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How UAE students will receive their grades after major board exams stand cancelled due to COVID-19

June 21, 2021

Original Article:

With all major foreign curriculum board exams now cancelled in the UAE, the boards overseas as well as schools in the UAE have been sharing information on how grades should be awarded. Here, Gulf News recaps the latest available guidance on the fast-moving development.

What happened?

School-leaving external board exams under India-based CBSE (except Grade 12) and ICSE; United Kingdom’s IGCSE and A-Levels; and the international IB have been cancelled (in the UAE and some other countries) because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They were due to take place in May and June.

CBSE — a wait-and-watch situation

CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) is India’s biggest board, with thousands of students in dozens of affiliated schools here. It has two exams; one for Grade 10 and the other for Grade 12.

The Grade 10 exam has been cancelled. The results of Grade 10 will be prepared on the basis of an “objective criterion” to be developed by the CBSE. Schools are awaiting further communication on this criterion from the CBSE. However, some principals believe that internal schools assessments and pre-board examinations should provide enough performance data for each student to help allocate their marks for Grade 10. Also, the CBSE recently said: “Any candidate who is not satisfied with the marks allocated to him/her on this basis [of the objective criterion] will be given an opportunity to sit in an exam as and when the conditions are conducive to hold the exams.”

Grade 12 suspense

CBSE exams for Grade 12, which were already delayed once, have been postponed again. On June 1, the new exam dates are expected to be announced by the CBSE, which is currently reviewing the situation. “A notice of at least 15 days will be given before the start of the examinations,” the CBSE said.

Grade 12 students have been concerned whether they will now have enough time to receive their exam results for applying to university. Universities are aware of the situation and will accommodate cases accordingly, as they did last year, said Lalitha Suresh, Principal, GEMS Our Own Indian School, Dubai.

‘Universities will adapt’

“Students of Grade 12 should not lose hope and must keep themselves motivated and continue their revision till the board declares the dates for the rescheduled examinations. They need to understand that this is a pandemic year and decisions are being constantly altered by not only CBSE but by other boards as well. Just has the board adapted to the pandemic, universities too will adapt and change their admission policies … I am sure the admission processes will be overhauled to suit the changes made by the board. All this will take time and we will have greater clarity in a week or two,” she added.

“Last year, the engineering and medical colleges [in India] depended on the JEE Entrance and NEET Examinations. All the other streams based their admission on SAT and the CBSE board examination marks. Hence last year there was no difference to the college admission policy. Even this year, the JEE entrance was conducted without a hitch and all students who have attempted it will have a good chance in securing admission in colleges of their choice. The JEE entrance and NEET examinations did take place in spite of COVID and was conducted successfully.”

Asma Gilani, Principal and CEO, GEMS Our Own English High School Sharjah, also said university entrance exam bodies in India “will come up with some solution to cater to the students’ admissions in the current scenario”. In addition, she said, candidates for medical and engineering courses — or any other course in the UAE and abroad — have an option for admission in different timelines: Autumn (September) or Spring (January/February).

Common entrance exam

Ambika Gulati, Principal, The Millennium School, Dubai, said as per the National Education Policy of India, all central universities will be conducting a common entrance examination this year (Central Universities Common Entrance Examination), the dates of which will be announced in May. “The experience of 2020 has shown that all entrance examinations were delayed but were held and college admissions took place. CBSE has been liberal to allow students to change their examination centres from UAE to India, in case of any visa concerns or if families need to relocate to India. Schools will definitely facilitate this by writing to the board with all the necessary documentation,” Gulati added.

“Our schools are constantly in touch with students to apprise them of CBSE updates. We are holding counselling sessions for our students and parents to help them understand the situation and provide any support that they may need. We are also communicating with universities abroad to explain the delay in declaring the results.”

Conditional admission

Teresa Varman, Principal and CEO, GEMS Millennium School Sharjah, said: “Our last cohort of Grade 12 students received their results only in mid-July 2020 — it is usually released by May end — but that did not come in the way of them securing admission into colleges of their first choice based on a ‘conditional admission’ process. CBSE has given students the option of changing their Examination Centre to one in India if required. Schools have been advised to send the names and details of students wanting a change in Examination Centre to CBSE for further action. The process is being handled very efficiently and smoothly.”

Similar situation, different year

Most colleges offer a ‘conditional admission’ based on “predicated scores” given by the school. Therefore, Varman said, while colleges will inevitably have a later than usual start because of the delayed board examinations, there is no real cause for panic. “We were in a similar situation last year, and yet every one of our students were able to enrol into colleges and programmes of their choice. In fact, 99 per cent of our last cohort of Grade 12 Science students went into medical and engineering colleges, many of them in India.”

IGCSE, A-Levels

Exams by UK-based boards, such as Cambridge International, have also been dropped this year for the summer series. For each student, the boards have asked schools to submit a portfolio of evidence — coursework, past exams, projects, etc — and their teacher or school-assessed grade for each subject. For Cambridge International, one of the most popular boards for schools outside the UK, this assessed grade should be based of a portfolio of three “substantial pieces of work” from each student in every syllabus. These can include:

  • Complete past papers from the syllabus
  • Completed coursework prepared according to syllabus requirements
  • Work made up of questions selected from various past papers
  • Papers used as mock exams
  • Extended project work set by the school during the course of study
  • Tasks set by the centre, such as essays, assignments, problems, practical tasks.

IB (International Baccalaureate)

For its May 2021 Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme, IB is similarly offering “an alternative route using a combination of internal assessment coursework and teacher-predicted grades”. School principals here have said evidence such as internal assessments, mock exams, and summative assessments will be used in allocating predicted grades. They said the IB already has a highly-structured content and assessment system built into its curriculum, which has made it easy for teachers worldwide to follow a similar pattern when allocating grades. What’s more, because of the same situation last year — when IB exams were first cancelled — teachers now have more experience and clarity in the process. IB has said it is working directly with schools and education authorities in ensuring students receive fair grades.


Class 10 exams for the ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) board exams have been cancelled, it was announced on Tuesday, due to rising COVID-19 cases in India.

The CISE (Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations), which administers ICSE, said all its affiliated schools should begin the admissions process for Class 11, if they haven’t done so already. “A fair and an unbiased” criterion on which the basis for Class 10 results will be awarded, is going to be announced “later”.

But what about Class 12?

As announced earlier (on Friday) by CISE, exams for the Class 12 ISC (Indian School Certificate) have been delayed from their May 4 start date. CISCE said it will closely monitor the COVID-19 situation in India; the postponement of the exams will be reviewed and a final decision will be taken in the first week of June.

'Dont worry'

Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO-Principal, Credence High School, Dubai said: "Students should not worry about this decision to cancel or postpone the CBSE exams. The concerned government bodies will take the appropriate actions, which will be in the best interest of the students. CBSE has given the option to change the examination centers for the students as per their convenience. We are confident that the universities will take this situation into consideration and facilitate admissions of the students accordingly. Every educationist has the interest and well-being of students in mind and the students should not worry at all. These are the challenging times and I am confident that they will come out stronger."


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