by Ng Jing Yng, TODAY
TODAY reports: Students should be allowed to access the internet during exams, an education technology expert has suggested, as part of an overhaul of exam formats to assess students’ critical thinking skills rather than their ability to memorise information.
SINGAPORE: Students should be allowed to access the internet during exams, an education technology expert has suggested, as part of an overhaul of exam formats to assess students’ critical thinking skills rather than their ability to memorise information.
Professor Sugata Mitra, famed for his successful “hole-in-the-wall” experiment for children in remote areas to learn on their own with the help of the internet, said today’s exam system is still a reflection of the past.
At the World Educational Leadership Summit on Wednesday (April 8), Prof Mitra flashed questions from Primary Six exam papers he extracted from online to show that the answers are easily available online. Students might not need these information later on in life too, he added.
“We need to ask questions to which there is no answer”, Prof Mitra told TODAY on the sidelines of the conference.
Allowing the use of the internet and discussions during exams, he said, would sharpen students’ critical thinking skills. The entire world’s library is at one’s finger tips in the digital age, and working styles have also transformed into a greater emphasis on collaboration, he added.
Prof Mitra, who was awarded the prestigious US$1 million (S$1.35 million) TED prize in 2013 to innovate education solutions, said a revamp of exam formats would also spark a revolution in how curricula are designed right up to the way teachers deliver lessons.
There will be resistance to such a change, he acknowledged. “It will upset the apple cart,” he said, noting that governments will be fearful of experimenting as it means overhauling the entire system and parents might protest against it.
But small steps can be taken, such as through experimenting with computer science exams, he suggested.
STANDARDISED TESTING CONFLICTS WITH SPURRING DIVERSITY
Professor Yong Zhao, another speaker at the conference, also questioned the relevance of standardised testing and how it conflicts with the objective of spurring diversity among students.
The head of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the University of Oregon cited the United States’ unimpressive performance in international tests in contrast with the fact that the country has produced many mavericks and inventors. “Do (test scores) tell the story of the nation’s future?” he asked. “Instead of looking at how successful you homogenise, look at how successful you diversify”.
Prof Zhao told TODAY that there could be more personalised testing, as well as getting students, teachers and parents to agree on what needs to be assessed. He also pointed out that universities and employers are already selecting intakes based on candidates’ unique talents rather than looking at only their test scores.
Questioning the sustainability of Singapore importing a large volume of foreign talent even for top management positions and its economy’s dependence on multi-national companies, Prof Zhao said reviewing the notion of standardised testing could produce more creative types to kickstart companies.