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The Changing Pathway from International Schools to Higher Education Institutions: How to Support Applications During the Pandemic

By David Richards
The Changing Pathway from International Schools to Higher Education Institutions: How to Support Applications During the Pandemic

The pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of examinations for many students globally, including international school students. This has led many higher education institutions (HEIs) to change their entry requirements. A significant number of international schools adapted to these changes by introducing alternative assessment schemes to ensure continuity of teaching and learning and student pathway support. However, by further understanding these changes, it is possible for schools to take additional measures to help students meet the new entry requirements.

Changes in Entry Requirements

A report published by ISC Research titled ‘The Pathway from International School to Higher Education’ (2021) provides insight on the changes that have taken place. There were 165 respondents from higher education institutions in 23 countries.

Just under half of universities that participated in the research said they are welcoming international students for undergraduate degrees for 2021 entry without traditional grades or scores and are using alternative criteria instead.

The two most prevalent criteria universities said they are using when examination transcripts are not available, are additional questions at interview (73%) and additional references (41%). Some institutions said they are using coursework assessment, predicted grades, and a stronger focus on extracurricular activities to evaluate applicants.

In light of the impact of the pandemic, 32% of respondents reported that their institution has made changes to the weighting of its admissions criteria when selecting applicants. Increased weight has been given by some universities to English language competency, portfolios, auditions, and grades from previous years.

Several universities have offered more flexibility on submission dates for evidence and documentation or said their offers have been extended on condition of evidence as and when available.

How Schools Can Support Applications

Aside from providing assessed grades and coursework, international schools can take additional measures to help meet the new entry requirements.

First, we can help students to produce impressive ePortfolios. If the resources are available, these portfolios can be tailored for a particular course. For example, an ePortfolio for a Media Studies courses could contain student-made videos, footage of the candidate talking about their work, written media analysis, and an essay outlining their career goals. 

It is important for schools to provide extra-curricular activities to help supplement applications. However, this may be difficult during school closures. This may be countered by organizing online schemes, such as having senior students provide tuition to those in lower grades or creating group projects in which students raise awareness of an important issue online.

More support should be provided to prepare students for university interviews and auditions. This could involve providing sessions in which students develop their responses, rehearsals with members of staff, and a booklet of model answers.

It may also be worth encouraging students to take English language qualifications as extra support for their predicted or assessed grades. In response to the closure of testing centers, some organizations have created online versions of their tests. For example, The British Council have launched IELTS Indicator, a version of the IELTS exam that can be taken at home.

David Richards is part of School Leadership Team at Vinschool Central Park in Vietnam.

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