Umalusi Annual Report 2008/09: briefing

Basic Education

26 October 2009
Chairperson: Ms M Kubayi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson firstly asked the Director General of Education to clarify media reports about his alleged resignation and he confirmed that these were incorrect, and that he would remain in his post as Director General of Education until expiry of his contract in 2011. He would not be applying for the post of Director-General of Basic Education, although he was acting in this post at present.

Umalusi, the quality assurance body for general and further education and training curricula and examinations, delivered its Annual Report for 2008/09 to the Committee, noting its mandate and the main performance areas. It generated income by issuing and verifying certificates, and had generated R46.4 million in the past financial year, of which there was a surplus. R5 million surplus was expected to be used over the next two years. All its audit reports since inception had been unqualified. It was audited by a firm approved by the Auditor-General. Members asked Umalusi to focus on the leakage of matric exam papers in Mpumalanga. Umalusi described in detail what its processes around security entailed, and emphasised that it had no jurisdiction over provincial departments, but only over their systems. All the security systems were in place, and the unfortunate incident had occurred through human intervention. The back up papers were distributed in the affected areas. The system for back-up papers was fully described. It confirmed that the Department was investigating the issue.

Umalusi further described the certification process for learners who graduated the National Senior Certificate in 2008, and noted that certificates were only issued in August due to changes in format. The research around the previous Higher and Standard Grades of Matric, and the new curriculum for the National Senior Certificate, was outlined. Umalusi also explained the maths system, with papers 1 and 2 being generally written and used for the final matric result, whilst Paper 3 contained more difficult concepts and was an optional extra.

Members asked a number of questions. These included substantial discussion of the maths papers, combined with the universities’ own tests, and whether Maths paper 3 could in future become the entrance examination for certain subjects. Members considered whether it should become compulsory in those schools that had suitably qualified people to teach the subject. Members also raised a number of queries around the exact role, capabilities and extent of the Umalusi processes, as compared to the role of the national or provincial departments of education, and whether the assessment went far enough. Members enquired about staffing matters, including the payment of the former CEO to undertake training of the new CEO, over a period of two months, salaries paid, whether the salaries should reflect those of the Department of Public Service and Administration, and other issues raised in the Annual Report. Questions were also asked about the level of certification, whether the trade qualifications being offered should require students to undertake language and IT assessments, or could be shortened to concentrate only on trade issues, what level these were intended to be, whether they should allow for transfer to university after completion, and the need also to offer training in basic artisan skills for the numbers of students who were either failing matric or were dropping out of school at earlier grades.

Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson thanked Mr Duncan Hindle, the Director General of Education, for his presence at the meeting. She noted her concern when hearing of the announcement of the resignation of the Director General (DG) of Education. She asked him to clarify the situation.

Mr Duncan Hindle said that he had also heard this through the media for the first time.  The report had been incorrect. He confirmed that he remained as Director General of Education, and as Acting Director General of the Department of Basic Education. He would not be applying for the post of Director General for Basic Education, and the Minister would take steps to fill that position. He would remain for the period of his contract as Director General of Education.

Ms M Kubayi (ANC) appreciated that information but asked for clarification in terms of the contract.

Mr Hindle responded that his contract was until 2011, but the Department of Education was in the process of being disestablished, so it depended on that process and the winding up process after that.

Umalusi: Annual Report 2008/09 presentation
The Chairperson noted that the Committee had expected the Chairperson of Umalusi to be in attendance.

Dr Mafu Rakometsi, Chief Executive Officer, Umalusi, replied that Umalusi were not aware that he was expected to attend.

The Chairperson asked Umalusi to please note that when they accounted to Parliament, especially in respect of the Annual Report, it was absolutely crucial that both the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) as well as the Chairperson of the Board must be present. It was wrong to proceed with the Annual Report without the chairperson of the Council coming to Parliament to give a full account.

Mr D Smiles (DA) asked Umalusi, in respect of the leaking of exam papers in Mpumalanga, whether qualifications and quality were compromised.

The Chairperson said this question could be answered after the presentation.

