Thursday, June 21, 2018

How far will we go to stop cheating using mobile phones in exams?

Anyone taking part in an exam (or even taking part in a quiz) is warned that mobile phones are not allowed under any circumstances in the exam - there are often severe penalties for anyone caught even having a phone on their person, even if they are not using it. It's a simple rule which most people follow. Obviously, there is huge temptation to use a phone in an exam if you think you can get away with it - nip out to the loo and do a quick Google search for an answer. Exam invigilators can't follow you into a loo cubicle. I'm sure smarter people than me can figure out other ingenious ways to use a mobile phone. How can this be stopped? Should honest people be penalised for the dishonesty of others?

Image source: Ysgol Rhiwabon
The Guardian today reports that Algeria shuts down internet to prevent cheating during high school exams. According to this article, "The whole nation of Algeria went offline on Wednesday for the start of high school exams, the first in a series of internet blackouts to stop the possibility of students cheating". Also "mobile phone jammers and surveillance cameras had been installed in locations where the exam papers were printed". Drastic action indeed - the whole country has no access to the Internet for three hours! I don't know anything about the level of cheating in exams in Algeria, but the article does say that the "2016 exam season was marred by widespread cheating, with exam questions published on social media before, or at the start of, the test". I expect that Algeria is not much different than other countries. It was also reported in The Guardian on 18th May that "Iraq shuts down the internet to stop pupils cheating in exams".

Try blocking access to the Internet for even just a few hours here, or in any European country, or the United States!!!

Cheating will always take place, but it is important to stress that not everyone cheats. Some people will have a strong sense of right and wrong, and will just not do it. Others will not do it for fear of being caught, while of course many people will have prepared well for an exam and not need to cheat. My sense is that current measures work very well and that we have to accept that a small minority will still attempt to cheat. Shutting down the Internet is too drastic a measure to work everywhere.

An alternative is to allow use of the Internet in exams!

My thoughts - no one else's.