Proposal to Make Alberta's Diploma Examinations Voluntary

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As of July 28, 2020, there are more than 10,000 cases of Covid-19 in Alberta. On March 15, when Alberta’s schools were shut down and final examinations cancelled, there were 56 cases. It should not be expected of students to write diploma examinations when there are almost 200 times more cases today. Youth are currently dealing with the detrimental repercussions of this pandemic and should not be expected to comply with a norm established when this reality was considered impossible. With this in mind, we believe that the Government of Alberta should act based on the best interests of its youth, the leaders of tomorrow, and cancel diploma examinations for August 2020, as well as any subsequent diploma examinations until Covid-19 is no longer a threat to our well-being. We propose that the government make these diploma examinations voluntary instead of mandatory!

  • Continuing with August examinations will put extensive pressure on high school students. The Alberta government should offer an option for voluntary exams for students wanting to better their grades, but compulsorily holding students to these exams has caused panic, confusion, immense stress, and high pressure to perform. Students and teachers alike share these concerns.
  • Diploma exams have definitely been an important indicator of student achievement in  our province, but the situation of current students differs drastically from those in previous years. Those heading into their final year of highschool are going to be applying to university in the fall. They will likely need some of the courses that they have taken in the summer and it is unquestionable that writing diploma exams will not be an accurate indicator of their progress because of Covid-19.Many students will be forced to send their exam results to universities, small test discrepancies can potentially ruin their future! The cancellation of diploma exams also ensures fair marking of students without any bias based on their completed assessments. This will help provide students with timely results, giving them one less issue to worry about. The diploma grades will definitely not be an accurate reflection of student knowledge, progress, and development given the harsh circumstances in which they will be forced to write the exams. 
  • Attending writing centres as Covid-19 cases are once again rising by an average of 100 cases daily puts the health of students and their loved ones in jeopardy. Some students also suffer from underlying health conditions, making them more prone to fatal symptoms from the virus, which already arouses a considerable degree of worry and fear. The additional exam stress only adds to this. Creating physical infrastructure to accommodate the large number of students also proves to be a challenge considering the many complications that will arise from multiple small testing centres, transportation issues and costs, and the concerns of parents unwilling to send their children to centres in the first place. 
  • Unprecedented nation-wide quarantines and isolation have already raised stress and anxiety levels, especially in youth, and the pressure to perform well in examinations would add to this. Especially with schools shut down and social contact at a minimum, us youth lack the sense of structure and stimulation that students in earlier years were granted by the environment. The Government of Alberta cannot claim they hold the best interests of students at heart when they are subjecting them to unnecessary mental hardship. The inability to socialize with our peers and obtain that social support has also hindered the mental well-being of students across the province. Furthermore, the physical separation from our learning environments has invoked a widespread sense of loss for students. This loss varies, it could simply be the lack of connection a student feels, or the yearning for in-class learning ; there is a large number of things that contribute to this unpleasant feeling. 
  • Not all students have access to proper online infrastructure and video-quality internet. It would be unfair to propose online examinations, as those without the resources will then have even more difficulties to address, which only disrupts learning and stability of learning even more. Many students have found it difficult to learn at home, and to focus amid distractions that cannot be ignored. For example, AP students in the United States faced many issues while they were forced to write their final examinations online. Due to many technical glitches in the system, many students were unable to submit their exams. Parent Shelley Surh from California wrote in an email to the College Board: ““My daughter, a sophomore at Napa High School in California, took the AP Chem exam. She had five minutes left, uploaded her second response, and the ‘submit’ button did not work. She was absolutely unable to submit her answers.” Other issues such as cheating with online examinations were also identified. The College Board’s senior vice president who is head of the AP program, Trevor Packer, tweeted that some cheaters had already been identified. He wrote: “We’ve just cancelled the AP exam registrations of a ring of students who were developing plans to cheat, and we’re currently investigating others.” This is just the gist of many issues that will accompany online examinations. With this in mind, it can confidently be said that online, at-home examinations should not be considered. 
  • Adults and youth alike are only beginning to grasp some of the new concerns introduced by the pandemic, while simultaneously working on managing the augmented intensity of pre-existing stressors in their daily lives. The students of Alberta are already grappling with the fact that their future is suddenly very blurry, and the hundreds of students who are dealing with that anxiety should not be subjected to examinations until we are safe. 

To the Government of Alberta, specifically Premier Kenny, Education Minister LaGrange, and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, we ask that you consider how difficult this situation has been on high school students. The overwhelming anxiety we are facing regarding the state of our world should not be propelled by the Government. It is your job to serve the people, all of the people. While we may not have the right to vote, we have the right to call on you to change policies for the betterment of the thousands of students who are hurting right now. We call on you to understand the fear, the risk, and the challenges that we are surrounded by. We call on you for change. 



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