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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 15:10 GMT
Online exams 'the way forward'
exam hall
Pen, paper and wooden desk: Things of the past?
Pupils should be able to sit their public examinations online and have them marked by a machine, a senior education advisor said.

David Hargreaves, who retired as head of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in January, also suggested teachers should be allowed to mark their own pupils' GCSEs.

ICT potentially offers forms of assessment that are highly motivational and educative experiences for learners

David Hargreaves
Mr Hargreaves - an adviser to the education secretary - said on-line testing and machine-marking could help resolve problems in recruiting enough examiners and reduce the time between sitting an exam and getting the result.

Speaking in a lecture at the Royal Society of Arts in London, sponsored by the exam board OCR and consultants KPMG, Mr Hargreaves said new technologies had the potential to produce tests and exams of a new kind.

"Remember that much of our assessment system is heavily based on what we call 'pencil and paper' tests.

"The traditional paper-based question or problem is for many students more frightening than stimulating and to hazard an answer or solution through writing alone is by no means always the most creative or imaginative... way of displaying one's knowledge, skill or understanding.

"ICT potentially offers forms of assessment that are highly motivational and educative experiences for learners," he said.

Teachers do the marking

Mr Hargreaves went on to suggest GCSEs should be taken in two parts, with only the core subjects marked by outside examiners.

David Hargreaves
David Hargreaves is enthusiastic about new technologies
"It is clear to all that our system of assessment is being stretched to its limits.

"The unitary awarding bodies are finding it difficult to cope and the problems with the recruitment of examiners are likely to persist.

"In these circumstances the sensible thing is to move more of the assessment to the teachers, and GCSE is the obvious place to start," said Mr Hargreaves.

A "light moderation" would retain professional and public confidence, he added.

He recognised such changes would take some years to implement and said they should not be rushed in like Curriculum 2000 - the recent change in the A-level syllabus.

See also:

03 Apr 01 | Education
NI students sit paperless exams
21 Sep 01 | Education
Head of exam body resigns
18 Oct 01 | Education
GCSEs 'add 10% to wages'
18 Oct 01 | Education
Exams 'not easier'
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