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H-Net Community: Building Bridges

Public Statement from H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences OnLine on
the Shift by ETS to Computer-Based Educational Testing in Africa

By Mark Kornbluh, Executive Director

Established in 1993 to facilitate the use of the Internet to enhance teaching and research, H-Net is by far the largest online consortium of scholars and teachers in the humanities and social sciences. H-Net is firmly committed to international collaboration and scholarly exchange. It is actively engaged in partnerships throughout Africa to facilitate the development of Internet resources, training, and networking for higher education.

H-Net is committed to the appropriate use of computer technology. As a result, H-Net is deeply concerned about recent changes in how the Educational Testing Service administers the TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, and other tests necessary for admission to American universities. While the shift to computer based testing can bring increased efficiency in management, such a shift must take into account accessibility to computer resources and ensure that participants are not unduly disadvantaged by administrative changes. ETS's decision to shift immediately to computer based testing administered through Sylvan Learning Centers is particularly problematic for Africa where:

  1. Permanent Sylvan testing centers are present in only 14 of the 46 Sub-Saharan African countries;
  2. Mobile test units are not available in all of the remaining 32 countries;
  3. Mobile test units in many cases will offer only one test date per year, and are scheduled randomly with no apparent linkage to the academic calendar;
  4. Travel to such test units can be next to impossible for prospective students.
We are also worried that the increased costs that accompany the switch to computer-based testing will make it financially impossible for many more Africans to apply.

H-Net is therefore asking ETS to reconsider its decision to shift immediately to computer-based testing and to guarantee at a minimum that:

  1. All African students can take tests within 200 km of their homes and in their home countries;
  2. TOEFL, GRE and GMAT and other such tests be offered on a regular basis throughout the year.
Additionally, we ask that ETS research the impact of the shift to computer-based testing on students who have never worked with a computer previous to the test. We are deeply concerned that this shift along with the higher fees will substantially disadvantage African students.

It is urgent that this matter be resolved as quickly as possible so that we do not lose a full year or more of foreign exchange students.

To contact ETS and express your views on this matter please send messages to:

Nancy Cole, President ETS, ncole@ets.org
Linda Pfister, Vice-President, International Development, ETS, lpfister@ets.org
Jonathan Reider, Chair, TOEFL Advisory Group, jreider@stanford.edu
Eileen Tyson, Associate Director of TOEFL Program, etyson@ets.org

Mail can also be send directly to Members of the Board of Trustees for ETS:

Dr. Paul A. Elsner, Chair
Chancellor, Maricopa Community Collegues
P.O. Box 13349
Phoenix, AZ 85002-3349

Dr. Blandinea Wiggenhorn, Vice Chair
Senior Vice President of Training & Education and
President, Motorola University
6900 N. Loop 1604
W. San Antonio, TX 78249-0600

Mr. Richard E. Cavanagh
President and Chief Executive Officer
The Conference Board
845 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10022-6679

Julius L. Chambers, Esq.
Chancellor, North Carolina Central University
1801 Fayetteville Street
Durham, NC 27707-3129

Dr. Kenji Hakuta
Professor, School of Education,
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-1928

Dr. N. Gerry House
Superintendent, Memphis City Schools
2597 Avery Avenue
Memphis, TN 38112

Dr. Henry M. Levin
Director, Accelerated Schools Program
Center for Educational Research,
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-1928

Dr. Arthur E. Levine
President and Professor
Teachers College
Columbia University
525 W, 120th Street
New York, NY 10027-6625

Ms. Karen Pittman
Senior Vice President, International Youth Foundation
7014 Westmoreland Avenue
Takoma Park, Maryland 20912

Mr. Hugh B. Price
President and Chief Executive Officer
National Urban League
120 Wall Street
New York, New York 10005

Dr. Harold T. Shapiro
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1098

Dr. Gary H. Stern
President, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
90 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401

Dr. Debra W. Steward
Vice Provost and Dean
Graduate School, North Carolina State University
Box 7102
Raleigh, NC 27695-0001

John F. Jennings, Esq.
Director, Center of Education Policy
1001 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036

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