Pupils can perform at more than seven years above their expected academic level by using the internet, a pioneering study has concluded.
Professor Sugata Mitra found that eight- and nine-year-olds who were allowed to do online research before answering GCSE questions remembered what they had learned three months later when tested under exam conditions.
Now the Newcastle University academic is giving undergraduate-level exams to 14-year-olds, and has told TES that these students are also achieving results far beyond their chronological age.
Professor Mitra, whose famous Hole in the Wall experiment showed how children in a Delhi slum could learn independently if given access to the internet, argues that his latest work in the UK could challenge the entire exam system. A reliance on testing memory means that other cognitive skills are not being adequately stretched, he believes.
“Why do we have [memory-based] questions like this? Because it’s very convenient for an examiner,” Professor Mitra said, describing assessment in schools and universities as “a bit of a horror story”.
Tests of memory would become increasingly redundant in a world of ubiquitous internet-connected computing power, he added, arguing that the devices used by students would become harder to detect, as they moved from phones to watches and perhaps even smaller gadgets in the future.