A new brief from NCEE explores how, in the wake of the pandemic, education systems both in the U.S. and abroad are harnessing innovation and digital technologies to deepen and accelerate learning for all students.

Headlines for October 9-15, 2021

Singapore has cancelled year-end exams for 3rd and 4th grade students, England plans to resume exams after two years of cancellations, teachers in Beijing will rotate among schools more regularly in an effort to improve equity, and New Zealand has announced that tertiary institutions have 10 years to close the gap in course and degree completion rates between Māori and Pacific students and other students.

Singapore Cancels End-of-Year Exams for Young Students

Singapore has cancelled end-of-year exams for the estimated 79,000 students in primary grades 3 and 4. The Ministry of Education said this will “allow for more time for curriculum recovery due to disruptions” in schooling. This is the first time that exams have been cancelled since the start of the pandemic last year. Teachers appear to agree with the decision. One said, “Without the exams, I hope we can use the time to recover content, and not just recover content but maybe bring back that little bit of joy of learning back into the students’ education.” Schools will use information from school-based assessments to report on students’ learning progress. Students in primary grade 5 will still take their exams for parents and students to get a better understanding of their learning progress prior to taking the Primary School Leaving Exam at the end of primary grade 6 the following year. Read more in The New Paper and Channel News Asia.


England’s Exams Will Resume This Year, with Modifications

gcse exams

England’s GCSE and A-level exams are scheduled to resume this summer after two years of cancellations due to the pandemic. This year’s exams will be treated as a “transition year” with grading scales set midway between pre-pandemic levels in 2019 and 2021 results when teacher assessments replaced exam results which resulted in a record number of top grades. Grading scales will return to pre-pandemic levels for students who take the exams in 2023. Ofqual, which oversees England’s exams, is hoping this two-stage plan will reign in grade inflation without triggering a sudden drop in results for students. This year’s exams will also be adapted to take into account disruptions during this school year. Students will have a greater choice of topics in exams like history and English literature, and both students and teachers will be given advanced information about the focus of some exams to help them prepare. Ofqual has also released contingency plans for the use of teacher grades again this year should exams have to be cancelled for a third year. Read more at The Guardian.

Beijing Will Rotate Teachers Among Schools More Systematically

Teachers in Beijing will begin rotating among schools more regularly, according to guidelines released by the Beijing Municipal Education Commission. The municipality first proposed periodically moving teachers to different schools over a decade ago. The goal was to ensure that the most experienced teachers would not be concentrated in the most well-resourced and highest-performing schools. But the practice was never systematically implemented across Beijing. At least six districts in the capital will begin rotating teachers by the end of this year. The time teachers spend in a given school will vary based on their evaluation results and schools’ needs at any given time. Beijing joins several other municipalities in China, including Shanghai, that require teachers to move every few years in an effort to combat entrenched inequalities. Read more at SixthTone.

Photo Credit: China Daily

New Zealand Tertiary Institutions Have Ten Years to End Persistent Achievement Gaps

Paora Ammunson, TEC deputy chief executive
Paora Ammunson, TEC deputy chief executive

New Zealand’s Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) — which oversees higher education for the government — has given institutions 10 years to close the gap in course and degree completion rates between Māori and Pacific students and other students. According to data from universities, last year, non-Māori and non-Pacific students had a degree completion rate of 66 percent and a course completion rate of 90 percent, compared to 52 and 82 percent for Māori students and 48 and 75 percent for Pacific students. For polytechnics, these performance gaps are even larger. This is the third time the TEC has had to set a deadline for institutions to close this achievement gap. Past attempts had shorter timelines and relied on isolated interventions. Paora Ammunson, the TEC deputy chief executive, said this time will be different as institutions will be asked to take “a whole-of-ecosystem approach…towards tackling the problem of attrition.” He said the institutions should be “using your data intelligence, using your guidance systems, making sure that your leaders are setting the direction, making sure you’re doing it in partnership with the community groups and organisations that are important in your context.” Read more at Radio New Zealand