UAE: Education experts discuss examination-free system amid the pandemic

The jury is still out on the future of school-leaving assessment pattern

Arab students in a classroom. Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Image for illustrative purposes only.

Arab students in a classroom. Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Image for illustrative purposes only.

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The deepening Covid-19 crisis has compelled education to shift gears and go online, as several college and university classrooms shift are conducting classes virtually and devising ways to most effectively assess pupils’ learning abilities.

Though many movements in the past were aimed at scrapping the traditional examination mechanism, which campaigners argued to be damaging, outdated and stressful, the viral outbreak has forced governments and several educational boards, cutting across geographies, to cancel or postpone examinations.

Boards such International Baccalaureate (IB), A-levels, General Certificate of Secondary Examination (GCSE), international GCSE (iGCSC), India’s Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Indian School Certificate (ISC) and Indian Certificate of Secondary Examination (ICSE) are some that made these announcements.

Experts said it’s high time to critically examine the education system and change it for the better.

Deepika Thapar Singh, Chief Executive Officer (CEO)-Principal, Credence High Schools, said, “Systems have to be created, where competency-based learning is encouraged and continuous short assessments throughout the academic year would help a school to identify the learning gaps and assess the progress of the children. These steps will help pupils to thrive and become more resilient to the fast-changing unpredictable situations.”

She added, “It’s important that pupils must enjoy the learning and, in the process, become better human beings and happy individuals. The alternatives are plenty and internal assessments will become extremely valuable. Online skill-based tests which focus on the skills that the child has learnt rather than the content is the future ahead.”

Educationists said that there are alternatives that could be explored in such scenarios. Some pointed out that pupils should only be evaluated on a few core subjects.

Dr Heena Rachh, Principal of Global Indian International School, Abu Dhabi, said: “There’re a few alternatives that can be explored for a scenario such as this. For instance, we've been doing various assessments for Grade X through the year such as pre-boards, art integration projects, etc. Boards should take this into consideration while deciding on objective criteria based on which the promotion can be directed.

For Grade XII pupils, boards such as CBSE should allow them to appear for examinations in only three core subjects, including a language. For example, pupils who want to study computer engineering can appear for tests in computer science and physics and mathematics depending on what branch of the course they want to pursue.”

Bushra Mansoor, Head of Secondary, Springdales School, Dubai, said, “Examinations unless designed to test the application and adaptation of knowledge are a mere test of recalling and memory skills. An innovative mode of assessment in mock real-life scenarios must be made a thing that stays in future. This must be based on subject knowledge and its application.”

Principals also reiterated that proctored examinations could also be conducted online.

Mansoor added, “Online test platforms are time bound and technically equipped to overcome fraudulent practices. Questions must be set in such a manner that application and adaptation-based answers cannot be readily found on the Internet.”

However, some of the educationists are sceptical about the concept of examination-free school mechanism.

Michael Guzder, Vice President – Education, GEMS Education, said, “We must understand and appreciate the wider context. Schools do not and cannot work in isolation, as colleges and higher education must be factored in.

Colleges admit pupils on the basis of school board examination results, along with other criteria. Until that changes, school-leaving final examinations are a necessity. However, internal school grades are also being given more weightage. Admission essays, internal grades and admission interviews are what I foresee in the not-too-distant future.”


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