Hundreds of jobless teachers were overlooked for work marking exam papers this summer in favour of retired staff.
Retired teachers were drafted in to fill 364 A-Level and GCSE examiner roles — despite 1,175 teachers being on the dole across Northern Ireland.
The body responsible for exams, CCEA, said it engaged the “most appropriately qualified staff”.
However, SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt — who sits on the Assembly’s education committee — said there is no evidence to suggest younger teachers in need of work were not up to the task.
“No case has been made which states exam marking cannot be done by teachers who either are not employed or are at an earlier stage in their career,” he said.
“I think the system should be looking to provide employment opportunities for those who are currently not able to secure work.”
According to figures released by the CCEA, 3,908 teachers were recruited to mark GCSE and A-Level exams during 2011/12.
Some 364 of these — around one in 10 — were retired.
Overall, some £4,065,000 was paid to teachers who marked exams, with a further £32,890 handed over in bonus payments. The CCEA was unable to state how much was paid to those who had retired.
The statistics were released to this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act.
Mr McDevitt said there was an ongoing tendency within the education system to look to retired teachers to provide substitute cover and temporary vacancies.
“The question is whether it is always the case that you need someone who has already given a life service and benefited from a retirement package over someone who is coming in new and could do the job equally as well,” he added.
A spokesman for the CCEA said there was no policy which favoured retired teachers.
“Each year we employ in the region of 5,000 staff who work with us to mark, process and grade half a million scripts,” he said.
“To ensure that young people get the grades their work deserves, CCEA engages the best and most appropriately qualified staff to undertake these important roles.
“There is no policy in place that actively favours retired teachers over part-time or unemployed teachers. The great majority of CCEA’s examiners and markers are practising teachers.”
3,336 teachers employed as examiners — 347 are retired
3,713 teachers employed as examiners — 354 are retired
3,908 teachers employed as examiners — 364 are retired