Ed­u­ca­tion heads log on to on­line ex­ams over ‘out­dated meth­ods’

The Australian - - THE NATION - LUKE GRIFFITHS

‘Elec­tronic ex­ams recog­nise the way stu­dents use com­put­ers in their ev­ery­day lives’

SE­LENA UIBO NT ED­U­CA­TION MIN­IS­TER

On­line school ex­am­i­na­tions for Year 12 stu­dents will be in­tro­duced in South Aus­tralia and the Northern Ter­ri­tory while ed­u­ca­tion heads from other states watch closely to weigh up the move to­wards elec­tronic test­ing.

In an Aus­tralian first, about 2350 stage two English lit­er­a­ture stu­dents in South Aus­tralia and the Ter­ri­tory will sit an elec­tronic end-of-year exam in Novem­ber, worth 15 per cent of their over­all marks for the sub­ject.

Modern history and psy­chol­ogy will be added to the mix in South Aus­tralia next year, while NT Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Se­lena Uibo said she ex­pected eight sub­jects would have elec­tronic endof-year ex­ams by 2020.

“Elec­tronic ex­ams recog­nise the way stu­dents use com­put­ers in their learn­ing and ev­ery­day lives and pro­vide a more rel­e­vant as­sess­ment,” she said.

Prob­lems with this year’s on­line NAPLAN test, con­cern about cy­ber se­cu­rity, com­puter lit­er­acy and con­nec­tiv­ity is­sues, and, more broadly, the dis­as­trous at­tempt to take the cen­sus sur­vey on­line, have left many in­ter­state ed­u­ca­tion fig­ures wary.

Unions would likely fight the push to­wards on­line be­cause it would elim­i­nate an in­come stream some mem­bers tap by mark­ing writ­ten ex­ams, one source said.

In­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity and de­vice is­sues saw sev­eral of this year’s NAPLAN tests di­verted to pa­per. An in­de­pen­dent tech­ni­cal re­view has been com­mis­sioned.

It is un­der­stood de­bate be­tween min­is­ters at last week’s Ed­u­ca­tion Coun­cil meet­ing about whether to pur­sue a full na­tional roll­out by 2020 was heated.

There also was wide­spread con­cern that the new on­line test was in­com­pa­ra­ble to those who took the tra­di­tional pa­per ver­sion.

South Aus­tralia’s De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, which out­sourced the de­vel­op­ment of the on­line exam por­tal to SONET Sys­tems, con­ducted nu­mer­ous tri­als and is con­fi­dent its sys­tem is ro­bust.

South Aus­tralian Cer­tifi­cate of Ed­u­ca­tion board chair Martin West­well said writ­ten ex­ams were be­com­ing an “out­dated method” of as­sess­ment, but con­tin­gen­cies were in place.

“If there is a pro­longed pe­riod of con­nec­tion out­age, stu­dents will be able to com­plete the exam- ina­tion us­ing a like-for-like pa­per ver­sion,” he said. “Stu­dents who need ad­di­tional sup­port can ap­ply to their school for spe­cial pro­vi­sions, with each case be­ing as­sessed on a case-by-case ba­sis.”

Victoria, Western Aus­tralia, Queens­land and Tas­ma­nia ed­u­ca­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives said they had no plans in the near-term to im­ple­ment on­line ex­ams.

A spokesman for NSW Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Rob Stokes said be­yond a niche “sci­ence ex­ten­sion” course that would con­duct on­line ex­ams next year, there were no plans for a larger roll­out.

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