Dr Rakometsi introduced Ms Eugenie Rabe, Chief Operating Officer, Umalusi, and Mr Jeremy Thomas, Chief Financial Officer, Umalusi.

Dr Rakometsi summarised the purpose and mandate of Umalusi.

Ms Eugenie Rabe then continued with the presentation. She noted that Umalusi’s  Qualifications Curriculum & Certification Unit (QCC) was responsible for the authenticity of certificates and also the issuing of certificates. The unit also worked with the Research Unit around a project called Maintaining Standards, which was also tabled. This was a report up to the writing of the National Senior Certificate (NSC) for the first time last year.
The research benchmarked the six gateway subjects, the new curriculum for NSC versus the previous curriculum for Senior Certificate, in order to establish the levels once the Standard and Higher Grades had fallen away. The research had compared the standards and content of the two curricula, had examined any overlaps to determine whether past norms were valid. The report also compared the standard and depth and spread of questions across the two systems, to determine whether the new exam papers tended to the level of standard or higher grade.

The Chairperson asked what those findings were, and whether they were at a satisfactory level.

Ms Rabe responded that of the six gateway subjects the majority were found to sit somewhere between standard and higher grades and the spread was good. Physical science tended to veer more towards the higher grade. The curriculum for maths changed substantially, not so much in the content but the way in which it was packaged. Papers 1 and 2 examined the majority of learners, and the more difficult maths was moved to Paper 3. The third paper was optional. Learners wanting to enhance their maths pass, and wishing to enhance their chances of getting into certain programmes at university, such as engineering programmes, would elect to write Paper 3. Because the more cognitive aspects had been moved to Paper 3, Papers 1 and 2 were not as difficult as the former Higher Grade Maths had been. Currently 200 000 people were writing maths, where previously about 40 000 had written.

The Chairperson asked how the results would be posted.

Ms Rabe replied that Maths 3 was reported separately. Papers 1 and 2 counted towards passing matric, but Paper 3 was reported as an extra, but not included in the overall matric result.

Ms Rabe noted that in the previous year, 778 445 certificates were printed across qualifications, excluding subject certificates. Learners who failed matric were still issued with certificates for the subjects they had passed. 171 858 certificates were verified.

Ms Rabe then noted that the Evaluation and Accreditation Unit (E&A) was responsible for the accrediting and monitoring of private institutions, independent schools, private Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges and private adult learning centres.

The Chairperson asked what was monitored.

Ms Rabe replied that the monitoring examined whether the institutions were actually offering the qualifications they claimed to be offering, whether there were sufficient staff with sufficient qualifications, whether the institutions had equipment and facilities to offer the qualification they claimed to be offering (often not the case) and a check on the financial statements, as well as the marketing material.

Ms Rabe then noted that there were two phases to accreditation. Provisional accreditation looked at issues of compliance. The second phase looked more closely at the quality of delivery and quality of programmes being offered. In the first phase, Umalusi looked at the suitability of the principal, whether teachers were registered with the  South African Council of Educators and were sufficiently qualified, whether the facilities were located in an area that was suitable for a school and whether the required facilities for delivery were in place. Furthermore, it examined whether the schools were registered with the Department of Education (DOE or the Department), and if they could conduct exams reliably. Further aspects concerned moderation of internal assessment, and clustering. 450 independent schools were monitored, and were already provisionally accredited. If the annual reports of the schools suggested that they were compliant, then Umalusi would visit the sites to verify whether what they were claiming was in fact correct. Umalusi only touched on the public system through the quality assurance assessment.

Although Umalusi always had a researcher that did projects; this unit was only established last year.

Mr Jeremy Thomas, Chief Financial Officer, Umalusi, then briefed the Committee on Management Support Structures. He explained that Umalusi was split technically into national operations and corporate services.  Umalusi had unqualified audit reports since its inception. For the year 2008/09, the total income was R46.4 million; of which R5 million was surplus that should be used over the next two years.

