This international school digitised their examination & assessment system – perhaps SEAB should consider doing the same

The recent news about the GCE O-Level examination scripts send to Cambridge Assessment in the UK going missing has reignited the conversation around the security of around transporting exam scripts halfway around the world to be graded.

Cambridge Assessment says they have strict security measures in place for transportation of exam scripts. But like any system that deals with humans, error is inevitable. In the case of the 32 missing GCE O-Level Chemistry scripts, an examiner ‘lost’ his bag on a train when another passenger accidentally took it.

One way to avoid a repeat of this is to go digital. The Global Indian International School (GIIS), an international school established in Singapore in 2002 offering Indian and international curricula, does exactly that. They use a system called IDEAS, which stands for ‘Integrated Digital Examinations & Assessment System. IDEAS manages the entire examination process from administering the exams to assessment.

Using a secure digital approach, which GIIS claims can scale up to military-grade security levels, IDEAS enables the school to create and conduct examinations using customised tablets.

The examination questions are delivered digitally to the tablet and is made accessible to the students at the designated time slot. That removes the hassle of delivering physical scripts which are at risk of being lost or stolen.

During the exams, students write down their answers on a QR-coded physical answer script which is then digitised using high speed scanners. The QR-code allows GIIS to keep strict control over the printing and distributing of answer scripts.

One the scripts have been digitised, they are securely distributed to the assigned examiners who can securely access them online anywhere in the world. Subsequently, the assessment grades are automatically uploaded on to the GIIS portal.

GIIS says that the implementation of IDEA has reduced the duration of delivery of question papers and the overall assessment process by over 70%. They add that the The turnaround time from the examination day to the results day is reduced from 2 weeks to 2 days since almost everything is done digitally.

Atul Temurnikar, Chairman and Co-Founder, Global Indian International School on how the education system can look into improving the current assessment process with the help of digital technologies, says:

“With digital transformation rapidly evolving the world around us, the education sector needs to constantly explore new ways to apply technology to the various processes – beyond just administrative tasks – to preserve academic integrity and deliver student benefits in real time. If there’s one thing these two incidents have taught us, it’s that the existing physical answer sheet marking system has been rendered archaic in the face of new digital tools capable of completing the task in a more standardised, accurate, and secure manner. We realised this a few years back and have incorporated technology to mitigate human error when handling test/ examination answer papers...

...The benefits of using such technology are clear: improved efficiency, reduced human error, and greater transparency, use wider resources from around the world, all of which contribute to the credibility of the assessment system.

In short, the education sector must learn to adapt these highly secure & efficient systems to hedge against such incidents and maintain the highest standards in delivery of education.”

It’s a forward-thinking, technologically savvy approach to examinations. Going digital, with ‘military-grade’ security, eliminates the hassle of physically moving papers around to be administered and graded. And with the scripts being digitised, the chances of them being stolen or going missing is greatly reduced.

The added advantage is also the environmental factor. GIIS has over 15,000 students across 20 campuses in Singapore, Japan, and UAE among others. They say that once IDEAS is implemented across all their campuses around the world, the total saving would amount to over 10 million assessment papers annually. That’s a over half a million question papers at a single campus each year.

So not only is the system secure, it is green too. Perhaps the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) could consider a similar solution, particularly for the assessments that are sent abroad to Cambridge in the UK to be graded.