In March, the Cambridge Assessment International Education in the UK, the world' largest provider of international education, decided to postpone all "O", "AS" and A-Level examinations scheduled for May/June 2020 across 139 countries, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The authority announced that students would be awarded grades based on their schools' evaluation and other parameters, including the students' success in earlier examinations, coursework, assignments, results in mock examinations and earlier results of the school.
It was also emphasised that once the predicted grades are obtained from the school a standardised statistical analysis, along with other criteria, would be carried out and a final grade would be given to the students.
In compliance with Cambridge guidelines, all schools sent the predicted grades with the rank order in due time. A lot of debate and discussion took place about the matter.
The students and their guardians were anxious as it was difficult to guarantee fairness through the standardised statistical analysis.
Most notably, both experts and guardians dismissed the pastperformance of the school [a1] as an indicator of the calculation of the grades.
The basic point is that a school may not produce overall good results over the last few years, but that does not mean that an individual student willnot achieve a good result from that school.
On 11 August, when Cambridge International released the results for the "O", "AS" and "A" levels. All the apprehensions of the students and guardians came true.
The result represented a complete catastrophe[a2] as more than half of the predicted grades have been down graded. This happened across the world.
As a result, students of Scotland and Great Britain came down to the streets to protest Cambridge's decision.
The A level grades are important for the students as it plays a significant role in university admission in the UK. Similarly, it is also vital for students who are seeking admission at a university in Bangladesh.
For instance, in Dhaka University 80 points out of a total 200 points in admission test is calculated from the students' previous results.
Among this, 50 marks are calculated from HSC or A level results, while the remaining 30 from SSC or O level.
When a student fails to obtain a good score in the "A" level examination, he/she will be adversely affected during the admission test. It is a serious violation of the rights of a student.
The results have been devastating for the academic career of a majority of students across the world who completed different levels of examination under Cambridge international this year.
In response to the demonstration and protests in the UK and Scotland, the authorities in Scotland agreed that students should obtain final grades based on their predicted grades.
On the contrary, the UK's education minister made it clear that students would not receive any grade lower than the one in the last mock test.
After this declaration, the authority revised the result, which was published on August 13. This decision calmed down the students in Scotland and the UK.
However, the fate of all the international students from 139 countries including Bangladesh is still an issue of concern.
The Cambridge International has yet not taken any decision, even after the students' protests over the disastrous outcome [a3] on online and electronic media.
Instead of granting the benefits, Cambridge International has denied the students their right to formally review the results like the previous year.
They have declared that any review petition must be submitted by the school, meaning that an individual student does not have any right to file a review petition. This is surely an injustice to the students.
Meanwhile, several online campaigns were initiated and thousands of students and guardians from different countries signed petitions asking for an overhaul by Cambridge International of its arbitrary and unfair results.
As of now, it is very difficult to predict how Cambridge International would respond. Nevertheless, fair justice must be ensured for the aggrieved students.
I know one student from a school in Rajshahi who scored two A*, four As and one B in her "O" level examination and 3 As (highest grade) and one B at the AS level examination.
She secured the first position in her first mark[a4] held in November 2019 at A level securing three A* and one A.
Based on her performance in the course works, assignments and her previous results the school predicted her 3 A* and 1 A at the A level examination.
However, she was awarded one A, two B and one C by Cambridge International. Now the question is: how did this applicant achieve such a grade?
According to Cambridge International, they are not going to provide any justification for their calculation.
This constitutes a violation of the individual right of a student. The arbitrary decisions of Cambridge International have not only discriminated against the students but also made them traumatised.
Can Cambridge International commit such an injustice with several hundred thousand students across the world?
The demonstration and pressure from students in Scotland and the United Kingdom have compelled them to change their decision. Now what will happen to international students is a matter of great concern.
Under such circumstances, all students and guardians should raise their voices against the arbitrary decision of the Cambridge International in their respective countries across the world.
The government of respective countries should take appropriate measures to save the future of these students by creating pressure on the local office of the Cambridge International, as well as the UK office.
Actions of the government is necessary to save the academic career of these large groups of students and help them overcome their psychological stress caused due to the mockery of Cambridge International.
The Unesco, an organisation that deals with the education of the students, should come forward to create pressure on Cambridge International to review their decisions so that several thousand students' life can be saved.
The general principle of any educational institution is to offer benefits to the students under any circumstances.
Students cannot be penalised if they do not commit any offence. Cambridge International decided to postpone the examinations taking the issue of health safety of the students.
The students are not responsible for the postponement of the examinations due to Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, they cannot be penalised arbitrarily by downgrading their results.
Pranab Kumar Panday, PhD, is a Professor of Public Administration and an Additional Director of the Institutional Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC) at the University of Rajshahi.