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Should VCE exams be cancelled for 2020 due to disruptions caused by coronavirus?

Year 11 and 12 students are preparing for VCE amidst the challenges of COVID-19. Source: Getty Images/Design Pics

After attending most of the year's classes online, Victoria’s Year 11 and 12 students are due to take their VCE exams in November. Due to the challenges thrown by coronavirus, while some students have petitioned for the exams to be scrapped for 2020, VCAA has introduced a new assessment methodology to provide them some academic relief.

On August 7, the Victorian Government announced what it called “more support" for students preparing for the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) exams amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

VCE exams are scheduled to be held in November this year. Like every other walk of life, this year has been particularly taxing and demanding for Year 11 and 12, preparing for their major academic test.


Highlights:

  • With Victoria in Stage 4 lockdown, an online petition with over 24,000 supporters wants VCE exams 2020 cancelled
  • Victoria has changed the assessment methodology for Year 11, 12 students this year
  • VCAA's student representative believes VCE exams shouldn't be cancelled 

Amidst Victoria’s protracted lockdown, while some VCE students have struggled with remote or online learning, others have not coped well with the environment at home. This has led to several debates about their mental health, with many even circulating an online petition calling for scrapping VCE exams this year.

What's new for VCE students?

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) has thus introduced a ‘Consideration of Educational Disadvantage’ process to calculate VCE scores, taking into account disruptions to learning caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

This year, every Victorian student will be individually assessed, and any adverse impacts of coronavirus will be reflected in their Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR).

What do students feel?

Ayushi Khillan, now a university student of biomedicine, is the only student representative in VCAA. Only two years ago, she was preparing for her VCE exams at this time.

ayushi khillan
Ayushi Khillan believes VCE shouldn't be scrapped because of coronavirus.
Supplied

She thinks the changes announced by the government are “very important”.

“Some students have faced a lot of difficulties this year and learning has been very challenging. In online learning, you can’t talk to your teacher one-to-one when you have issues,” says Ms Khillan.

Will the changes made by VCAA translate into some relief for VCE students struggling with studies under the stressful shadow of COVID-19?

Being the only student representative in VCAA, Ms Khillan says she has talked to a lot of students about the difficulties they’ve faced in this situation.

“It is great VCAA is considering their difficulties. Earlier, there was fear in their eyes but there’s calmness in their minds now and they can focus just on learning and preparing for their exams rather than worrying about what’s going to happen with their scores,” she explains.

Cancel VCE exams for 2020?

There’s an online petition doing the rounds these days for scrapping the VCE exams altogether because of the challenges thrown by the coronavirus.

Person working on an online study website. The website has an image of a woman and links to different e-learning education facilities for home schooling
Person working on an online study website. The website has an image of a woman and links to different e-learning education facilities for home schooling
Getty Image

With over 24,000 supporters, this petition has students, teachers and parents on both sides of the fence. The hashtag #NoATAR2020 is being used to further the cause of this petition on social media.

As a student representative in VCAA’s board, Ms Khillan believes that with consideration, exams would be the best choice for VCE students.

“Given that students are only weeks away from the exams, it would be unfair on those students who have been preparing very hard for the exams. The only circumstance for exams not happening is if COVID-19 were to spread very rapidly in Victoria,” she says.

There’s an extra layer of consideration now, she says, when it comes to assessing a VCE student’s performance.

“VCAA will assess a student’s performance compared to his/her scores pre-COVID-19 and determine whether it has affected your scores. Earlier, if a student had difficult circumstances, a separate application for exams had to be made to Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre,” she adds.

To help students struggling with their mental health, Victoria’s government has pledged $28.5 million for providing more support to students. 

Premier Daniel Andrews said, “my message to VCE students is clear: you concentrate on doing your best, and we’ll take care of everything else.”

How will students be assessed? 

Explaining the changes, Gurjinder Kaur Saxena, who has been teaching Physics to VCE students for over a decade, says the new assessment methodology is expected to take away a considerable load off the students’ minds.

Gurjinder Kaur Saxena has been a VCE teacher for over a decade.
Gurjinder Kaur Saxena has been a VCE teacher for over a decade.
Supplied

“The internal assessment of students will be done differently now. The curriculum in Unit 4 has been reduced by almost half. On top of that, the examination dates have been postponed,” she adds.

Mrs Saxena explains briefly how the new assessment methodology will work:

  • In Term 1, students are ranked on the basis of their School Assessed Coursework (SACs) in Unit 3 subjects. Their learning has been impacted by COVID-19, which has reflected in their ranking in their next SACs. The difference in both will be assessed.
  • Predictive/indicative grades will be given for SACs on the basis of their Term 1 performance.
  • Scores in post-COVID-19 SACs with remote/flexible learning will be counted
  • General Achievement Test (GAT) will assess a student’s individual aptitude level, plus the impact of coronavirus-related changes on the performance.

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