Should students be allowed to use Google during exams?

The head of a UK exam board thinks so, but others dismiss the controversial idea as 'a nonsense'

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Students should be allowed access to Google in exams to reflect the way the world is changing, the head of one of Britain's major exam boards has said.

Mark Dawe, the chief executive of the OCR exam board, said it is "inevitable" that children will be allowed access to the internet during exams in the coming years.

"It is more about understanding what results you're seeing rather than keeping all of that knowledge in your head, because that's not how the modern world works," he told Radio 4's Today programme.

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He said things like Google and calculators allow teachers to assess a child's ability to use the tools to draw on the knowledge they already possess.

"When you're asking questions where you know there's access to the internet, you ask different questions,” he explains. "It's about interpretation, it's about discussion, it's about application."

Students would only have a limited time to use the search engine and not all papers would allow it, he said, comparing the situation to taking a book into an exam room. "In reality you didn't have too much time [to consult the book] and you had to learn it anyway."

This isn't the first time an academic has suggested bringing the internet into exam halls. Last year, the dean of applied physics at Harvard University argued that children should be able to access the internet and discuss questions with friends, because exams are setting them up to "fail at life", the Daily Telegraph reports.

However, Dawe faced stiff opposition from the Campaign for Real Education, which dismissed his idea as "a nonsense". The country is facing a "crisis" in education standards and this would only lead to further "dumbing down", argued the campaign's chairman Chris McGovern.

"Exams should be about knowledge and understanding. It includes knowledge, therefore we do have to test what children are carrying in their heads.

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