Dr Rakometsi continued with the presentation on the future. She touched on the leakage of papers in Mpumalanga. During the course of last week Umalusi received a report through the Department of Basic Education that the Maths 1 and 2, Accounting and Physical Science papers had been leaked in Mpumalanga, and that the Department would send its Irregularities Committee to investigate the extent of the leakage and how far that comprised the examinations.

Subsequently, notice was received from the Department that those papers had compromised the examinations and would be replaced. That meant that all provinces already in possession of those papers would need to have replacement papers sent. Those had already been externally moderated by Umalusi to preclude the possibility of some of those papers having reached Cape Town. Those three papers were replaced in Mpumalanga.

Umalusi was not involved in the investigations done by the Committee, but checked the rigour of the investigation and the authenticity of the Committee’s findings as against the policy of running the examinations, was happy with the decision taken, and had given consent to the back up papers.

Dr Rakometsi indicated that even before the leakage of those papers the system had been quality assured. Umalusi had ensured that the setting of the papers was done according to the subject assessment guidelines and also according to the National Curriculum Statement, which was done through the external moderation of those papers.

Before examinations commenced Umalusi sent officials to visit all provincial education departments, to check whether the correct procedures had been followed for registration of candidates, compilation of continuous assessments, appointment of markers, and marking venues and venue manager appointments. It also checked the safekeeping of the examinations material, the appointment of trained invigilators and  monitoring of the examinations. Umalusi had found that all the provincial education departments were ready. The Mpumalanga incident was very unfortunate and could only be accounted for by human beings who compromised the system.

One of the issues high on the agenda of Umalusi and the Department of Basic Education was the certification of learners who graduated with the National Senior Certificate in 2008. This certification process was only concluded end August 2009, because of the revised format of the certificate, and in future, certificates would be issued on time. Umalusi had requested the Minister to allow the results to be released later in 2009. Results had only been released in the same year, from 2000, to obviate any problems concerned with Y2K issues, but this did compromise the quality assurance processes.

Umalusi was looking for another funding model, and had proposed a change to a quality assurance levy instead of a certification fee. The latter had depended on the number of learners who passed, without taking account the quality assurance of the whole process. All learners who benefited from the system should be paid for.

The Chairperson asked for clarification of the fraud in the amount of R44 695 mentioned in the Annual Report (Page 40) and what steps had been taken.

Mr Thomas responded that it was an internal SARS fake fraud scam last year. The organisation received a deposit into its bank account to that amount, supposedly from SARS, and was then called by an individual to indicate that the money was incorrectly deposited. Umalusi subsequently asked for documentation to be faxed to prove that it was a SARS deposit. Duly authorised documentation was received, and Umalusi then refunded the amount. Although this amount had appeared as a deposit on the bank statement, the cheque making the deposit was not honoured. By that stage, Umalusi had effected the refund. It immediately reported the matter, and it was under investigation by South African Police Service (SAPS). It was suspected that an employee of SARS was involved. Umalusi's audit committee and Council agreed that the amount should be written off for the moment, but that the matter should be pursued with SAPS. Umalusi had since changed its policy to ensure that no amounts could be refunded before remaining in the bank account for 30 days.

The Chairperson asked with whom salary increases were negotiated, as they were quite substantial.  She also noted that there was movement in the middle of the year in terms of appointments, and there seemed to be two CEO salaries paid.

Mr Thomas replied that the previous CEO, Dr Lolwana, had resigned as at end December last year, but was asked to remain on the payroll for two months to ensure a proper handover to the new CEO, who took office on 1 January.

In respect of salaries, Umalusi adopted the salary scales determined by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). The Minister appointed the CEO, and the rest of the staff and their remuneration were the responsibility of the Council. Salaries were benchmarked according to DPSA and were currently under review by the Council, because Umalusi staff were becoming unionised and wished to negotiate with the employer. Umalusi was considering whether it should continue adopting the DPSA increments on an annual basis, or openly negotiate with the unions.

The Chairperson said there might have been appointments in the middle of the year, as Mr Naidoo's salary of R451 000 in 2008 had differed by R150 000 in 2009.

