A technical defect in a test system was also responsible. (icon picture)
The Federal Supreme Court has upheld the appeal of a Vaud high school student who failed the baccalaureate examination in June 2021 because half a point was missing. A technical defect in one of the devices affected the oral exam in physics. The matter is referred back to the Vaud judiciary for a new decision.
In the oral physics exam, the student should study the trajectories of pucks gliding on air cushions and present his findings to the examiners. However, the two pucks provided did not work.
After being notified of his failure on June 25, 2021, the student promptly asked his physics teacher to increase his grade by half a point to account for this incident.
All must have the same conditions
The teacher refused, arguing that the experimental part of the exam had no impact on the overall score. This point of view was confirmed by the school management, then by the head of the education department and finally by the cantonal court.
In a judgment published on Wednesday, the Federal Supreme Court upheld the student’s complaint alleging a violation of the principle of equal treatment. The lower court had rejected this complaint on the grounds that the complainant had not been treated differently from his classmates, who had been confronted with the same problems.
For the Federal Supreme Court, this argument is not justifiable. The complainant’s situation had to be compared with the regular situation of those students who had working material for the experiment, carried it out successfully and were able to rely on the results in the oral presentation.
Experiment interfered with exam
The judges emphasize that the incident inevitably disrupted the high school student’s preparation and, as a result, he found himself in a different situation from his peers. By not taking this into account, the teacher treated him differently because the experiment was part of the exam.
Furthermore, the court doubts that it is possible to ignore the experiment that did not work, since it formed the basis of the oral presentation. Finally, the judges determine that the incident cost the student time and inevitably disrupted his Matura exam.
The case now goes back to the district court. This must also take into account the incident in its new judgment and also the current situation of the student. He probably started his school year again in the meantime. If this is not the case or if he has failed again, he must be allowed to repeat the oral examination in physics. His grade would replace the grade received in June 2021.