COVID-19A glance of national coping strategies on highstakes examinations and assessmentsWorking DocumentEducation Sector11 April

This document is prepared by Gwang-Chol Chang, Le Thu Huong, Rolla Moumne, Sharlene Bianchiand Elise Rondin.The designations employed and the presentation of the material in this document do not imply theexpression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of anycountry, territory, city or area, or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers orboundaries. The authors are responsible for the choice and the presentation of the facts contained inthis document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of UNESCOand do not commit the Organization.For more information, please contact:Section of Education PolicyDivision of Policies and Lifelong Learning SystemsEducation SectorUNESCO7, place de Fontenoy75352 Paris 07 SPFrance

IntroductionEducation systems around the world are working to react to the unexpected outbreak of the Covid-19pandemic. As of 9 April, 188 countries have taken measures to implement country-wide closuresof education and learning institutions, be they kindergartens, schools, vocational training colleges oruniversities. An estimated 1.58 billion learners are off schools, which represent 91.3% of total enrolledlearners in the world and an unprecedented situation in the history of education1. Moreover, about 63million primary and secondary teachers2 have also been affected, and where ICT infrastructure andstable internet connection exists, are trying to transfer teaching and learning online. While thestatistics that show the scale of the impact on technical and vocational training and higher educationinstitutions are not readily available at the time this paper is written, initial observations indicatesimilar pattern of going on-line in many countries.Given the prolonged and massive closure of school, university and other learning institution and a shiftto remote learning in many countries in the world, a key question posed to policy- and decision- makersis how to manage timetabled assessments3 and exams - in particular those related to end-of-key levels,school leaving, university entrance exams and gateways for job, and how to end the school yearsmoothly. These are high-stakes exams and assessments, where, passing the test would allow thestudent entry into a higher grade or permission to graduate, and many of which are forth-coming asthe current school or academic year ends in May and June in many countries. In most of the cases,these assessments are standardized high-stakes, high-accountability tests, and in some others alsolinked to teacher performance evaluation and school funding. They represent a sheer challenge forpolicy makers as the interruption of these examinations is delaying the decisions on studentprogression, certification, qualification and graduation, thus inducing critical implications on entry intohigher education and the labour market, quality and equity of learning outcomes, and fairness inqualifications obtained, leading to lifelong consequences on the students and learners’ progression inlife as well as a broader socio-economic impact on the economies and societies.Countries are adopting different strategies - in many cases a mix of them - to cope with the situation,including organizing exams with special arrangements, cancellation, postponement/rescheduling,going on-line (on-line assessment), and introducing alternative approaches to exams and validation oflearning. This paper provides a snapshot of decisions taken by countries with regard to high-stakesexams and timetabled assessments in this particular context. Efforts have been made to capture asmany countries and territories in the world as possible regardless of whether they are UNESCOMember States4 or not.The information contained in the paper was collected based on a rapid assessment carried outbetween 24 March and 9 April by UNESCO staff from various sources, many of which are lion-teachers-touched-covid-19-crisis3 Examinations, mostly series-based, that specify the date and time at which all candidates must take the assessment. Thetests are timetabled in conjunction with the common school year calendar or academic timetable, i.e. all assessmentswithin a given series will fall within the exam period defined by concerned schools, institutions or education authorities.4There are currently 193 countries, which are UNESCO Member States.23

surveys conducted by UNESCO regional bureaus for education5. Other sources of data include resultsof UNESCO Survey on National Education Responses to the Covid-19 Crisis (23 March – 31 March), other international organisations’ reports (e.g. the European Union report on implications ofthe novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on education and training - State-of-play in Member States 6 ),information available online (articles, papers, blogs, websites of countries’ Ministries of Education), aswell as media reports.While maximum attempts have been made to validate the information, the measures and decisionstaken by countries included in this mapping should by no means be considered exhaustive, nor fullyconsistent given the quickly evolving situation on a daily basis and the availability of information thatcan be accessed online. The information presented in the current paper is as of 3 April and shouldbe considered as a work in progress.5Including UNESCO Bangkok through NEQMAP, UNESCO Dakar through TALENT, UNESCO Regional Office for SouthernAfrica, UNESCO Office in Abuja, UNESCO Beirut on alternative solutions to school closure in Arab countries, and UNESCOSantiago.6 The information is partly, or for some countries entirely, extracted for EU countries4

Summary of coping strategies adopted by countriesStrategyCountriesMaintainingexamsEurope and North America: Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, SloveniaTotal: 22Arab Region: Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, SyriaAfrica: Eritrea, Sierra LeoneAsia and Pacific: Kazakhstan, New Zealand, ThailandLatin America: Brazil, Colombia, Costa RicaCancellationTotal: 11Europe and North America: France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, UnitedKingdom, United StatesAsia and Pacific: Indonesia, JapanAfrica: UgandaPostponement/ReschedulingTotal: 57 16countries of theCaribbeanExaminationCouncilEurope and North America: Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland,Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, USA (Derogation)Africa: Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Central African Republic, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea,Liberia, Nigeria, Seychelles, Tanzania, TogoArab Region: Algeria, Iraq (including the Kurdistan Region), Lebanon, Oman, Sudan, TunisiaAsia and Pacific: Bangladesh, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan(Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa), Palau, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Samoa, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand,Tonga, Uzbekistan, Viet NamLatin America: Colombia, Costa Rica, Caribbean countries (part of the Caribbean ExaminationCouncil), EcuadorOrganizing highstake examsonlineEurope and North America: Belgium (Wallonia and Brussels), Estonia, Italy, United Kingdom, USA(derogation)Total: 11Arab Region: EgyptAsia and Pacific: Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa)Latin America: Mexico; VenezuelaIntroducingalternativeapproaches toexams andvalidation oflearningEurope and North America: Bhutan, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Italy, Malta, United KingdomTotal: 23Latin America: Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela- Of which,reducingnumber ofexamsEurope and North America: ItalyAfrica: AngolaAsia and Pacific: India, Indonesia, Micronesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Palau, Thailand, Tonga,Uzbekistan, Viet NamArab Region: Egypt, MoroccoAsia and Pacific: Japan, Viet NamLatin America: EcuadorTotal: 45

