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Last month, there was the furore over the International Baccalaureate results. They were adjusted algorithmically because the exams were affected by the current coronavirus pandemic.

What was the problem? The Wired article reported:

Teen regrets about grades aren’t unusual, but the way the foundation behind the IB Diploma Programme calculated this year’s grades was. The results, released Monday, were determined by a formula that IB, the foundation behind the program, hastily deployed after canceling its usual springtime exams due to Covid-19. The system used signals including a student’s grades on assignments and grades from past grads at their school to predict what they would have scored had the pandemic not prevented in- person tests.

Now there is an uproar over the English GCE A-Level results. This was history quickly repeating itself because that was a similar problem just last week with the Scottish exams.

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According to BBC news, the exams were also cancelled because of the pandemic and replaced with teacher assessment. The results in England were moderated centrally so that 39% of grades were marked down, while only 2% marked up.

This system of decentralised testing and centralised decision-making was supposed to keep results in line with previous years. But you cannot have your cake and eat it, too. The systems works only if you keep all its parts intact and in play.

I have a different view. There was no real need to make adjustments so that this year’s results were comparable to previous years’. The circumstances were different and so was the method. The outlier of better than expected results should simply go on record as exceptional circumstances.

The burden should fall on universities to adjust their entry requirements. They can be as selective as they wish to be because they are in the business of higher education. They can conduct their own entry tests or require portfolios of work.

The worst and best thing that could happen is that the education system learns that standardised exams are not that important for university entry. Or perhaps powerful entities already realise that and want to protect the sacred cow that is assessment.

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