New Zealand embracing mobile culture in education

9 11 2006

New Zealand’s education system seems to be more comfortable with mobile culture than almost any other in the world.

From the education system that came out with StudyTXT, a world-first information-on-demand SMS system for students at Auckland university, comes the announcement (via Stuff NZ) that secondary school students will be able to use SMS “text speak” in written examinations this year:

The second language of thousands of teenagers, text language usually incorporates abbreviated words and phrases such as txt for “text”, lol for “laugh out loud” or “lots of love” and CU for “see you”.

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) is still strongly discouraging students from using anything other than full English, but says credit will be given if the answer “clearly shows the required understanding”, even if it contains text speak.

However, “in some exams, including English, where the marking schedule specifically required candidates to demonstrate good language use, text abbreviations would be penalised.”

Essentially, this new New Zealand policy begins to separate content from presentation – except in cases where the very nature of the content being examined requires a demonstration of correct English language skills. As you’d expect, the bold move is causing some controversy – even among students themselves:

Christchurch teenager Cathy Adank, a Year 11 student at Avonside Girls’ High School, said most students would be surprised to hear text language was acceptable in some exams.

“That’s great. You’ll just be able to get your ideas out quicker. It’s so much faster; you can get through the exam faster,” she said.

Close friend Harriet Prebble did not agree. “I think it’s a terrible idea. When you start progressing in the world, people judge you on the written language, and spelling things incorrectly seems sloppy and lazy and gives a bad impression,” she said.

These are both insightful comments that go to the heart of the issue. On the one hand, the move encourages freedom and fluidity of expression, and recognises the merit of the ideas being recorded, and the understanding being demonstrated, even when recorded in a shorthand form. After all, the very nature of language is constantly evolving, and in time, we may hardly flinch at the integration of “text speak” with everyday language – indeed, I wonder how many readers picked up on the first student’s grammatically incorrect, but still communicatively effective wording (“get your ideas out quicker,” rather than “…more quickly”)?

On the other hand, it’s true that appearances count, and a well-presented paper, written in neat handwriting – and with proper English spelling and grammar – currently sets a good first and final impression.

What’s your opinion?

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2 responses

9 11 2006
Mobile Learning » You say tm8o, I say tmRto…

[…] I’ve been musing on my previous post about New Zealand’s education policy of allowing “text speak” in exams. […]

10 01 2008
» Create a free SMS auto-reply learning tool Mobile Learning

[…] previously blogged about StudyTXT, a system deployed at a number of New Zealand educational institutions (to whom it […]

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