The government gave approval to British Council to administer Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations in October and November while students continue protests demanding the cancellation of exams amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But education ministry officials said the approval was contingent upon several conditions, including holding those who were staging the exams responsible for any Covid-19 transmission among the students.
"With the approval from the government of Bangladesh, the British Council is pleased to confirm that we are going ahead with the October-November 2020 exams series for the International GCSE, IGCSE, O Level and International A Level examinations as per schedule," British Council Bangladesh, which sought the approval on Sunday, said in a statement last night.
Secondary and Higher Education Division Additional Secretary Mominur Rashid Amin said they gave the approval yesterday and it was a preliminary nod.
"The government can take back the approval if the situation surrounding Covid-19 transmission worsens, or for any other reason," he said, adding that there would have to be strict adherence to health protocols, including maintaining six feet of distance between examinees at all times.
In the upcoming October-November 2020 exams, the UK exam boards will base results on students' performance in the exams alone and not on any non-exam assessment, with the exception of art and design qualifications, the statement added.
This will be a departure from the May-June session, when educational boards globally decided not to stage exams due to the coronavirus pandemic, instead preparing results based on predicted grades and previous academic records submitted by schoolteachers. That is what protesting students wanted for the November-October session too.
It said all British Council activities will be carried out in line with the government of Bangladesh Covid-19 protocols, as well as prevention and control mechanisms outlined by World Health Organisation (WHO).
"Our safeguarding protocols, including mandatory face coverings in exams, physical distancing of candidates, cleaning and sanitisation of the venues, will be applied in all exam venues across Dhaka, Chattogram, Sylhet, Narayanganj, and Khulna," said the statement.
Two UK boards, Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) and Pearson's Edexcel, arrange O and A Level exams internationally. British Council Bangladesh administers the exams in the country.
English-medium students can sit for these exams either through schools or as private candidates.
Approximately 5,200 students in Bangladesh have registered for the upcoming October-November session of exams, according to British Council.
A-level exams under Cambridge are scheduled to start from October 1, and those under Pearson from October 5 . Pearson's O-level exams are set to start from November 2 and Cambridge's from November 5.
Meanwhile, a group of English medium students yesterday sought Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's intervention for cancellation of the upcoming O and A level exams during a press conference held in the capital yesterday .
The students urged the authorities concerned not to hold the October-November exam session amid the coronavirus pandemic, as it would put students and their families at severe health risk.
They also demanded grades based on their previous results, a process known as "predicted grades".
"We want the prime minister and education minister's intervention for cancellation of exams during the coronavirus crisis," Chowdhury Shamsuzzaman, an A-Level candidate, said at the press conference.
He said the current state of affairs is not suitable for exams and that it would be tough for examinees to wear masks during an exam as it would increase the stress of an already stressful situation.
When the exams take place Bangladesh could be seeing the second wave of coronavirus transmission, students said.
Moreover, newly introduced online education was insufficient to prepare for a board exam, Shamsuzzaman added.
In light of all this, the students demanded the cancellation of the October-November exam session in Bangladesh, and asked for predicted grading instead, as they don't want a gap in their education.
Students have continued their protests online. They also formed a human chain in front of the National Press Club on Sunday and Tuesday, reiterating their demands.