28/07/20

Wales students could begin sitting their GCSE exams online, it was announced this week.

Exam regulatory body Qualifications Wales is currently consulting on the idea, which would involve a major shift for 16-year-olds sitting the tests in the future.

The proposed change would be part of the growing move towards technology and electronic assessment in the new curriculum, which is said to reflect the way teenagers live their lives.

Qualification Wales chairman David Jones said he believes we could see ‘significantly more’ electronic assessment in the future. However, they would first need to ensure that the technology works.

The new announcement follows the introduction of a new curriculum in Wales for children from three to 16, which will be taught from 2022. The change will replace traditional subjects with six ‘areas of learning and experience’ and is one of the biggest shake-ups of the school curriculum in decades.

Qualification Wales said that qualifications must be fit for purpose in a ‘fast moving world’.

Jones said: “It doesn’t seem right if children spend most of their life using technology and then once or twice a year they have to go back to do traditional examinations that are at least 50 years old.”

Of course, however, this new method of taking exams will not be without potential pitfalls. In May 2019, exam board WJEC had to apologise after a technical issue affected some students’ GCSE computer science exam in the Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff, Pembrokeshire and Rhondda Cynon Taff areas.

Jones commented: “There are concerns and risks. We saw last in year in Scotland there were problems around electronic assessment. So we need to make sure the technology works to be able to do qualifications online.

“But ultimately, at some point in the future, we have to have significantly more electronic assessment – or we risk being left behind by the rest of the world.”

Kids using laptops and tablets

GCSEs to still be called the same

The Future Generations Commissioner has suggested that GCSEs be scrapped altogether and replaced with other forms of assessment.

But Mr. Jones firmly believes GCSEs should still be called the same, to avoid any confusion.

“Right now we think we should stick with the name GCSEs,” he said.

“GCSEs are well-known and respected. What’s important is what’s inside the qualification.”