy as they sit back and relax with their biased teachers' grades."

The petition adds that Cambridge International is "not taking into consideration the state of students' mental health, difficulty of access to online resources, attention disorders, and overall motivation to fully grasp the material taught in this two-year period".

"While having been in quarantine and undergoing online learning since Feb/March 2020, many students are faced with the challenge of fully understanding the curriculum whether due to technical difficulties, an incredible decline in the teaching quality or the mental state of students," it says.

Student Avanie Hiranandani, who is studying Cambridge International A levels in India, told Tes: "We should all be treated fairly, regardless of where we come from and what subjects we study.

"We pay the same fees and are receiving the same qualifications. Aside from competing with students from other boards, this has now become a strenuous intrinsic competition among the Cambridge International students themselves," she added.

"Certain students from certain regions may be getting teacher-assessed grades, whilst the rest of us are not.

"That widens the gap between more privileged and less privileged students and also intensifies university applications to the point where it is out of our control to make it better for ourselves.

"We may study very very hard, but at the end of the day, there will be an inevitable and undeniable bias. Students with TAGs will not have to suffer as much as us this exam season," she said. 

Ms Hiranandani said students paid "exorbitantly" to both schools and the board, and that she did not feel the board was listening to students' concerns.

And student Syed Rafid Kabir said the board has "completely ignored international students, insists on dishing out their measly 'measures' (which doesn't help at all), they have completely ignored a petition signed by 32,000-plus students all around the world, they have ignored schools (with whom we have raised our concerns), they dish out 'updates' that remain vague and ridiculous, and their general approach to this matter is strikingly different to exam boards offering the same qualifications".

A spokesperson for Cambridge International said:  “We work with 10,000 schools in 160 different countries, and need to ensure the decisions we make for our June 2021 exam series are right for as many schools and students as possible.

"We are hearing many different perspectives from schools, students and parents around the world. Our priorities continue to be to keep students safe, whilst enabling them to progress with their education.

“We know the exam period is often a stressful time for students and their families, and more so with the challenges of the pandemic, which is why we have made many changes to the way in which we will run our June 2021 exam series.  

“For students in the small number of countries and regions within countries where directives from national or local authorities make it impossible for exams to go ahead, such as the UK, we have confirmed we will switch from exams to a teacher assessment approach using students' work.

“For Cambridge International students in all other countries, we are planning for exams to go ahead, where it is permitted and safe.

"We have created extensive extra measures to support them and their schools, including adjustments to aspects of assessments, and exemptions from components that are difficult to run during the pandemic. We have also expanded our special considerations process to enable students to receive a grade, when for good reason they miss some exams.”

 

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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