Principals' reaction mixed to advent of exams on demand

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 02/04/2014

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Within five years, students could be sitting exams when they're ready, rather than waiting for the traditional exam period - but for some schools that's not fast enough.

Sitting, marking and returning exam booklets online once a student was ready to be assessed would be piloted in stages over the next few years, starting with returning all NCEA level 3 booklets online this year, NZQA chief executive Karen Poutasi said.

At a secondary principals' conference in Wellington yesterday reaction was mixed to the move, which Poutasi predicted last year would take about eight years to embed.

"Very few countries are online and on-demand at this time. We won't be the first, but we will be up there," she said. "What happens is heavily dependent on the technology and feasibility to do it. We won't be disadvantaging those schools that can't engage digitally, but we also don't want to disadvantage those who already are."

Tawa College year 12 student Briana Boele van Hensbroek said sitting exams on-demand would be welcomed by most students and would put an end to learning topics twice. "When you're learning about stuff in the middle of the year, by the time the end of the year comes around you've forgotten all of it and basically have to redo it," she said.

"Right now I have so many internals to do that's all I'm concentrating on. I'm not even listening in class to the topics because I'll have to re-study them at the end of the year before the exam anyway."

Kapiti College principal Tony Kane said most year 9 and 10 students used their own devices in the classroom, and he would be thrilled if online exams were available for them.

"Five years is probably a bit too long away . . . if we had some tools to test by the time our current year 9s sit exams in two years' time, then I'd be delighted."

Porirua College principal Susanne Jungersen said NZQA would be "dragging their feet" if online exams were not available in five years' time.

Secondary Principals' Association president Tom Parsons said concerns stemmed from the growing divide between the haves and have-nots. "Five years will never be quick enough for those who want and can do it now, and it's too fast for those that can't yet see the window of opportunity."

He said last year was the first time he could recall NZQA exams not having any big problems, and a move to digital assessment would need a lot of consideration.

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- The Dominion Post

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