Diploma exams to be optional for Alberta students this October and November

Alberta Education says diploma exams will be optional for students this term amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement Tuesday morning, the ministry said the exams will be optional for students this October and November. No decision has been made yet on whether diploma exams will be mandatory or optional for the upcoming terms.

“As we continue to listen to students, parents and education partners, it’s clear that some students may not feel comfortable or be in the best position to write exams at this time,” read a statement from Colin Aitchison, press secretary for the education minister’s office.

“We know these are challenging times, and that’s why we want to ensure students and their parents have the flexibility to make the best decision for their own situation this exam season. We will of course continue to monitor how the school year progresses, and make decisions on the remaining exams prior to them being written.”

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Read more: Southern Alberta students protest diploma exams during COVID-19

The decision comes after several school boards in the province made motions to push the government to cancel diploma exams for Grade 12 students amid uncertainties due to the pandemic.

The Edmonton Public School Board, for example, voted unanimously earlier this month to advocate for the provincial government to cancel diploma exams for students.

“This current school year is not like any other school year that we’ve experienced,” EPSB trustee Shelagh Dunn, who initially brought forward the motion, said when the motion passed on Oct. 6. “I think that we need to keep in mind that we’re operating in the midst of a global emergency and our education system is under tremendous stress as a result.

“I think we’ve all been hearing about how this has been impacting students and staff. We know that almost 30 per cent of our students are learning online.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Edmonton school trustee pushes to suspend provincial achievement and diploma exams' Coronavirus: Edmonton school trustee pushes to suspend provincial achievement and diploma exams

Coronavirus: Edmonton school trustee pushes to suspend provincial achievement and diploma exams

Read more: ‘Not a standardized year’: Edmonton Public School Board decides to push province to cancel PAT, diploma exams

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Diploma exams have been made optional in the past, including in Calgary during the 2013 floods and in Fort McMurray during the 2016 wildfires.

Some school boards were also advocating to have provincial achievement tests cancelled, although those are already optional. Families can simply make a decision for their children to opt out of writing the tests.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some school boards have moved to a quarterly approach to the school year, meaning diploma exams for the first term are scheduled to be written at the end of October and early November.

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