International Baccalaureate: Why UK exams are unlikely

IB exams seem likely to be replaced by teacher assessment in the UK after the cancellation of other international exams

Catherine Lough

International Baccalaureate 2021: IB exams cancelled in the UK

Today the International Baccalaureate announced that it will be adopting a "dual route" for grading worldwide in May – with some countries running exams if it is safe to do so, while others will use teacher assessment.

Schools in the UK will not learn how their students will be assessed until the week of 22 February at the earliest – when Ofqual and the Department for Education are due to reveal their finalised proposals for this year's GCSEs and A levels.

But the prospect of UK IB exams going ahead this year already seems unlikely for a number of reasons.

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Firstly, Ofqual will have a say in the decision, and as England's regulator has consulted on how the cancellation of domestic exams will work, it would seem strange for it to decide exams should go ahead for the IB.

International Baccalaureate: UK schools await a decision on exams

Secondly, the UK government has already made its views on the matter clear. In January, schools minister Nick Gibb said that, as GCSE and A-level exams would not go ahead in the UK this year, IB exams should not take place either.

“Although exams are the fairest way of assessing what a student knows, it is no longer viable for exams to go ahead as planned, so International Baccalaureate students should be subject to a similar approach to GCSEs and A levels," he told the House of Commons.

“Working with Ofqual, we are consulting on alternative arrangements for fairly awarding grades in qualifications, including the IB, when exams do not take place, so that students can progress to the next stage of their lives.”

He added: “We are talking about teacher-assessed grades but with the evidence base and checks and balances, as set out in the consultation document.”

It would be strange if Ofqual did not take account of the government's views when deciding with the IB about what to do about exams here.

Thirdly, other sets of international exams have already been cancelled.

OxfordAQA cancelled its IGCSEs and International A levels last week, in line with the plans for UK exams.

And yesterday Pearson Edexcel followed suit, having previously said exams would go ahead.

So if the IB exams did go ahead in the UK, they would be out on their own.

Lastly, the whole point of the IB's "dual route" approach is to recognise the fact that different parts of the world are at very different stages in terms of getting through the pandemic.

The UK has barely begun to start climbing down from its highest Covid peak yet. So, in that context, any decision to carry on with IB exams would be more than a little surprising.


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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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