CIE Politics - Why is Matriellez putting the exam papers online?
Exams are supposed to be a level playing field so that all candidates have an equal chance of passing the exams. In smaller private schools there are many issues where this is not true - mainly but not always because these smaller private schools won't pay CIE for the resources. Right or wrong the students suffer and CIE don't help. But when you think about it the cost of CIE membership is high for poorer schools, it is just that the cost of living difference throughout the world is prohibitive.
So my first reason for putting the papers online is for the students attending the schools who will not pay the CIE subscription for access to the CIE website. The students deserve the same chances as schools who do pay.
However there is a special case - Nigeria. If you have been to Nigeria then you will know Nigeria has endless problems and you don't know where to begin to solve them. CIE made the decision that no school in Nigeria could be a Centre, and that all contact with the CIE must be carried out through the offices of the British Council. Schools in Nigeria are expected to pay CIE to be a sub-centre - the schools arenot good enough to be a centre but they can pay the money for the exams. Is this a fair level playing field?
Matriellez had a discussion with an exams officer at a school in Nigeria. The Exams Officer told Matriellez “I don't know what would happen to the exams if our school ran them, I don't know what pressures would be placed on the exams officer but not allowing schools to be centres is just a bureaucratic copout on the part of the CIE. It causes more problems for the students than if the school ran the exams and were monitored. As you put it, it is not a level playing field.”
Let's try to understand what a centre is. A centre is a place where the exams are written. There are rules and regulations governing a centre so that CIE can “pretend” that conditions in all centres are the same. The Exams Officer explained that all schools in Nigeria were sub-centres so all materials are controlled by invigilators who are employed by the British Council.
“Why is this supposed to be better? The employees at British Council and invigilators temporarily employed by the British Council, why are they better than the school for the exams? Why not just monitor the centre more strictly if there is concern about corruption?”
Exams Officer “I don't know it never made sense to me. On the one hand I do believe that if I had been running the exams as a Centre I would have been placed under unreasonable pressures - even to the extent where I might have been encouraged to show papers to the students.
“But having said that introducing the British Council in as a middle step just made matters so much worse.”
“You did know what you were doing though?”
Exams officer “OK but monitoring could have solved the problem maybe.
“But knowing what I was doing made me aware of how bad it was to involve the middle step. You see the British Council had the same problems as anywhere else in Nigeria - they were no different.
Let me give you a couple of examples. An A level paper had to be resat - I presume because it was put on the internet.”
The exam boards have never addressed the international dateline issue. Suppose a candidate in Singapore sits their chemistry exam at 9.00 am, and then sneaks the paper out of the exam hall, scans it and puts it on the web - takes a couple of hours. Then the candidate's brother studying in England has 4 hours to read the paper and work out the answers before they go to their Centre in England to sit the paper. It is an impossible problem; it cannot be logistically solved because some centres are not organised enough.”
Exams Officer “ Yes that's true so repeating the paper was sound practice so long as there was a level playing field. But in Nigeria there wasn't, my students learnt the night before that they had to repeat the exam.”
EO “I just don't know. The repeat exam was on the Wednesday, I received a letter on the Tuesday from the invigilators, and the letter had been typed at the British Council on the Friday - but it was a holiday weekend.”
“What did you do?”
EO “The only recourse an Exams Officer has is to write a letter to the exam board asking that the students be given special consideration as there was not, as you put it, a level playing field. I did that but I could not send it to CIE because I was Exams Officer in a sub-centre.”
“So you had to send it to the British Council.”
EO “That's it. I gave it to the invigilator who gave it to the British Council' education officer who ……”
“So you got an acknowledgement from the CIE?”
EO “Nothing. So I found an email address on the CIE website and received a reply saying that all correspondence must go through the British Council. I was also on a CIE subject discussion group mailing list. I wrote to the moderator - same reply. I sent a letter to the mailing list and it was withdrawn.
So my students were worse off because the paper was repeated. I bet the students in Singapore had more than a day to revise.”
“It sounds very frustrating but you cannot criticise a system for one failure.”
EO “I know but the system just couldn't work, but it was never meant to. CIE had a problem, they had to cope with Nigeria. Some bright spark said that the british Council are reputable, let's run our exams through them. Problem solved. Sure it was solved on paper - someone had a strategy. Did it work? Did it matter that it worked?
"I have another example of system failure. One of my students was stupid, D came in an afternoon to an exam that started in the morning. The invigilators were sympathetic but what could you do?
"Now D is not the first student to come at the wrong time and she won't be the last. But most students who get the time wrong are not serious, D was grade A.
"Now I have attended exam meetings, and the exam boards always claim they are trying to be fair. They ask you for predicted grades as well. So I wrote to them. The subject she missed had 4 papers and she had already sat the others, I think. So she will have got 3 A's or B's out of 4, I felt certain she would have got a grade C - a pass.
"She failed they gave her a D. I couldn't believe it when I saw the results. Unless she had messed up the papers she did sit, the only way she could have got a D was if they had totalled her marks for the other three papers and moderated it as 4 papers.”
“I too would have thought she would have passed.”
EO “I wrote to the British Council, and I know the letter would get to the Education Officer this time as the invigilators were sympathetic. But no reply, no acknowledgement from CIE, and my mailing list letter ignored. So frustrating.”
“No level playing field.”
EO “Not at all. I even wrote to the TES when I had left the school but no-one was interested. The CIE doesn't have to have a level playing field in Nigeria.”
“You can just imagine CIE bureaucrats filing Nigerian stuff in the bin - Nigeria again!!”
If you take the money you must deal with the problems.