In a recent interview, the head of the OCR exam board Mark Dawe has argued that students should be able to use Google when sitting GCSE and A-level exams.
Mr Dawe argued that introducing Google to exams will allow examiners to assess how students draw on and interpret information. Similar to allowing calculators in a Mathematics exam, this would mean that each student had access to the same computational ability, but their skill at utilizing that would be the measure of their ability.
He further argued for using Google in exams because that is how people access information in day-to-day life, rather than memorizing all of the information, stating “that’s not how the modern world works”. Mr Dawe has been criticised by Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, who argues that with allowing access to the internet will lower the standards of examinations further, and will not test a pupil’s knowledge and understanding.
Despite his enthusiasm about the introduction of technology during examinations, he said this reality was at least a decade away in the UK. He added: “It is important that parents and teachers understand and believe this is fair. The government would need to ensure they have the right regulation to ensure the quality of standards are maintained.”
This isn’t the first time it has been suggested Google is used during exams. Last year a Harvard physics professor said schoolchildren must be allowed to have access to the internet.
It’s perhaps best to concede that this is something that would work better in some subjects – history and geography come to mind – than others, and only then for particular questions. Colleagues in the languages department might well despair at the thought of exam scripts peppered with inexplicable phraseology gathered from Google Translate.
Thanks to examination “experts”, we have seen huge grade inflation since the mid-1980s. The accompanying self-congratulation by teachers’ leaders and politicians has now diminished. More educationalists in England, at least, now recognise that so-called “skills” are not enough. Young people need to display substantial subject knowledge as part of the examination process.
We have a crisis of educational standards in our schools. Since 1953, spending in real terms has increased by 900% and yet, according to the OECD, and uniquely in the developed world, our recent school-leavers are less literate and less numerate than their grandparents, educated in the 1950s. We have slipped into mid-table mediocrity on the Programme of International Student Assessment (Pisa) international rankings of educational attainment – up to three years behind the best of the Asia Pacific and some way behind developing countries such as Vietnam. In Europe we are ranked level with Slovakia, a country that spends about 50% less per capita on education. Many of our universities have to run catch-up courses for their new undergraduates. Employers are consistently telling us that too many school-leavers are unemployable.
Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, strongly condemned the idea, describing it as a dumbing-down of education.
We have a crisis in standards in this country. We are three years behind the Chinese, at the age of 15. We have got universities running remedial courses. We have got employers saying too many youngsters are unemployable.”