Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, forces early tests for UK schools. Scholars will be sitting some popular exam subjects earlier than usual this summer.
SCHOOL EXAMS: There are changes in the rules and a timetable shake-up.
It means pupils around the United Kingdom will sit key GCSE and A-level examinations early.
A rules' change allows them to fit in with Ramadan and accommodate the UK's fasting Muslim students. The outcome means most candidates will have fewer days to revise.
The reason is exams appear to have been shifted to much earlier dates than in previous years.
In some cases, they got brought forward by one week for some pupils. So how have they rescheduled school exams to fit in the Islamic holy month?
The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is the 9th month of the Muslim year when strict fasting gets observed. During this period, followers abstain from eating food during daylight. For Muslims, that means from dawn to sunset.
The lunar reckoning of the Muslim calendar in 2016 runs from June 6th to July the 5th. It moves backward through the calendar by around 11 days each year.
Thus, it only comes full circle about once every 33 years. Though it was supposed to occur in one of the hot months, in fact Ramadan may occur in any season.
Hundreds of thousands of teenagers around the country will need to accept rearranged exam timetables. This is because some key subjects are being clustered before the start of the Islamic holy month.
This year, the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) awarding body appears to have shifted several key maths exams to earlier dates by comparison with the timetable for 2015.
Oxford, Cambridge, and RSA (OCR) is holding all its English and mathematics examinations in the morning. These also appear to get clustered toward the beginning of the exam season.
There will be a general increase in the number of tests for popular subjects sat in the mornings during the festival.
School and college leaders are working with communities to ensure young people are able to observe Ramadan. The aim is to avoid any detrimental impact on their end of term examinations.
Some teachers raised concerns about the impact of Ramadan on Muslim teenagers. They said students go into their exams often feeling hungry or thirsty.
This could affect their results. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said educators want all children to be able to achieve their best in exams. Getting good results is so crucial to their future careers.
The aim of the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) is to avoid disadvantaging fasting Muslim pupils. They feel they may suffer low energy levels in the afternoon. The JCQ represents the exam boards. They said the change in timetable allowances would get made where appropriate. It would be in subjects which typically have a large numbers of entries.
Similar plans got announced for the exams in 2015, but the actual effect was minimal. The reasons was Ramadan began on June 18 during that year. The summer exam season runs from late May through to the end of June.
A statement issued by the JCQ said it consults on the timetable every year. They consider comments from a wide range of groups. They include faith groups, schools, and colleges.
The pressure group 'Christian Concern' expressed their disapproval of a rules change in the school examination timetable. They were quoted as saying;
"They should let things be. How can you start changing the rules for everybody to accommodate those particular pupils who are Muslims? They are in a minority. We do not live in Saudi Arabia where they need to fit the exams around sharia principles. It is wrong imposing this festival on everybody else."
The National Secular Society made a pertinent response. They said if there are a significant number of Muslim students that get affected and calling for a change, we should accommodate them.
In the early 1980s Muslims made up an estimated 1% of the population. The latest census shows there are around 2.7 million Muslims living in England and Wales. That accounts for 5% of the population at the beginning of 2016.
The founding secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain stated that the decision is 'fair and just'. He said it is not a special privilege and it is within the policy of the Joint Council for Qualifications.
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Pupils See Exam Rules Change to Help Fasting Muslims in the United Kingdom