November 8, 2021
Pearson’s ‘Global Inclusion Week 2021’ (8-12 November) encourages all employees to build awareness of the diversity, culture, and behaviors that underpin our purpose of helping everyone achieve their potential through learning.
This year’s theme ‘Pearson Together: Strength in Difference’ is focused on building a global community where we can acknowledge and celebrate our differences. The week gives us a moment to reflect on how diversity and inclusion are central to the work Pearson VUE does every single day, in bringing critical credentials to people all around the world.
According to the World Bank, around 1 in 5 people around the world ‘experience significant disabilities….People with disabilities are more likely to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes such as less education, poorer health outcomes, lower levels of employment, and higher poverty rates1.’
Publishing exams in 47 languages, in 5,600 physical test centers, across 188 countries, are just numbers that highlight our global footprint. Inclusion reaches far beyond the availability of exams in a candidate’s language of origin, delivered in the country of their choice. Building truly inclusive environments requires collaborative expertise across our entire global industry, training across all organizational-layers, and regular (and honest) review.
With content development (such as preparing a set of exam questions), context is everything. Test-takers from diverse cultural backgrounds may struggle to fully understand the context of certain types of questions which may prevent them from demonstrating their full range of capabilities. Inclusive design (an approach to design that is user-centered, whether it be an exam or an app) is not just about making sure that the content is accessible. Exam delivery providers must look at every aspect of the candidate testing journey to ensure every step is accessible and inclusive. From when they first start exploring their testing options, to booking their test, through to checking in and sitting their assessment, and finally, accessing their score report, consistency is key.
Being inclusive also covers many different areas of exam delivery, including accessibility and the availability of different testing modalities. It might involve the provision of assistive technologies or accommodations. Computer-based testing, where the candidate accesses the test through a computer screen can provide an opportunity to make assessments more accessible than paper-based testing.
When it comes to evaluating or measuring a candidate’s performance in an exam, there are many questions that need to be asked. Does the test-taker meet competency standards to practice a profession? Did the candidates have equal access to the content of the test? Is the exam scoring truly fair and unbiased across the full range of candidate demographics? The data collected through assessments is not only used to evaluate a test-taker’s performance but also how well the exam itself, and the items within it, are performing. Psychometric tests are increasingly being used by large global employers to objectively measure candidates’ cognitive abilities, personality types, knowledge, and numeracy and literacy skills. Improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace should be a key consideration when developing the scoring methodologies for all certification and licensure programs.
As industry leaders, we must be honest with our experiences and keep sharing best practices to prevent bias in any of these areas - to support people in their professional or academic pursuits, and to help them fulfil their potential. Content development, test delivery, and measurement services are all critical components of providing a more inclusive experience for candidates from a variety of backgrounds and cultures or with specialist needs. The requirements of test-takers are becoming increasingly diverse. Across the global assessments industry, we need to collectively recognize these differences and find new ways to embed inclusion into every area of assessments.
Building inclusive environments to provide the best possible experience to candidates - it’s our common purpose.
1 https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/disability#1, World Bank, ‘Disability Inclusion’