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EDUCATION

EXPLAINED: The new exam dilemma facing Norway’s schools

Norway's education minister Guri Melby is under pressure to again cancel end-of-year exams for Norwegian teenagers.

AFP

High schools in most parts of Norway moved to the “amber” level of the national traffic light model for safety and distancing protocols at schools on January 20th, allowing most to return to the classroom.

Schools in red areas however, where there are a higher number of Covid cases, remained closed. 

Throughout the past year most students have at some point had classes moved online, and with rising cases of the B117 variant questions are now being asked as to whether final exams should take place in the current climate.

Union of Education Norway, the Ministry of Education, student organisations and experts have recommended and advocated for repeating the April 2020 decision to cancel spring exams due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the disadvantages and challenges of online learning.

End-of-year exams are currently the only official independent examination for Norwegian teenagers and can be decisive in university enrolment.

However, high average grades last year caused the acceptance criteria for most university courses across the country to soar.

That meant it was harder for previous year groups to get into their preferred university, with many who usually would get an offer being declined due to unusually high average grades.

According to data collected by the Ministry of Education, approximately 50 percent of all students get a lower grade on their exams than in other evaluations.

The political parties are split on what decision is best, though it is reported that the governing Conservative party (Høyre) is reluctant to cancel exams so early in the academic year. 

The party is suggesting trying to find an intermediate solution, arguing that students deserve an independent assessment from someone other than their teacher and that the “corona children” gain an unfair advantage over other year groups in university enrolment without regular exams.

Members of junior coalition party the Christian Democrats are reported to favour the advice of the Ministry of Education, which recommends cancelling, according to media TV2.

It is currently unclear when the final decision on this year’s examinations will be made.

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COVID-19

What are the current rules for Covid-19 self-isolation in Norway?

Norway's government have updated the country's self-isolation rules a few time in recent weeks. The latest changes mean less people will have to quarantine after being identified as a close contact.

Pictured is a house in Drøbak, south-eastern Norway.
These are the rules for self-isolation in Norway. Pictured is a house in Drøbak, south-eastern Norway. Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

From Friday, January 14th, Norway’s self-isolation rules will change, and far fewer people will be required to quarantine as a result. 

“In the next few months, many will be infected, and sickness absence will be high. All companies and businesses need to prepare for it. Plans must be made to maintain the most normal operation possible in a demanding situation. The changes the government is now making in the requirements for infection quarantine will contribute to more people being able to live normally, even though there is a lot of infection in society,” Ingvil Kjerkol, health minister, said of the new rules in a government announcement.

Does the Covid variant affect the self-isolation period? 

The quarantine rules and length of time you need to self-isolate for will not change depending on which variant of Covid-19 you contract. 

Who has to quarantine? 

For obvious reasons, those who test positive for Covid-19 will be required to self-isolate. After that, those who share a household with the infected person, including flatmates who share a common kitchen and bathroom, will also need to quarantine themselves.

However, under the new rules, other close contacts will not need to self-isolate after coming into contact with somebody infected with Covid. Instead, they are asked to take tests on day’s 3 and 5 after being identified as a close contact. Furthermore, they will need to watch for symptoms for ten days and begin isolating if any signs or symptoms appear. 

Anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes and within two metres of somebody who tests positive for Covid is considered a close contact. 

Close contacts are typically friends, colleagues or classmates. However, contact tracing services will also consider those sitting nearby in restaurants and the like as close contacts. This applies regardless of vaccination status. 

READ ALSO: What are Norway’s Covid rules this Christmas?

How long is the isolation period? 

People who return a positive coronavirus test will need to quarantine themselves for six days starting from when they tested positive. The isolation will be a minimum of six days but will not end until the person has been fever-free for at least 24 hours without using fever-reducing medicine. 

Household members and partners will need to isolate themselves before testing after seven days. 

As mentioned earlier, other close contacts are no longer required to quarantine. 

If the test returns positive, then the quarantine rules will apply for those infected with the virus. 

What are the rules in quarantine? 

You will need to stay at home and only perform necessary errands that others can not do. This means you can’t go to work and you need to avoid public transport. 

You can go for a walk, but you need to distance yourself from others. 

You will also need to social distance at home, stay in a separate room and use a different bathroom if possible. You are also encouraged to frequently clean surfaces that are often touched. 

Is anybody exempt? 

There is no exemption from self-isolating as a household member or close contact if you are vaccinated. However, some groups are exempt. 

Everyone who has had Covid-19 in the previous three months can skip the isolation period. The same goes for those who have received a booster vaccine dose at least a week before coming into contact with someone with Covid. Instead, they will need to test themselves each day with a rapid home test or a PCR test carried out by a health professional every other day for seven days. 

Employees who have essential societal functions are not required to isolate, provided they test negative before starting work throughout the isolation period. 

Close contacts under 18 years of age will not need to isolate but are recommended to test for Covid-19.

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