Mr Thomas responded that that in line with DPSA changes that took place over that period.

The Chairperson was concerned about these large increases. She expected that the figures should have been right-sized, and if this was so, then large increases in terms of DPSA dispensations would not be expected. If Umalusi wanted to opt out of that system, it would have no such assurances. Another cause for concern was that over and above those senior management and executive posts, the rest of the staff would probably demand further increases from their unionisation. She wondered how Umalusi would afford this, and what it was discussing with DOE, as her constant worry was that less was going into projects and outputs, as opposed to salaries and infrastructure.

Mr Thomas said Umalusi had the same concerns, and therefore had an unwritten rule that the salary bill should never become more than 50% of budget. For this year it was about 42% of budget. There was always the concern as to how to balance core functions and outputs versus salaries.

The issue of negotiations around salaries versus the DPSA dispensation had not been concluded as yet. This was the responsibility of the Remuneration Committee to decide on the future system. The main issue to be discussed at Council was how to ensure a sustainable operation in the future. He confirmed that, in light of the adjustments in the past financial year, Umalusi did not foresee any major adjustments to any salaries because the benchmarking exercise had already been done, and there were no expectations of major increases or shifts, other than cost of living increases.

The Chairperson said she would hold Umalusi to that. She asked that the next Annual Report should track the salaries, not just in the year under review, but over five years, so the Committee could see the longer-term trajectory.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) was also seriously concerned with the salary increases. The manner in which Umalusi introduced salary increases must be looked into, as the increments, compared to the budget, were worrying.

Mr Skosana said there seemed to be a lack of monitoring in the exam section in Mpumalanga. This was the third time there was a problem here, and he asked what measures had been put in place to prevent recurrence.

Dr Rakometsi indicated that the Mpumalanga Provincial Education Department needed to work better to put systems in place.

Mr Skosana also pointed out that the Maths 1 and 2, Accounting and Physical Science papers presumably covered the entire syllabus, so that setting another paper would be problematic. He asked how this would be monitored so it did not adversely affect results of learners.

Dr Rakometsi assured him that back up papers would not compromise standards. The actual papers and the back up papers were set at the same time, and they went through the same process as the internal moderation and external moderation. This was not done in a hurry but according to the examination cycle and processes.

He asked Umalusi to explain what caused the delay in releasing matric results, and how the marking centres were monitored.

Dr Rakometsi indicated that the delay in release of the results was caused by specific issues that provinces had to manage with the learners. For instance, a learner might be registered for maths but, shortly before the exam, decide to do maths literacy instead. That would affect the release of results for that learner. The delay could also be caused as a result of the school-based assessment on the part of the school, if a certain component was missing. Marking was quality assured at different levels. He explained in detail the process that ensured that learners were not advantaged or disadvantaged.

Mr Smiles sought clarity whether Umalusi was subject to auditing by the Auditor-General, and asked whether employee costs included salaries.

Dr Rakometsi explained that the salaries were linked to the increases agreed upon at the Bargaining Chamber run by the DPSA, and that Umalusi was aligned with what was happening in the public service. She confirmed that the Umalusi’s personnel split was more favourable than, for instance, some provincial education departments.

Dr Rakometsi clarified that before engaging external auditors, consent was obtained from the Auditor-General in writing and the audits were done according to the standards of the Auditor General.

The Chairperson hoped he was not suggesting a comparison with DoE. Institutions such as Umalusi did not rely entirely on government grants, and the Minister of Finance was not going to give a department leeway to invest money for future programmes, whereas Umalusi would operate in a different fashion and would be expected to build its reserves for enhancement of its objectives.

The Chairperson asked for a fuller explanation of Umalusi's role.

Dr Rakometsi responded that Umalusi did not monitor provinces, but monitored the examination system and the provinces’ state of readiness. It was clear from the problems encountered with the release of the results this year that Mpumalanga had a major problem. The Administrator of the province had since released the director in charge of examinations and also the systems administrator from their duties. Umalusi's role was to quality assure the processes. It could only do that once it received a report from the Department. Mpumalanga’s provincial department had the responsibility of ensuring that its systems compared with the rest of the provinces in terms of security, capturing the marks on time, and all other processes. He did not wish to pre-empt what the outcome of the current investigations would be and what Umalusi's input would be emanating from that report.

