Electronic testing, also referred to as computer-based testing is a test conducted using a personal computer or an equivalent electronic device. Since 2016, the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) has indicated its intention to introduce e-testing as the preferred mode of assessment for the region, given that a major platform of our education system is to produce citizens who are globally competitive and innovative.
There are several benefits to the use of e-tests as opposed to the traditional paper-based tests. These include improved quality since the medium allows for use of a wider variety of stimuli and response formats, including audio. The availability of a wider range of media formats can add to the authenticity of tests, thereby providing for a more accurate judgement of student competence.
Given the reality of today’s ‘screenage’ generation, it would make perfect sense to deliver curriculum and administer tests using this format. The rapid advances in digital communication technologies has resulted in young persons being forced via their innate desire for inquiry to master the use of these media as basic life-skills.
E-tests would therefore represent a natural development of the education system in response to the changing task environment and would be a lot more relevant to the needs of the student. Throughout the world there is a general trend toward the use of e-testing at all levels of the education system and consequently it would be wise to ensure that our students are not left behind.
Though not conclusive, there is also a mounting body of scientific evidence to justify the switch to e-testing. Several studies seem to indicate that not-withstanding the range of variables, students perform better on average on e-tests when compared to traditional paper-based tests. One such variable that was identified as a reason for improved performance is computer familiarity. This finding would thus have implications for curriculum delivery and routine assessment at the level of the school.
Having recognised this, and in order to compensate for economic disparities among the student population, as we in Trinidad and Tobago prepare to make the switch to e-testing, the authorities have made laptops available to the nation’s schools for the delivery of curriculum, inclusive of routine assessments, along with an extensive programme of teacher training. Albeit late in the game, it is a welcome initiative and would serve to be the foundation of the transformation that is being contemplated.
Unfortunately, along with teacher apathy and a general tendency of many older teachers to be resistant to change, especially when it comes to overcoming tech-phobias, there are outstanding issues of infrastructure that continue to hinder the full-scale implementation of this initiative.
These would have been highlighted by TTUTA since 2016 when the idea was first floated by the authorities. These deficiencies were subsequently confirmed by the Ministry of Education via its internal survey to determine readiness of the system to make this significant switch. Similar concerns were expressed by our regional counterparts.
As teachers we were once again concerned that in order for what was always accepted as a progressive step in the education thrust, the requisite groundwork must be put in place, lest the initiative fails or falls short of its objective.
It is in this context that TTUTA calls on the authorities to ensure that issues such as internet connectivity, speed and reliability are dealt with in an expeditious manner. Schools that are located in remote parts of the country are already being placed at a disadvantage in their quest to become ready to make this all-important change.
In addition, the availability of technical support personnel in all secondary schools continue to remain a challenge. Some secondary schools are still without the services of resident IT technicians. The availability of funds for the acquisition of related infrastructure to fully harness the use of the laptops continue to pose a challenge since schools have not received releases since January 2019.
Many schools are forced to raise funds to procure these services, including the engagement of private internet providers to treat with issues of internet reliability.
While the authorities have given 2022 as the year when our students will switch to CSEC’s e-testing, there is still a lot of groundwork to be done to get all our students ready to engage in such assessment. Indeed, many schools have begun to conduct e-tests on a termly basis in an effort to ensure that both students and teachers are comfortable with this adjustment. The introduction of e-tests should not be to the disadvantage of any student.