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Students face uncertainty as colleges call off exams over coronavirus but remain undecided on how to grade them

A 17-year-old student committed suicide after he discovered his A-level qualifications could be decided on his mock exam results in which he had not done well
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

As coronavirus pandemic related lockdowns continue, many remain confined within their homes. Schools, colleges and universities among other establishment have been asked to shut down. These institutions have been forced to teach students in an unconventional way moving forward. But school closures can be problematic: How are the students who are relying on their grades to get into colleges or universities?  

Many students are concerned about their final semesters and are wondering how they can complete their degrees. The pressure of doing well in exams, giving mock tests and getting a degree has now been added to the uncertainty of their future. This has created panic amongst the students, especially since exams have been called off and there is no set strategy regarding how the authorities are going to move forward in this situation.

17-year-old Oliver Strode, who was preparing for his Level A test, ran away from his house after his exams were called off. He was found dead 11 days later in Alice Holt Forest. His father told Daily Mail that he believed his son began to despair when he discovered his A-level qualifications could be decided on his mock exam results, in which he had not performed well. 

While other students are worried about their future, the administrations of educational institutes need to settle on how the students would be graded in their finals. According to experts, these institutions need to give the students a chance to decide what could be considered as their results which will define their future. 

According to The Guardian, Dr. Doug Clow, who spent 20 years working on remote learning at the Open University and is now advising universities on coronavirus, said, “There’s nothing that isn’t on fire. Assessment drives what people actually learn, so if you’re changing the assessment you really ought to change how you teach, but there isn’t time for that."

Many universities will replace traditional exams with online assessments. At Imperial College London, medical students have just taken unsupervised exams from home for the first time. Questions have also risen as to how students can be graded fairly under no supervision, and how the traditional grading system could be upheld under the new circumstances.

Different fields would have different requirements. Online submissions and exams could work for some fields such as research programs, media or even business but fields such as medical, architecture, performing arts and many more cannot be assessed through the same strategy.

A student from Edinburgh University, Eugene Sinclair, who is studying architecture, is worried that he will not be able to give his exam online or finish his course, “I’ve got one that’s OK for surfing the internet,” he says to The Guardian. “But for architecture, you need to be able to do 2D and 3D work. Before, I relied on the university’s computers. Now I don’t feel like I can finish this course because I can’t produce anything.”

With institutions being under lockdown across the world, it is also a problem for the education industry around the globe. They have not had an opportunity to think or plan ahead for such a pandemic, and they have to devise new way of teaching and assessing as well. This leaves the students around the globe in distress of an uncertain future.