Thursday, June 04, 2009

Lessons from an Examination Leak

It is examination season in Ireland and thousands of 18 year olds are taking the official state examinations (the Leaving Certificate) that will set them on the path towards college education or a career.

Yesterday there was an error made in one school which resulted in a small number of students seeing an examination paper the day before it was officially intended to be sat. Once the error was spotted it was decided to pull the compromised paper nation-wide and replace it with a backup which has resulted in a delay for every student taking this exam. There are checks and balances in place to prevent this type of thing happening but what ever went wrong it appears that human error in one small school has resulted in disruption for every student who is taking this exam. You can read more about the story here.

The story is currently getting its 15 minutes of fame on Irish media but two things strike me about the occurrence.

Firstly it is noticeable that within hours of the leak a storm of txt and internet messaging had spread key details of the leaked exam nationwide. I may come from the generation who created the modern information society but I am still amazed at what it can do. These kids have never known anything else.

My second observation that there is clearly something wrong with an education system whose critical output can be irrevocably compromised by a single short text message. Educationalists have long agreed that examinations are not ideal . The problem is we can't seem to settle on a better alternative.

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