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Coronavirus: Schools navigate pandemic obstacles for exams

Final exams are going ahead at private and public schools this year, despite the difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s Pancyprian exams are a big challenge for his ministry, Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said on Friday.

“A comprehensive proposal covering all aspects was presented to the Council of Ministers and approved. This year’s Pancyprian examinations is really a big challenge for the ministry. Of course, we want to ensure the right of all candidates to attend and have equal access to public universities. But at the same time to protect public health and certainly for our teachers who will supervise the exams to be safe. It will not be easy. But it is our duty. We do not want any student to be victimised because of the coronavirus, nor do we want teachers to be endangered,” he said.

Technical schools and lyceums will have lessons in class from May 10 until May 19 and then have exams while lessons will continue until June 16 in gymnasiums.

“In lyceums, exams can and must be done,” Prodromou commented. “Regarding the Pancyprians exams, which also give access to public universities, I do not think there is a discussion, they should be done normally. The big challenge, however, is to ensure the participation of those who may be affected by the pandemic, ie active cases and close contacts.”

Those in technical schools who cannot participate in exams will be tested at a later date, but this is not possible for the Pancyprian exams, which is why the ministry has arranged for special exam centres where active cases and close contacts will be tested.

In gymnasiums, it was preferred to extend the teaching time, and to make up for lost time, “and not to dedicate time to exams”.

“We will thus gain two to three weeks in the classes and the evaluation of students can be done in alternative ways. Instructions have been given to the schools. Thus in gymnasiums and elementary schools we will maximise study time.”

Prodromou said controlling the spread of the coronavirus is a priority.

“I want to point out that we are constantly monitoring the situation within the school population, with a dense programme of diagnostic tests”, he added, commenting on the imminent return to school of pupils on Monday.

“These days we are intensifying the efforts and we will encourage more parents to consent to the friendly nasal test for children in the upper grades of primary school. There is already a programme of more than 40 large schools where systematic nasal tests are performed on children in the upper grades of primary school and I note with satisfaction that there we have the consent of the parents by almost three quarters. We are looking for ways to extend this.”

Asked about the vaccination of teachers, he said a vaccination programme has already started to be implemented.

“I hope that any technical problems in the electronic system will be overcome. So it looks like all our teachers have been covered or are being covered in the coming days.”

Private schools in Cyprus and the British Council are also going ahead with exams for those in their final years, for two exam boards, Cambridge and Pearson Edexel. Testing takes place for A levels, AS levels and IGCSE.

Cambridge exams have already started as planned this week, while Pearson exams have been moved forward to April 22, by two to three weeks, to give schools a chance for a second assessment.

“Pearsons have given options for grading to schools,” Seda Selcuk Tanova, exams operation manager at the British Council said. “The schools can use Pearsons written test, but they have also given time to teachers to evaluate their students in class until the end of May or beginning of June. Teachers then send the assessment and supporting documents to the board which will decide on the marks.”

While private schools are using their facilities to test students, the British Council is holding exams in big halls, Tanova said.

“We fully comply with a whole list of instructions from the health and education ministries, students wear masks, have to bring the results of a rapid test taken no longer than three days before and sit two metres apart.”

 

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