Several Norwegian media outlets have reported that this year’s IB students received significantly lower grades than they anticipated. The reason behind this appears to be that so-called “school context” and “historical data” have been used in the grading, in an attempt to compensate for the cancellation of exams due to the ongoing pandemic. The Norwegian Data Protection Authority has chosen to intervene in the matter.
- In a way, students have been confined to a particular segment based on the historical results of their school, even though all students are different. At the same time, grading can have a major effect on their academic and professional careers and thus the rest of their lives. This is unfair to hard-working students who are unexpectedly denied of educational opportunities, says Head of International Tobias Judin.
Unfair, inaccurate and obscure
Grades constitute personal data, and pursuant to the GDPR, personal data needs to be accurate and processed fairly and transparently. The Norwegian Data Protection Authority considers that the IB grades are inaccurate because they do not reflect the students’ individual academic level, which is the purpose of grading. Instead, the grades appear to be a prediction of what the students’ exam grades might have been had the exams not been cancelled, but this is not possible to accurately predict.
The Norwegian Data Protection Authority also considers that it is unfair to base grades on how other students at the same school have performed previously.
- This could lead to discrimination as the grading model differentiates between students attending different schools. In addition, there has been a lack of transparency regarding the grading model, says Judin.
Not a final decision
The Norwegian Data Protection Authority has sent the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) an advance notification, meaning that we have outlined what we intend to order them to do. The purpose of an advance notification is to allow for contradiction by 21 August 2020 (extended). In other words, this is not a final decision, but rather a draft decision. Before taking a final decision, we will take into account the views of the IBO.
The Norwegian Data Protection Authority is competent to enforce the GDPR on Norwegian territory.
Advance notification of order to rectify unfairly processed and incorrect personal data (pdf)