ISLAMABAD           -            The private candidates for IGCSE, O-level and AS Level have decried British Council’s decision of withdrawing private candidates entered for May/June-2020 examinations and deferring their entries to the November-2020 series.

They said that the decision would lead to their academic year loss. The British Council had cancelled the exam session due to COVID-19 crisis all over the world and decided to “assess students’ achievements using the best available evidence.” An earlier statement by British Council said, “Students will receive a grade and a certificate from Cambridge International, given the knowledge and skills they have acquired in their programmes of study. This will ensure students do not face disadvantage as a result of these extraordinary circumstances.”

However, few days ago, British Council in conjunction with Cambridge International announced that all the private candidates for IGCSE, O-level and AS-Level would be automatically deferred to the October/November series. This, according to the students, comes in direct contrast to multiple statements released by Cambridge over the course of the past month, and greatly disadvantages private candidates.

On March 24, Cambridge announced that they would be cancelling the May/June-2020 exam session in all countries for all qualifications. At the time, Cambridge opted to only mention its predicted grades system, saying, “We will be working with schools to assess students’ achievements using the best available evidence. Students will receive a grade and a certificate from Cambridge International, given the knowledge and skills they have acquired in their programmes of study.” Cambridge added that this was done in an effort not to disadvantage students who “(had been) working very hard towards these exams.”

On the 1st of April, Cambridge released an update and explained what its predicted grades system would look like. This plan was based on one primary thing: providing students with grades based on evidence of their academic proficiency at individual subjects. This evidence would include things such as mock exams, coursework, assignments, grades in previous sittings for candidates re-taking exams, and AS-Level results for A-Level candidates. It explicitly mentioned that private candidates would be a part of this plan. “We will treat private candidates in the same way as school candidates, in that all the grades we award will be based on evidence. Where a candidate has not been taught at the centre handling their entry, centres must carefully investigate what evidence of the candidate’s work can be obtained and authenticated. Evidence from a candidate’s previous school is likely to be acceptable. Evidence from parents or from the candidates themselves should not be accepted. Evidence from tutors needs to be considered in the individual context. Heads of centre will be responsible for vouching for the authenticity of the evidence gathered about every candidate,” said an email message to the candidates. Through the message British Council clearly affirmed that private candidates would be able to opt for evidence-based grading.

However, on 28th April, the British Council said, “The British Council is unfortunately not in a position to provide predicted grades or rankings in order to follow the assessed grade process for IGCSE, O-Level and AS-Level candidates. This is because we do not deliver direct teaching to private candidates. Our relationship with private candidates is to facilitate access to Cambridge exams and to administer them in a secure environment, meeting all Cambridge International’s regulatory and exam administration standards. Private candidates entered for IGCSE, O-Level, and AS-Level examinations will be automatically withdrawn by the British Council and their entries deferred to the November 2020 series.”

This, according to the students, directly contradicts the position earlier taken by the British Council regarding the private candidates.

They said the current decision by the British Council robs private candidates of this agency, and permanently disadvantages numerous students that were effectively given promises and assurances over the course of the month.