UAE: Questions papers in advance for A-level, GCSE exams

Mixed reactions among head teachers in the UAE.


Going through advance test papers for A-level and GCSE exams provided by exam boards to assist with teacher assessment this year has evoked mixed reactions among head teachers in the UAE.

Globally, a number of education experts have criticised the proposal stating that many students may prepare answers in advance, and then memorise them before the exams.

Exam boards will prepare a series of test papers for every subject, but teachers will be allowed to choose whether or not to use them to inform their predicted grades.

Brendon Fulton, executive principal, Dubai British School, Jumeirah Park, said: “We have decided not to use papers released by the exam boards for our internal processes as we are concerned that these papers will be released beforehand. We have been fortunate to have minimal disruption to our normal school programme (compared with, for example, UK schools) and therefore, our students deserve an opportunity to sit fair, but rigorous, final exam papers.”

He added: “We will produce these internally, with moderation processes in place to ensure that the papers provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding under exam conditions – which is good preparation for their further studies. We do, however, understand that students in the UK are in a very different position and so we welcome any initiative from the exam boards to give all students the best possible chance of success in their GCSE & A-Level outcomes.”

If teachers decide to use the papers, apparently, students may not need to take them under exam conditions, especially in the UK, where the pandemic lockdowns have been long and difficult for students.

Kelvin Hornsby, principal, GEMS Cambridge International School – Abu Dhabi, and vice president – Education & Cambridge Brand Leader at GEMS, opined: “We have worked closely with the examination awarding bodies and the unseen papers offer an additional element of quality assurance to back up teacher assessed grades, which we know are absolutely secure. This also removes the question of teacher grade inflation and removes a workload element, as papers are marked by the examination awarding bodies.”

“We welcome this option to add to the portfolio of evidence that we are preparing for students. There are many students and their parents who have expressed that this gives an opportunity for external acknowledgement that our learners perform at the highest level even with most examinations being cancelled. An important thing to note is that these papers are only one element of the evidence being gathered and there is no weighting to them.”

Meanwhile, principals in the UAE also averred that the exam boards have provided schools and pupils across the globe with clear guidance detailing how GCSEs, AS and A levels will be awarded in summer 2021.

Simon Crane, the headmaster at Brighton College Dubai, pointed out: “Through a really clear infographic, they detail the types of evidence which could be used to reach teacher assessed grades, such evidence includes: mock examinations, tests and work already done, question banks provided by exam boards.”

He underlined: “As yet, we haven’t received any of these question banks but we look forward to doing so. Our aim is that our pupils receive the GCSE grades they are capable of and the grades they have evidence of being able to achieve, despite the loss of learning due to the global pandemic. We welcome any support offered by the examination boards to help gather the necessary evidence for our pupils.”

Source :- Khaleej Times