We’ve constructed a ruthless exam system where bereavement barely matters Or have we?

This article raises an interesting point. It is true that exam systems such as the A-level/GSCE system (and likely other systems also available in Hong Kong such as IB or DSE) put a large emphasis on being at your best on exam day. And of course, for a certain number of students, that isn’t the case. Whether it is due to minor illness, an ongoing condition or a family problem, all situations that are likely to affect performance in an exam, it is difficult to compensate a student.

Every year I apply for special consideration for students for a range of reasons but it is still unfair on a student who has experienced an adverse situation when preparing for their exams. This might be compounded in a place like Hong Kong where an extreme weather event – such as a typhoon — might mean that a student has a missing component if the extreme weather ever cancels an exam.

In Hong Kong where IGCSE and International A-levels are more common, the opportunity to retake is greater. But retaking either pushes a student’s timeframe back or increases their workload as they try to combine retaking with learning the next level.

A student struggling with a medical issue or a family crisis who then decides to retake an IGCSE while learning A-level, for example, is of course even more at a disadvantage. But as the article points out, there is no easy solution. It is difficult to know how to factor in compensation which is fair, without distorting the system or making it open to be taken advantage of. For example, I have also seen students present medical certificates for minor illnesses on exam day which while possibly genuine, might also have been exaggerated as a way of gaining an advantage.

This is a difficult issue but when the system relies so heavily on exam performance, it is not easy to think of another way to resolve the matters of illness or other issues which may affect the exam performance.

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