Ms A Mda (COPE)  noted that page 41 of the Annual Report reflected money assigned to three individuals, and she asked what positions they had held.

Mr Thomas explained that employee costs referred to were salaries. Mr Potterton was the previous Chief Operations Officer, who had resigned. The second was the Senior Manager in the SIR unit, who had left the organisation in 2008. The third was the Senior Manager for QCC and she had left the organisation in 2008.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) asked for a breakdown of the in-house training of staff that cost about R35 000.

Mr Thomas noted that questions and would send it on.

The Chairperson also requested an organogram of the staff.

Ms Mda said that she did not understand why Dr Lolwana received two extra months’ salary, as the current CEO was at the time of resignation already a part-time Council member of Umalusi. She would have expected the current CEO to be fully conversant with structures, and to have dealt with the hand-over during December.

Dr Rakometsi indicated that he had been a part-time Council member of the Council of Umalusi, while he was serving as Head of Department in the Free State Department of Education. He said that operating at the level of CEO and council member was very different. The Council only dealt with governance issues and not with the daily operations of the organisation, and there were only four council meetings per year. The council found it fitting that there should be that handover period in the organisation.

The Chairperson asked how many months this had been.

Dr Rakometsi said this had lasted two months, January and February 2009, during which Dr Lolwana took him through the processes of the organisation, linkage with the sister organisations, and prepared written reports as to the challenges and how things were done.

The Chairperson asked him to appreciate that this was a highly unusual set of circumstances. There had often been handovers but it was unusual to have two CEOs on the payroll, and it was worrying that it took two months for him to learn of the challenges, especially given his background.

Ms Mda believed Umalusi was negligent to let that happen, especially over that length of time, and expressed the view that Dr Lolwana should not have been paid a full salary for the second month, or could have been employed as a consultant. State money should not be wasted on two people for two months.

Dr Rakometsi respected the views expressed, but reiterated that it was a decision of the Council.

The Chairperson asked what the DPSA had to say about that.

Dr Rakometsi responded that he was not sure.

The Chairperson asked for a report on that issue and commented that the Auditor-General did not seem to have tackled that issue.

Ms N Gina (ANC) noted the surplus for 2008/09 was about R5 million, and asked if there were any projections for the following years as to how to use that.

Mr Thomas explained that Umalusi had an unintended surplus of about R5 million over the past two financial years, brought about mainly by the fact that Umalusi's income was certification fees and departmental grants. Depending upon when certificates were technically printed, or when provinces paid for their intended certificates, that surplus would reduce or inflate. Umalusi ended the financial year with a reserve of about R25 million. However, it had applied to National Treasury for retention of those surpluses. It was looking at utilising almost R11 million of that in the current financial year, and for the next two financial years expending the full R25 million. Although the surpluses looked very good at this point in time, the concern was sustainability.

Mr Smiles asked for clarification of the credit risk, he noted there were two types of customers, the provincial departments and the FET Colleges. In 2008 it was R9 million, in 2009 it was R5 million, and he asked if this meant that there had been performance, or if the total accumulated risk was at R14 million.

Mr Thomas said that credit risk, as explained in the Annual Report, was not accumulation of credit risk but was specific for each financial year. The main clients were the provinces that provided the bulk of the certification, and the FET institutions.

Mr Makhubele noted that he was concerned about the suggestion that Umalusi should move from the certificate fee to the levy system. He wondered if there was not another option.

The Chairperson agreed that it was worrying that income was reliant on the numbers of certificates issued, since there was a temptation to issue more certificates if the expenditure increased. The Chairperson asked how provinces paid for certificates.

Mr Thomas said provinces paid for certificates after their data sets were sent through for certification and Umalusi then invoiced them. Normally that was from March onwards, so some of them fell at the end of the financial year, and that would show some kind of inflation.

