GREECE: Students may inspect marked papers

Students who have written university entrance examinations but harboured doubts about their subsequent results now have the opportunity to inspect their papers. This follows a much-welcomed decision by the Greek Education Ministry that should help dispel suggestions of favouritism or of tampering with candidates' papers.

The measure was announced during the summer and will take effect immediately, ending an extended period of secrecy and rumours of underhand practices and nefarious transactions. Despite these being extremely difficult to substantiate, they nevertheless often resulted in disappointment and bitterness.

Allowing students to inspect their papers, complete with examiners' comments and the appropriate grades, has been hailed as a step in the right direction. But there is also a perception the move is not progressive enough.

Students will be permitted to inspect their papers after completing an application and paying a fee at designated offices of the Secondary Education Directorate. They will then receive photocopies of their papers and, although they may make brief notes, they are prohibited from removing the photocopy, making a copy of it or recording it in any other way. Moreover the grade recorded on the paper, fair or unfair, objective or subjective, cannot be altered.

This procedure raises various questions: Why are students not permitted to remove the photocopy? A brief look at their answers, under supervision, might still leave doubts in students' minds, whereas if they are allowed to take away the photocopy, they can inspect it at leisure, refer to books and sources, and dispel any doubts regarding the accuracy or not of their answers.

The lack of provision to remedy obvious cases where grading is found to be inaccurate, whether intentional or not, to a large extent nullifies the education authorities' commendable initiative of allowing students to see their papers and to verify the accuracy of their answers.

If nothing else, the restrictions betray a lack of confidence by the authorities in the grading system. Either it is reliable, in which case students will benefit from inspecting their papers; or it is not and the authorities are afraid it will cause shockwaves and perhaps increase demands for re-grading they will be unable to satisfy.

In the first case, the students' confidence in the process of examinations will be restored and rumours of underhand practices will cease. In the second, however, if there is an obvious discrepancy in the awarded grade and the authorities refuse to make a correction, particularly if it will influence the course the student is able to follow, it will confirm perceptions the exams lack objectivity.

Inevitably, this will increase students' sense of unfairness, bitterness and disappointment. Nevertheless, the authorities have taken a first decisive step in the right direction: towards more openness and participation. But they the courage to go further. Only then will the measure be proved effective and help eradicate the public's perception that more often than not the exams are neither fair nor equal.