A-level results: What can resolve row over grades calculation?

The A-level results 2020 are out, and it appears that the eleventh-hour changes made to the exam scoring systems across the UK are doing little to gain back the lost trust of parents and students. 

The coronavirus outbreak has caused unexpected disruption to the education system across the globe and resulted in months of confusion and uncertainty over exams and assessment. The new grading system saw teachers issuing grades based on a student’s performance throughout the year and a possibility of swapping unsatisfactory final grades with mock examination results.

A-level results shocker calls for just and fair grading system

Thus, as soon as the A-level results of this year were declared, the reactions were mostly disappointment, anger and confusion. It is reported that around 39 per cent of predicted scores have been demoted to unacceptable levels. The dismaying figures have sparked outrage among students and teachers, demanding a more standardized and just approach to grading students, as the current results are likely to have deleterious effects on students’ futures.

According to the figures revealed by Ofqual, a regulatory authority for the examinations and qualification in England, around 35.6 per cent of students got one grade lower than what teachers expected, close to 3.3 per cent were down by two scores and 0.2 got three grades lower, thus causing a drop of over 39 per cent of A-level results.

Geoff Barton from the Association of School and College Leaders came out in support of his union members and said that they had done everything in their capacity to support a fair grading process for the A-level results however the feedback received was extremely dispiriting. He thus called for an urgent reassessment of the scoring based on a system that is fair for all.

Regulators and moderators under fire

Meanwhile, the revulsion to the new moderation system doesn’t end with unsatisfactorily lowered grades. The NUS UK, on Thursday, launched a petition that slammed the Department of Education for practising a system that is unfairly biased toward people from the privileged class. Dismissing it as “utterly racist and biased, the National Union of Students (NUS) said that it was a big blow to years of advancements made in education equality.

Although the Ofqual was quick to dismiss these allegations, confirming that there have been no actions denoting favouritism and discrimination of any sort when calculating the results, it has infuriated parents across England. A prominent figure who came out in support of angered parents and students was Susanna Reid, an English television celebrity, anchor and journalist, who also fears for her son’s future following disappointing A-level results from this year.

She blasted the education department for backing a system that essentially treats students as some sort of commodities. Using mock results to decide the futures of our students is utter nonsense as most students don’t take those tests seriously and that should not determine whether or not the student is worthy of deserving final grades, she said. 

Another irked parent on social media said that offering students a leg up in these turbulent times should be a priority now more than ever. Our student community has undoubtedly been the worst hit from the COVID-19 academic disruptions. If anything, they deserve an upper hand rather than unfairly slashed grades, the post read.

How blockchain fits

Amid this chaos, what has become abundantly evident is that assessing a student’s performance without conducting exams is not a simple matter. The government seems to be mangling the management of grades. Parents, institutions, students have different perspectives without a seeming acceptable resolution. Moderated grades are clearly not the best-fit solution in this scenario as several deserving students are now at the brink of losing an opportunity to attain admission at the university of their choice. 

As Mitch Rankin, co-founder of English Forward, said in one of his articles, up-gradation of the traditional education system has been underway for quite some time now but procrastinated due to budgetary constraints or lack of infrastructure. The advent of blockchain technology and the worldwide disorderliness caused the COVID-19 outbreak has given the regulators more reasons to remodel than to go back to the old and outdated system.

We do not know yet if the post-COVID education infrastructure will change for the better or, the worse. We would like to believe it will revamp to better suit needs of tomorrow and blockchain can bring about a positive change. It can save a tremendous amount of administration, bureaucracy, effort and time and introduce a system that is more diversified, decentralized, and democratized for everyone’s good. 

Blockchain: A fitting solution to COVID disruptions

While we do need to maintain trust and reputation in important certifications, such as the A-level results and GCSE, which often serve as the fundamental proof of learning, blockchain, with its renewed emphasis on employability and relevance, can bring about much-needed transparency and fairness in the system. 

A massive open, secure, transparent and decentralized database can not only gain back the lost trust of the students and teachers in the grading system but also set the course for a long-overdue disruption of the current education system. And to think of it, the above just barely scratches the surface of what’s possible with blockchain.