Cancel or postpone iGCSE exams for 2020 due to COVID-19

Cancel or postpone iGCSE exams for 2020 due to COVID-19

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S M started this petition to Exam boards

As of 20th March 2020, the global number of cases of the COVID-19 pandemic has nearly reached 250,000 with over 10,000 deaths (4%) and numbers climb by the hour.

The UK has taken action - England and Wales have decided to cancel upcoming GCSE and A-Level exams which were due to take place in the summer of 2020 as a response to the alarming rate at which COVID-19 is spreading. All exam boards have acknowledged these cancellations.

However, no exam board has yet delayed or cancelled iGCSE exams. Here are the responses at the moment:

Cambridge International

  • Cambridge International exams – including Cambridge IGCSE, Cambridge O Level, Cambridge International AS & A Level, Cambridge AICE Diploma –  are separate from the exams mentioned by the UK government today. Cambridge International exams will go ahead outside the UK in countries where schools are open or exams can be held safely.
  • For schools in England that take Cambridge International exams, we are working with the UK government to understand more about their intentions. We will provide more information to schools as soon as possible.

Pearson Qualifications

  • A number of countries around the world have announced closures to schools in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. As you know, we’ve been monitoring the ever-changing global situation and the potential impact. As part of this, the UK Government has announced that UK schools will close this week and that exams will not be held in May and June.
    Given the challenging circumstances we all currently face, Pearson accepts this decision. Our focus is now on supporting learners in all countries to achieve the qualifications they need to progress to the next stage of their lives.
  • We are working around the clock with the Department for Education, Ofqual and the other awarding bodies to understand the detail of this decision and will share information with you as soon as we can.

The exam boards' responses towards iGCSE exams amidst the pandemic have been dismissive. Pearson Qualifications appears to be more open-minded to change at this point, but we have been told by Cambridge International that exams will continue as normal outside of the UK where 'schools are open or exams can be held safely'. Many countries do not fall under this category.

One of the few options we are presented with is to withdraw from the exams, but most students and parents would not favour this option: studying iGCSE course for an extra 6 months or 1 year would impact IB, A-Level, or other course beyond iGCSE, and then university applications.

Exams provided by the Cambridge Assessment International Education alone are taken in more than 4800 schools across 160 countries and affect hundreds of thousands of students. The novel coronavirus affects 182 countries and territories. The conditions vary greatly between every country: some under lockdown, some quarantined for months, some where the virus has just started to spread exponentially. It is a stressful, worrying, and constantly changing situation. Despite this, exam boards declare, at this moment in time, that exams will be conducted as normal in the respective countries.

Below are reasons why iGCSE exams taking place as usual must be re-considered:

  1. Health over education - no matter how important the exams, health must be placed first. Hundreds of students in confined exam halls for hours would be disastrous in a time we must act together to prevent the spread of this fatal virus. Not only are students at risk - staff, parents, family members are as well, especially those of old age. Should there be one infected student, it would spread very quickly to others. Students would then carry the virus back home, from there it would only spread further. Simply because the majority of deaths have occurred in those of old age does not mean the virus is not fatal for young students. There have been deaths in young, healthy people from this novel coronavirus.
  2. Fairness - students in the UK do not have to sit the exams this summer and instead are given GCSE grades in a different method. This undoubtedly gives them an advantage over students who must sit exams during this pandemic. Schools across the world are closed. Exam boards take 'online learning' as the same as learning at school, but studying online is definitely not a fair replacement for normal classes in school. We lack the face-to-face contact with teachers and social interactions with our classmates, which make learning in schools much more effective than at home. Students are cramped indoors for hours without end, lacking mental stimulation and physical movement which makes online learning inefficient. Our hard work over the past nearly two years feels worthless now that our chances have been diminished by this outbreak. An article from the Economist ( also discusses the impact the virus has on education. 
  3. Impact on future - should grades be given unfairly as stated above, it could greatly impact our future. Some universities take i/GCSE grades seriously, if grades were given in a different manner to the UK it may be a severe disadvantage during applications. Not only this, but many international students move to other schools at this transition point between KS4 and KS5. iGCSE grades would be considered greatly and may be the difference between acceptance and rejection into one's next school.

To conclude, exam boards must take more action for our iGCSE exams. iGCSE exams across the world should be postponed or cancelled in conjunction with the GCSE exams in the UK so our results are given equally and fairly. We should not have to risk our health and our future to take exams during a virus outbreak.

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