Equity issues in public examinations in developing countries
Public examinations in developing countries play a critical role in the selection of students for participation in the educational system. The exams dictate what is taught, how it is taught, and what is and is not learned. They are academic, have little reference to the everyday lives of the students, are limited to pencil-and-paper tests, and are biased toward high-achievers. Thus, students who leave school at an early stage are provided wtih inadequate opportunities for acquiring relevant knowledge and skills. This study identifies practices associated with examinations that may create inequities for some students. These include scoring procedures, the use of culturally inappropriate questions, fee requirements, private tutoring, exams in a language unfamiliar to the student, and a variety of malpractices. Quota systems that deal with differences in performance associated wtih location, ethnicity, or language group membership also create inequities for some students. The report concludes that the limited available evidence does not indicate that examinations create inequities between genders and that ranking schools on the basis of students' examination performance may not provide a fair assessment of the work of schools.