Overview of different strategies adopted by countriesMaintaining exams as scheduled and announcedWhile the majority of countries in the world decide to cancel or postpone exams, some countrieschoose to maintain the end-of-year exams, with certain measures to ensure the safety and health ofstudents and teachers in place. As of 3 April, many countries of the Arab region neither cancelled norwaivered national exams, especially the school leaving (grade 12) ones. These exams were planned tobe held inside schools or centres with hygiene and sterilization enhanced measures. Egypt, Jordan,Morocco, Palestine and Syria are for instance still respecting the announced dates of these exams.On the 14th of March, the World Health Organization stated that Europe became the epicentre of theCovid-19 pandemic. While several European countries had decided to close their schools entirely, anumber of countries nevertheless decided to continue holding the exams during the dates originallyset.In Germany, certain Länder announced that the Abitur (exams at the end of secondary education)would be maintained and required schools to take safety measures to minimise the risk of infection.This is the case, for example, in Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, where the Abitur exams will continueto be held under strict hygiene conditions. 7 Finland, on the other hand, decided to intensify theschedule of the matriculation exam of general upper secondary students in their final year - the onlystandardized test at the national level. Students also have the opportunity to renew exams forunlimited times. The premises for entrance exams for universities were required to be organised insuch a way that there is sufficient physical distance between the applicants, and hygiene and othermeasures are in place to prevent the spread of infection. Hungary does not plan to cancel matriculationexams for the time being, although if needed they will be postponed.In Italy, the Minister of Public Education announced that she would be making a decision regardingexams as soon as possible, but to date, the state examinations are neither cancelled nor postponed.However, there is an intention to organise the evaluation by an internal commission and not by anexternal evaluation as is usually the case. There are several hypotheses on the table, including holdingboth written and oral exams, if by the 18 May schools are re-opened as students will have four weeksof face-to-face classes. There will be no failures or postponements in this exceptional situation.8 InFrance, the national teacher recruitment, which is competitive, is expected to take place between Juneand July, but subject to changes according to the evolution of the Covid-19 situation.For Luxembourg, secondary school leaving exams (state matura)9 will be taken on the dates foreseen,but the commissions responsible for developing the examination items and questionnaires havealready been instructed by the minister to consider the fact that probably not all courses will be fullycompleted. The exam questionnaires will need to be adapted. However, the country is also preparinganother scenario in case classes can’t resume on the 20th of April. In Poland, so far, the governmentIn addition, recognition of the various diplomas is guaranteed this year in all Länder, as confirmed by the StandingConference of Ministers of Education (KMK).8 The primary issue is that the Constitution states that students transitioning from one education cycle to the next mustpass the State exams. This implies a level of state control over the final exam sessions for the transitions from the 8th to the9th year of schooling, from the 13th year to university level and the final degrees of first cycle (laurea), second cycle (laureamagistrale), and doctorate level. In Italy, qualifications have a legal value, however there are some flexibilities inimplementing these rules.9 Only the contents that are taught in class until the last day of the school year can be assessed as an examination subject.All other contents that might be taught in class after the school reopening can be assessed as part of the regular classassignments, but will not be included as items for the final exam.76

indicated that there is no need to change the school year calendar. However, the so-called special actregarding specific solutions in combat with the novel coronavirus gives the right to the Minister ofNational Education to reorganize the school year, including exams dates. In Slovenia, no decision hasbeen taken yet regarding postponement of final exams or prolonging the school calendar, however,there are three likely scenarios: first, to come back to school on 1 May, second to come back to schoolon 1 June and third to only issue certificates.In the African region, Eritrea continued with academic activities relative to the National School LeavingExamination which started on Wednesday 18 March across the country until the 23rd ofMarch. Sierra Leone is maintaining exams.A couple of countries in Asia-Pacific have also announced that high-stake exams will continue. In NewZealand, which has an academic year aligned with other countries in the southern hemisphere, examsare to be held in November as scheduled with the option to take a digital exam. In Thailand, highstakes exams for grade 12 have been held in March until the 20th. Preventive measures were put inplace to ensure the safety of the examiners and educational personnel who take charge of theexamination centre. In Kazakhstan, the Minister of Education and Science officially announced thatexams would not be cancelled nor postponed, including the United National Test (high stakes examafter the 11th grade) and no change would be made on the format for now, even though educationprogrammes had been shifted to distance learning.Several coun