Statistical model will ensure fair grades: UAE schools tell GCSE, A-level students

The decision comes amid concerns that using teacher predicted grades may be unreliable as schools may have a tendency to inflate pupils' grades

  
Image used for illustrative purpose. Male teacher giving a lecture from desktop PC during a class at computer lab.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Male teacher giving a lecture from desktop PC during a class at computer lab.

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UAE -  Students awaiting GCSE and A-level exam results have been reassured by the UAE schools that the 'statistical model' adopted by the boards will cause no worry.

The new model was announced a few weeks ago by the Office of Qualifications and Examination Regulation (Ofqual), headquartered in the UK. The decision comes amid concerns that using teacher predicted grades may be unreliable as schools may have a tendency to inflate pupils' grades.

Scores of UAE students will receive their results next month, despite all exams being cancelled this year due to Covid-19.

"The difference this year is that, instead of formal exam grades, schools are providing predicted grades based on their assessment of student work over the last two years," said Brendon Fulton, executive principal, Dubai British School, Jumeirah Park.

"Schools were asked to rank student cohorts within each grade: If in a class of students there were six B grades (or level 6 grades), then teachers had to rank them from the highest B to the lowest B. The grade distribution analysis may then, in the context of all other B grades across all schools for this subject, determine that some of the lower Bs are reduced to a C, or that some of the higher B grades should be increased to an A. This then ensures, as per the bell curve, that a representative amount of students receive a representative distribution of grades," explained Fulton.

"Another form of analysis would happen at school level, whereby exam boards will review the school's grade submission in the context of previous year's performance within that school. The assumption is that schools generally add similar levels of value to student progress from one year to the next and so any large variance in predicted outcome would raise a red flag for exam boards," he added.

Jonathan Dey, headmaster and CEO, Wesgreen International School - Sharjah, said: "All schools have sent predicted grades based on the evidence held by the school.

The examination boards will look at the distribution of the number of As, Bs for each subject and compare them to the school's historical data. If the 2020 distribution of grades is much higher than in previous years, then the examination boards will reduce the predicted grades submitted by the school. If they are lower, then the students' grades could be improved.

"The Ofqual have made some early observations that the predicted grades presented are slightly higher than the international averages in previous years. To maintain validity between the 2020 data and past results, they may advise the examination boards to reduce grades presented by the school, so there is not a significant jump in 2020 international outcomes," he said.

Meanwhile, the exam watchdog Ofqual states their researchers tested out 12 different statistical models and chose one which drew on a number of factors. This includes data on pupils' previous education attainment as well as previous results of students at the same school.

A spokesperson for the exam body said "it is inevitable that teachers' predicted grades are optimistic" adding the model was "the fairest thing they could do."

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