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Ministry of Education will apologize and provide compensation

As a result of a BC Ombudsperson investigation, the Ministry of Education will apologize to students and compensate any students who were financially harmed by the issuance of incorrect provincial exam results in 2019.

In a report released today, Course Correction: The Ministry of Education 2019 Provincial Exam Errors, the Ombudsperson finds the ministry’s communication with students and their families was misleading, and in some cases inaccurate. The ministry posted more than 18,000 incorrect exam scores roughly half of which were higher than they should have been with the other half lower than they should have been.

“Our findings reveal a number of shortcomings in a system that young people were relying on at one of the key points of their lives,” said Ombudsperson Jay Chalke. “A rushed and inadequate quality assurance process led to the errors. What followed was poor communication with students, families and post-secondary institutions at a time when clarity was needed.”

The investigation examined both how the errors were made and how the ministry responded to them. The report highlights that tabulation processes were rushed and that both internal and external concerns highlighting discrepancies were not immediately addressed. Gaps in the ministry’s quality assurance process meant incorrect results were released even after ministry staff, students and secondary institutions were aware of problems. The report finds that more than 100,000 potentially incorrect transcripts were obtained by post-secondary institutions and others before the errors were corrected.

The investigation also details a series of unclear, inaccurate and misleading statements in the wake of the errors. Over the course of several days the ministry was slow to advise the public of the nature and scope of the tabulation errors and gave overly broad assurances that the situation was fully in-hand. For example, the report highlights a ministry press release that suggested that post-secondary institutions throughout North America had provided assurances that students would not be impacted, when in fact at the time of the press release, only one institution – the University of British Columbia - had given that assurance.

“Ministry staff worked quickly and diligently to correct the tabulation errors and that was positive but, when government makes a mistake, good public administration demands more.” said Chalke. “Not only does the technical error need to be fixed but the potential impact on people needs to be addressed. When government makes a mistake, it needs to put things right.”

The report makes six recommendations all of which have been accepted by the ministry, including to:

• Establish an enhanced quality assurance process for the review and approval of provincial assessment results before they are released to post-secondary institutions

• Establish a communications protocol so that a ministry official certifies that information released to the public is accurate and not misleading

• Apologize to all students who were impacted by the errors and compensate any student who was financially harmed.

“I am encouraged that the ministry has accepted our recommendations and has committed to do the necessary work that will lead to full implementation, including formally apologizing to students affected and compensating anyone financially impacted. Young people at a critical juncture of their lives deserve nothing less,” said Chalke adding his office will be monitoring the recommendations contained in the report and will report publicly on the ministry’s implementation.

To view the full report, visit: https://bcombudsperson.ca/investigative_report/course-correction-the-ministry-of-education-2019-provincial-exam-errors/

The Office of the Ombudsperson is an oversight office, independent of government, that has jurisdiction over more than 1,000 provincial and local public bodies in British Columbia. It has a statutory mandate to receive and investigate complaints from the public when they feel they have been treated unfairly when receiving government services. The office's services are free, confidential and impartial. For more information visit  www.bcombudsperson.ca