Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Examinations - Pen and Paper Exams 'Short-Change' Students: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Examinations - Pen and Paper Exams 'Short-Change' Students: News

Article excerpt

Digital tests are the future, International Baccalaureate head says.

Students who have grown up with computers are being "short-changed" by the continued use of pen and paper assessments, according to the new head of one of the world's leading exam boards.

In an exclusive interview with TES, Siva Kumari - who will take up her role as director general of the International Baccalaureate (IB) in January - said that the need for more digital assessment was an urgent issue for all educational institutions.

She revealed that her organisation, which works with 3,665 schools in 146 countries, was piloting on-screen exams in its Middle Years Programme (MYP) for 11- to 16-year-olds, in a bid to address the issue.

Leaders of IB schools have complained that although children use technology every day to "construct" their work, when it comes to assessment they are still forced to sit traditional paper-based exams.

"That particular bit actually bothers me because I think that we are short-changing students in that way," Dr Kumari said. "I had to do that when I was doing my doctorate. I had to stop constructing on my laptop and sit down and write something, and I was like, 'You're kidding me.' So I think there will be a natural cry for change in educational systems.

"I don't think students and parents will be OK if it takes 20 years. We know now that most three-year-olds start their lives with an iPad. I am not sure that most educational institutions can fairly ask students like that to work on paper."

Dr Kumari is the latest in a series of educationalists to speak out on the need for more "e-assessment". Last month, David Hanson, chief executive of the UK's Independent Association of Prep Schools, predicted the widespread use of online tests by 2023, saying that the current exams system was "not fit for purpose".

In 2011, Isabel Nisbet, then chief executive of England's exams regulator Ofqual, warned that school exams were "running the risk of becoming invalid, as their medium of pen and ink increasingly differs from the way in which youngsters learn".

At the time, there were warnings that any digital alternative would lead to problems over how to ensure fairness, because of computers with different speeds and varying internet connections, as well as the challenge of data security.

But Dr Kumari said the IB was finding ways to "work around" the "flaky" internet connections at otherwise well-equipped schools in countries such as Africa. …

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