Pearson and Its Palm Scan (and More)
As the “stakes” in “high stakes testing” increase, then the imposition of testing company rights over the rights of the individual will increase. (Educational blogger Anthony Cody addresses this idea in his March 15, 2015, post entitled, High Stakes Testing makes Surveillance Necessary.)
Let us consider how Pearson is guaranteeing the security of its product, the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic).
Here is a description of PTE Academic from the pearsonvue.com website:
PTE Academic is a computer-based test which assesses the Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing abilities of non-native speakers of English who need to demonstrate their academic English capability — often to obtain places at English-speaking universities, higher education institutions or as proof of their language ability for a visa application.
PTE Academic is endorsed by, and the preferred test of GMAC® — the owners of the Graduate Management Admission Test® (GMAT®). The test is recognized by universities and colleges worldwide and is officially approved by the UK Border Agency for Tiers 1, 2 and 4 visa applications.
So, the PTE Academic is related to the high-stakes outcomes of American and other English-speaking university admission, and to the obtaining of visas for entrance into English-speaking countries.
The PTE Academic test takers are typically 16 or 17 years old, an age generally considered internationally to be that of minors. Thus, to ensure it has a solid-legally-binding PTE Academic test-taker contract, Pearson must have a written agreement from the parents or guardians of these minor-aged test takers.
Here is a copy of that agreement (click on image to enlarge):
So that it is easy to view, I have the verbatim text of what parents and guardians of minors taking the PTE Academic are agreeing to by signing the form:
I am the parent / legal guardian of the above named PTE Academic test taker, who is aged either 16 or 17 years old and wishes to take the Pearson Test of English Academic. I understand and acknowledge that all individuals planning to take PTE Academic are required to agree to all of the terms and conditions contained in the PTE Academic Test Taker Handbook (available to download at http://www.pearsonpte.com) and that these terms and conditions are legally binding.
In my capacity as the parent / legal guardian of the PTE Academic test taker:
1. I hereby authorize the PTE Academic test taker to take PTE Academic.
2. I confirm that I have carefully reviewed the PTE Academic Test Taker Handbook, including, but not limited to, those provisions relating to testing, score cancellations, privacy policies, and the collection, processing, use and transmission to the United States of the PTE Academic test taker’s personally identifiable data (including the digital photograph, fingerprint, signature, palm-vein scan, and audio/video recording collected at the test centre) and disclosure of such data to Pearson Language Tests, its service providers, any score recipients the PTE Academic test taker selects, and others as necessary to prevent unlawful activity or as required by law.
3. I consent to, and agree that the PTE Academic test taker will comply with and be bound by, all of the terms and conditions in the PTE Academic Test Taker Handbook. [Emphasis added.]
Here is the “biometrics” language Pearson uses in the English version of the PTEA Test Taker Handbook referenced in the contract:
What to expect on the day of your test: Biometrics: Because of the nature of the tests delivered at Pearson test centers, test taker photographs and biometrics will be collected. Biometrics may include, but are not limited to: electronic signature capture and palm vein scanning.
All of this “security” reads like PTE test-taking minors are seeking restricted access to the Pentagon.
One might also think that Pearson has assumed the role of Border Control.
But no, this 1) fingerprinting, 2) palm-vein-scanning, and/or 3) voice/visage recording is for a test of English language ability for non-native-English-speaking minors who are likely seeking to study abroad.
NCS Pearson may engage other third parties who will process your data, such us the organizations that run the test centers where you will go and take your test, which we call “third party testing centers”. These centers may also provide unrelated services and may collect and use personal data for other purposes under different terms and policies.
If the “stakes” of “high stakes testing” continue to increase in American classrooms by way of ever-increasing focus on testing at the expense of any non-tested educational experiences, then yes, America, we could well be required to up the ante on protecting testing by ever-increasing surrender of information that most individuals never before considered divulging to corporate entities.
Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.