Ok, I know that's a strongly worded title, but I've came to the conclusion over the past few months that the exam boards and UK government does not care about BTEC students due to several reasons relating to the recent Coronavirus epidemic.
For context, I am not a student that did poorly last year and is now upset at the system. Last year was great for me and I was able to get a Distinction* (the highest grade in the first year of a BTEC in the UK) in Level 3 Computer Science. The beginning of this year was also good, but the lockdown and remote college work has made this year extremely difficult for me (and by chatting to other people within my class, has made it far more difficult for them too). I genuinely think considering the situation, the UK government/exam boards are playing with our grades and mental health.
Recently, a statement was released from Pearson (mine and many other peoples exam boards) about BTEC assessments. In this statement, one of the first lines is "A strength of the BTEC qualification is that it is modular and recognises the progress of learners through their programme with a balance of teacher-led, verification-led and external assessments to support the awarding of outcomes". I feel that I should describe why this line is utterly insane.
Like most other qualifications, BTEC's rely on being taught content. Due to the nature of this, the assignments become extremely difficult without much initial help in learning the topics which will be used within controlled assessments and assignments. Whilst lecturers try their hardest and deliver this content remotely, it doesn't work very well for a number of reasons:
- It's way more difficult for the lecturer to tailor the lesson around people in the class: In a class, there will commonly be several questions whilst the content is being delivered which can then be responded to. This helps the students because the lecturer can deliver the content tailoring it around the questions from the class. This means that if 10 people have the same issue, it can be resolved for all of them at once. With the current remote setup, this system is broken since people may not want to speak up on their questions, making it seem far less infrequent if only 1-2 people ask it. Additionally, people may not hear solutions which they will need in the future, potentially causing issues with their grades.
- There are issues with setting a realistic deadline for assignments: Whilst I've currently had no assignments set during the lockdown, it's a definite possibility in the future. With a class, you can set the deadline in-lesson and there is no excuse to miss it since you were there in person. It's very simple to miss an email, and therefore get a lower grade due to late assignment. This could potentially lead to late assignments.
- There are issues with student attendance remotely: For a variety of reasons including lifestyle changes during the lockdown, system incompatibility and downtime issues, it may not be possible for all students to be able to attend remote lessons. This could potentially cause an issue for students since for no fault of their own, they may miss out on valuable lessons which they need.
Therefore, it's my belief that continuing to run BTEC qualifications is just causing stress for both lecturers and students alike. Which brings me back to the title, why do I believe that BTEC students specifically aren't cared about? It's because the UK government and exam boards have noticed that this will be an issue for both GCSE and A Level students.
For students who fit into these categories, a reasonable system was put into place for these students. Their grades are predicted in a way which is fair based on information from previous years, with an option to sit an exam in the event that they do not get the grade which they believe they deserve. This is important since BTEC could do the same thing. First year BTEC's have a load of historical data already due to coursework which was likely handed in by now. Additionally, BTEC's in the second year have even more information since they can use the information from the first year to come to a very reasonable grade.
Overall, I think calculating a predicted grade and giving students the option to sit an exam in the event that the grade is not what they expect is a very reasonable option for BTEC's too. It will relive needless additional pressure for students relating to if they will be able to do their assignments due to the situation at an already chaotic time. This is really not what a lot of students need to be worrying about right now.