Thursday 30 April 2015 8:35 pm

Is a major qualification board’s chief right that pupils should be able to use Google in exams?

Mark Dawe, chief executive of OCR, says Yes

The pupils of today will not be relying on rote learning for success in the workplace. Everyone has a computer available to them and uses search engines; what matters is how they interpret results. We aren’t suggesting that this is a replacement for traditional assessment, but it’s about time that we moved from the solely traditional to twenty-first century analysis and synthesis.

Giving pupils the option to enhance their knowledge in order to better answer a question during an exam is not as daft as it sounds. In Denmark, 14 schools took part in a pilot study to use laptops during exams in 2010. Such a move would obviously require fundamental changes – the up-skilling of teachers and pupils, a definition of what constitutes cheating and more developed infrastructure.

But if we want to give pupils a real education, and also assess them in a way that befits the modern day, we need to stop being so short-sighted.

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, says No

This would ensure a dumbing down of standards. Assessment of subject knowledge should be at the heart of examinations. The coalition has promised that the new generation of public exams will be more rigorous and move away from the current “knowledge-lite” syllabuses.

Google-assisted exams might satisfy the technology-dependent among teachers and pupils, but it would be a retrograde step. Knowledge is fundamental to learning and it needs to be something that is brought to the examination hall, not found via Google as the exam is in progress.

Education attainment in our country is in crisis. Our 15 year-olds trail the best Asia-Pacific school systems by up to three years. Ancient wisdom tells us that “those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad”. Allowing pupils to use Google in their examination is a mad idea. Unless our nation is bent on self-destruction, it should be consigned to the computer trash bin.

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