Cancel Alberta Diploma Examinations

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on the lives of Albertan students. Following the closure of all educational institutions in the province, I urge Alberta Education to provide all students with a full exemption from the April and June 2020 diploma examinations. Diploma examinations would require a gathering of over 50 people, contrary to the advice given by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw. I also believe that the COVID-19 pandemic will directly impact students’ diploma results due to the lengthy transition process towards online learning. Furthermore, by continuing diploma examinations this year, the provincial government is harming the mental health of students all across Alberta.

By having diploma examinations, we would increase the probability of community spread of COVID-19. As students write these examinations in a gymnasium setting, it is highly likely that someone afflicted with this illness could spread it to a fellow student and their subsequent contacts. Alberta Education should follow the guidelines of Dr. Hinshaw and her recommendations regarding social distancing and isolation. Large public gatherings in the setting of a viral pandemic are absolutely contraindicated, and ultimately exclude diploma exams as a viable option.

The move to online education following the COVID-19 pandemic could prove to be detrimental to students’ diploma examination scores. With schools taking several weeks to set up online education, students are losing valuable time to work on their respective courses. The loss of course time will likely lead to a lack of review time in the weeks before diploma examinations, causing many students to enroll in test-prep courses outside of school. By continuing diploma examinations, Alberta Education will be putting students from lower-socioeconomic backgrounds at a disadvantage, as these programs are often prohibitively expensive. The use of test-prep companies could lead to a discrepancy between the examination marks of students from various economic backgrounds, thus creating inequity between students applying to postsecondary institutions.

By choosing to continue diploma examinations in this time of great stress, Alberta Education would be directly contributing to the diminished mental health of Albertan students. As the COVID-19 pandemic is predicted to cause an economic recession, diploma examinations will only exacerbate the anxiety experienced by students already. The COVID-19 outbreak is predicted to cause layoffs across Alberta, which may force students to work long hours to support their families. Therefore, I do not believe that it is right to have diploma examinations in this time of great unease.

I believe Alberta Education must give students a full exemption from diploma examinations in April and June 2020. There is precedent for doing this and Alberta Education took similar measures after the flooding in Calgary in 2013. There are few situations that could cause a government to take extraordinary actions and I would argue that a worldwide pandemic and global recession is such a time. This is not about avoiding a provincial diploma examination, it is about doing the right thing. The government must take action now to save the lives of countless Albertans. 


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