Egypt gov't, students praise Cambridge for reversing downgrade of IGCSE marks

Amr Mohamed Kandil, Tuesday 18 Aug 2020

Cambridge International promised to issue the new results as soon as possible and urged schools to inform their students of their grades based on their teachers’ predictions.

Egypt's Education minister Tarek Shawki (Ahram)

The Egyptian government and students enrolled in the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) programme have praised Cambridge’s move to reverse a controversial decision that had downgraded students’ test results.

Cambridge International had been strongly criticised after it said on its website that the grades of less than half of IGCSE students worldwide were changed from the marks predicted by their teachers in each subject, most of them to a lower grade.

In Egypt, students on social media argued that they received lower grades than those expected by their teachers, adding that their grades were even inconsistent with those of other classmates, which would obstruct them from entering the colleges they want.

“We have decided that grades we issue for the June 2020 series will not be lower than the predicted grade submitted by the school,” Cambridge International wrote after the backlash, ending a few days of disappointment that threatened to erode trust in the global programme.

Cambridge added that grades higher than the predicted marks would still be recognised.

Cambridge International promised to issue the new results as soon as possible and urged schools to inform their students of their grades based on their teachers’ predictions. It added that it would inform schools of updates on 19 August.

A few hours after Cambridge International’s decision, Minister of Education Tarek Shawki wrote on his Facebook page that he had previously sent a formal letter on behalf of Egypt to the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual), which is in charge of regulating qualifications, examinations and assessments in England, to protest the “unfair” grades Egyptian students had received, adding that the British side’s response was fast and fair.

Shawki wished the 2020 IGCSE students a “bright future” and thanked Ofqual for the “speedy achievement of justice.”

Over the past few days, students started many hashtags on Twitter and Facebook calling on the government to support their call for fair grades.

“We are asking for fairness and justice, which is any student's right,” said Twitter user Shahd, using the hashtag: “justice_for_igcse_students.”

Another user used a hashtag translated as “Egyptian_appeal_to_Higher_Education_Ministry,” saying the “IGCSE was always a fair system compared to other educational systems, but after June 2020, they proved otherwise.”

After Cambridge’s decision was reversed, parents on a Facebook page named “Egypt complaint against Cambridge unfair results June-2020” praised the move and thanked Cambridge for listening to students’ feedback.

“What happened with Cambridge, Edexcel and Oxford is a lesson to our sons/daughters in their early life to learn to never give in to injustice,” Marwa Mounir, one of the parents, wrote.

Before Cambridge International had issued its response to the backlash, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon decided last week to allow students whose results were downgraded to go with the grades predicted by their centres.

What happened this year?

Teachers in IGCSE centres worldwide were asked to send predicted grades; these are the grades assessed by teachers and approved by heads of departments for each student, based on the results of the exams and other assignments and tests over the course of each of the three years included in the programme, starting from year 10.

Teachers also hand a “rank order”, simply by putting each group of students in numbers starting from 1, according to activity and performance over the year, which means that 1 is the most secure from being downgraded, and 2 is less secure, and so on.

Exam boards received the teachers’ predictions for each student and, as usual, were set to conduct the final step, known as the “standardisation process”; this is when Cambridge International awards grades by combining data from the school with “other data," including “historical school performance data,” according to Cambridge International.

This means centre-assessed marks can be different from the final grade awarded by Cambridge.

This year, Cambridge International said it changed the results of less than half of students, with most of these downgraded.

On 11 August, Cambridge International said, “Predicted grades for June 2020 were higher than historical school performance data for the last three years, which is understandable, as teachers want to see their students succeed.”

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