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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 April, 2005, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
British exam papers India bound
Indian call centre worker
More and more work from England is being outsourced
Thousands of exam papers from England will be sent to India later this year as part of the marking process.

Critics in England say the move is the latest example of cost-cutting by outsourcing, and will result in errors in exam marking and delays in results.

The exam board behind the initiative, AQA, told the BBC that no marking would take place in India and that the move would make marking more efficient.

There has been no comment from the firm in Madras that handles the papers.

One word answers

The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) exam board says that under the new system, GCSE exam scripts from England will be scanned into a computer file.

The answers of candidates will then be divided up between questions requiring longer answers and those with just one word answers - usually found in French and maths papers.

I have nothing against Indians marking papers from England - many Indians speak English better than the English themselves
Nick Seaton
Campaign for Real Education

The scanned one word answers will be e-mailed to Madras, where Indian workers type them up so that they can be marked by a computer in England.

The agency in Madras involved, Supreme, was not available for comment.

"There is no marking that takes places in India, just keying in [the answers]," AQA spokeswoman Clare Ellis told the BBC News website.

"The new system is more efficient in processing papers more accurately and more quickly."

Errors and delays

The exam board says that mistakes will be kept to a minimum because each single word answer will be typed in by two people and any discrepancies would be picked up by the computer programme.

But a spokesman for the Campaign for Real Education in England said it would be a mistake for exam scripts to be sent abroad in any format.

British pupils receive exam results
The exam marking system in England has recently been criticised

"In recent years exams in England have been hit by errors in grading and lengthy delays in results being released," spokesman Nick Seaton told the BBC News website.

"This system will create more problems than it solves," he said.

"I have nothing against Indians marking papers from England - many Indians speak English better than the English themselves - but the complicated logistics involved mean that the whole exercise is in danger of going disastrously wrong."

But Ms Ellis said that in January, part of AQA's module in French listening was processed abroad and the papers were accurately marked ahead of schedule.

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