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Jul 01, 2014

Improved speed and accuracy of exam marking in Ethiopia with DRS technology

Following the success of electronic marking of exams across parts of Ethiopia, Africa, the Southern Nations region of Ethiopia has started to equip itself with scanning and exam marking technology through UK specialists DRS Data Services. The technology is expected to significantly increase speeds of marking and the time it will take to deliver results for next year’s exams. Online registration tools, incorporating students’ photographic identification, as well as specially bar-coded multiple choice exam papers, will also help to combat fraud, said Araya Geberegziabher Mehari at the National Educational Assessment & Examinations Agency (NEAEA).

“Traditionally, all exams and registrations have been done manually, which takes a long time, and is subject to errors and sometimes cases of faked identity and fraud,” he said. “We want to give more assurance that important qualifications are officially recognised to the highest standards and delivered quickly.”

Twelve scanners each capable of processing up to 9,000 sheets an hour will be used to capture the data on around 2.5 million answer sheets and 400,000 registration forms across the Southern Nations. Students are provided with attendance cards and printed certificates too. The NEAEA - which is responsible for Grade 10 and 12 exams (GCSE and GCE A Level equivalents) nationally - is implementing the DRS Online Registration System in 2014 and hopes to start migrating from paper to online processes towards the end of this year.

The roll-out of the new technology for the Southern Nations region follows successful implementations in other parts of Ethiopia. The Addis Ababa Education Bureau (AAEB) has already managed to cut the time required to process exams for over 65,000 students by two-thirds using DRS technology. Formerly a three-month manual process, the new system registers students, scans and marks examination answer sheets, generates qualification certificates and reports results and statistics in less than a month.

Fekadu Fantaye from the AAEB said: “Before switching to the DRS examination system, it took 180 staff members up to 12 days to manually code all the answer sheets; then it took 300 people almost two months to complete the manual marking. A further 40 people were required for 18 days to write out all the certificates ready for distribution. Thanks to DRS, we needed just six markers and two staff members to print the certificates. The whole process only took 28 days.”

Around 2.5 million multiple choice question papers are being supplied to the Southern Regions, Ethiopia’s most rural region. The region still has high levels of illiteracy, particularly among women, according to data from Ethiopia’s most recent census in 2007, also supported by DRS technology.

“As education improves, so do the techniques used to monitor and assess millions more students across Africa benefiting from our systems,” said Steve Gowers, chief executive at DRS.