Friday, 17 August 2007

Ear to the Ground

According to this fascinating article in the Telegraph, students are using hidden earpieces to cheat in school exams.

Apparently, "The wireless earpiece is so small it cannot be easily seen. Students using the device in an exam hall could be silently called on their mobile phone by an accomplice outside while they could talk back to them via a tiny microphone sensitive enough to pick up whispers."

These gadgets, sold by a Canadian-based company, are specifically targeted at students, with a view to helping them cheat in exams.

Naturally, speaking as someone who has never in my life cheated in an exam, and, indeed, has never needed to, I deplore any means of fiddling the results. That said, cheating has always gone on, and always will. In the end, it's the student who loses out.

But I find it amazing that anyone sitting exams in the UK - certainly, GCSE and A'Level exams - should need to cheat. Face it, GCSEs are hardly rocket science; they are the result of years of inadequate education, leading to a dumbed down qualification that is barely worth the paper it's printed on. If today's students really need to cheat in order to pass one of these lightweight exams, they have far greater problems than the lack of moral fibre that allows them to contemplate dishonesty.

GCSE results for this year will be unveiled in a few days, and I fully expect the media to be full of the usual mixed bag of "better than ever results" and "easier than ever questions" stories - it's so predictable that it's almost become a tradition. I can't help wondering if the Telegraph article, which extensively quotes Isabel Nisbet, director of regulation and standards at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, is a sort of preemptive strike on behalf of the QCA to explain away another embarrassingly high pass rate.

Certainly, Ms Nisbet has previously worked for such disreputable organisations as the General Medical Council, and would therefore be familiar with the technique of damage limitation via the press, even if she did not indulge in such things on their behalf herself. Then again, I must say that I agree with her sentiments on these little contraptions when she says, "the way in which this device has been advertised is absolutely disgraceful."

Yes, it is. But it's even more disgraceful that today's school-leavers should feel the need to use one in the first place. Maybe, if we taught them properly, and quit worrying about stressing the little darlings, they'd be able to cope with a depressingly simple examination like the GCSE - goodness only knows how they're ever going to cope with real life!

Billy Seggars.

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