Tech-savvy British students forgetting how to write

September 7th, 2008 - 3:35 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 7 (IANS): Writing in long-hand is becoming a vanishing art among British students, thanks to mobile texting and computer literacy. So acute is the problem that thousands of them are asking for ’scribes’ to write their examination papers for them.

Education groups are now asking for introduction of hand-writing classes to see that students do not altogether forget how to write, more so during examination time.

The number of requests for ‘ghost writers’ to help pupils do exams rose from 28,324 in 2005 to 40,215 last year, while the number of students asking to use a word processor or computer also soared by more than 50 per cent, to 21,713.

Requests for practical assistance short of a ’scribe’, such as a teacher sitting in to help a pupil to write legibly, also increased.

The rise in requests for handwriting has prompted Ofqual, the new regulator of exams in England, to promise it will monitor the position. “The number of candidates approved for access arrangements has increased this year.”

To satisfy examiners that a request for a scribe is valid, a candidate must either have a physical disability, a sudden injury or be assessed by a qualified psychologist or specialist teacher.

They are eligible for a ’scribe’ if they can prove they cannot write more than 10 words a minute.

Experts say more scripts than ever are illegible because the email and text generation are unable to write properly by hand. Teachers marking this summer’s English, drama and citizenship GCSEs for the Edexcel exam board reported: “Some handwriting is a pleasure to read but an increasing minority is bordering on the illegible.”

They added: “Centres might wish to consider the use of scribes or word processors in more cases - especially for those candidates with known handwriting difficulties.”

In a report on this year’s English exam, Edexcel said: “Centres should continue to stress to candidates the importance of clear handwriting which is not too small … The actual quality of handwriting in some instances is such as to make responses virtually illegible.”

Their concerns mirror those expressed by Scottish examiners, who have called for handwriting classes to be reintroduced because so many pupils cannot write longhand. They say teenagers who spend hours each week sending emails and text messages have lost the ability to work with pen and paper. As a result, a large number of higher exams in English could not be marked because of illegible handwriting.

Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, told The Independent: “This suggests to me that youngsters should be spending less time on computers and more on improving their handwriting skills.

“Examinations are supposed to be a test of basic skills and, if they can’t do the basics, they shouldn’t be getting someone else to do them for them. Emails and text messaging have their place but not at the expense of basic skills.”

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