From Kent: > What's wrong with [external exams]? It's far better than driving out the > good teachers by taking away their academic freedom! Departmental finals > are also effective.
Kent, I realise this was a private email you sent me, but I am taking the liberty to post my reply to the list, as I am sure others may feel the same way that you do. And the discussion did start on the list.
An external exam takes away much more freedom than our system. The syllabuses have a nice blend of being prescriptive (eg I _have_ to teach the chain rule when I am teaching differential calculus) while still allowing a great deal of latitude (eg I can teach about Chaos within the topic of complex numbers).
I also have the opportunity (some would say the burden) of setting my own assessment. But I do have to be careful that the assessment is of a good standard, and differentiates between students. If the challenge of creating an excellent exam isn't motivating enough, knowing that it will be scrutinized by my colleagues certainly is! Professional pride counts for a lot here.
I also have the freedom to discount a student's results on a particular piece of assessment if there is justification, such as extended illness or a death in the family.
These freedoms would not be possible with an external exam.