“Oh! it is absurd to have a hard-and-fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn’t.”
So goes the quote from Oscar Wilde’s famous play, “The Importance of Being Earnest.” It is a line and a concept that students in the Year 11 English class at St. Ignatius Catholic School are more familiar with than they would like.
After a year of studying the play, the students opened their final IGCSE exam papers Friday to be confronted with a choice of questions about several other plays, none of which they had read.
Teachers at the school did not realize the error until they opened the “Literature in English” exam paper at the same time as the students.
“The teacher saw the questions and then ran out of the room,” one student, who was in the exam, told the Cayman Compass.
The teacher returned a few moments later and told the students who had studied “The Importance of Being Earnest,” to put down their pens and leave, the student said.
The rest of the students had studied “An Inspector Calls,” which was on the exam paper, and were told to continue.
Now school officials are scrambling to find a solution for the students who were unable to sit the paper, which represents 25 percent of their English literature exam.
In a letter to parents, seen by the Compass, Dominique Chenier, the school’s examinations officer, acknowledged the mistake and said the school had been asked by the exam board, Cambridge International Examinations, to complete an online Special Consideration Application, to allow the students to be given a fair grade, despite missing a quarter of the exam.
“We sincerely apologize for this oversight, and have spoken to the students regarding this matter; however, please note that we have been reassured by CIE that your son/daughter will not be disadvantaged by an event out of their control,” she wrote in the letter.
In her letter, Ms. Chenier said the exam board would use the student’s predicted grades, sent to them by the school in April, and their performance on the other literature exam papers, to calculate a fair grade for the missing component.
IGCSE exams are critical end of Year 11 external assessments that are used by school sixth forms and colleges as entry criteria for higher education classes, such as A-Levels. Students, usually between 15 and 17 years old, typically sit between nine and 10 IGCSEs in various subjects.
For the Literature in English exams, teachers are given a choice of four or five texts to study with their class at the start of the course.
One of the final exams features questions on each of the plays and the students select the one they have studied and answer the questions relevant to them.
In this case, the school says, “The Importance of Being Earnest” was originally included on the list of plays circulated to schools by the exam board, but was removed from an updated list without them noticing.
Ms. Chenier said in a letter to parents, “At the beginning of your son’s/daughter’s Literature in English examination today, it was discovered that the play that your son/daughter had been studying, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ was not included in any of the questions. Further to our immediate investigation, it was confirmed that the reason that the play did not appear on the examination paper was that, despite having been a regular option in the Literature syllabus, its removal from the updated list of syllabus texts was not picked up.”