One of the main reasons of wanting to move towards a quality assurance levy was that, should a top slicing mechanism be possible with the National Treasury, that would curtail the issue of Umalusi having to collect monies from FET institutions. At present the DoE sent data sets for each FET institution to Umalusi to validate and certificate. However, Umalusi then had to invoice the individual colleges. Because of the merger of colleges over the past few years, the institutions did not pay on time. This entailed constant reconciliation and sending of statements and invoices on a monthly basis, which increased the expenses that Umalusi incurred to collect income, which technically should be government to government.

Mr Theuns Tredoux, Acting Chief Financial Officer, Department of Education, added that the normal examination costs, including provincial education departments, would be carried by the new Department of Basic Education would carry. Negotiations with National Treasury were addressing both the Umalusi costs as well as the normal examination costs. Some examination costs were directly linked to provincial education departments. National Treasury would rather want to top slice a portion of the current equitable share to provinces, and fund the Department of Basic Education baseline, and that process was ongoing.

Mr Thomas added some remarks on the quality assurance levy. In Education, there was a numbers game.  it was important to realise that in Education there was a numbers game. The service to learners spoke to numbers of learners. When Umalusi moderated and quality assured it had to look at the sample sizes, which must be scientific enough to ensure that its claims were backed up. It constantly checked numbers to ensure that the system could be leveraged for improvement, where necessary.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) commented that there was a difference between getting consent for an external audit and the Auditor-General himself outsourcing the work due to capacity issues.

Mr Thomas said Umalusi was aware that the Auditor General (AG) outsourced external auditing to private companies. Since its inception, Umalusi had opted for obtaining quotations and then consulting the AG, who would approve the outsourcing. The reports then provided did comply with the requirements of National Treasury, DPSA, and the Auditor General.

The Chairperson referred to consultation fees, which, although reduced from the previous year, were still significant. She asked if the consultants were doing the moderation, and if so, it was worrying that Umalusi was not employing moderators.  She wondered to what extent Umalusi would be able to bring consultants within the Code of Conduct or Ethics, which would be a very important aspect of containing its own risk.

Mr Thomas said that all moderators and verifiers were consultants, and that Umalusi did do training. There was a code of conduct and a contract was drawn up for each and every moderator.

The Chairperson where in the Annual Report she could find outputs compared to the previous year.

Mr Thomas directed her to pages 19 and 20.

The Chairperson said she was looking more for the value for money kind of analysis, since cost and outputs became difficult to measure, particularly when it came to year on year.

Mr Thomas said that Umalusi would prepare a comparative table for the Quality Assurance of Assessment unit that would speak particularly to that issue at the end of every performance report, in the Annual Report.

Ms Mushwana was very concerned about Mpumalanga, and commented that this province seemed to be becoming notorious.

Mr Thomas noted that the systems in Mpumalanga were correct, but the problems were caused by human factor, although he conceded that if the system was compromised that affected the whole country, to the extent that papers had to be replaced countrywide. Preliminary indications were that there had been a leak and the extent of the leak suggested that they had to settle for the back up papers.

The Chairperson realised that Umalusi did not undertake the actual risk analysis, but did comment on whether the correct measures were in place. She asked what would happen when things went wrong, and whether it would then assess what had gone wrong, or whether that was up to some other institution.

Ms Rabe explained that essentially Umalusi audited the system. In 2005 Umalusi audited all provincial systems,and every year went back and checked what problems had been fixed, so there was an annual evaluation and improvement. In Mpumalanga, papers were leaked before the exam. The papers were therefore not distributed. This was a systemic problem. Umalusi had looked at Mpumalanga's printing system, which was probably one of the most secure printing systems in South Africa. It then turned to the people factor, and that was something that Umalusi could not guarantee. However, it could look at whether there were systems, whether the people were screened, vetted, and had signed confidentiality agreements. There was a limit to how far Umalusi could go in terms of the system.

Ms Mushwana noted that results were now to be released on 7 January, to try to enhance the quality processes, but she wondered if this would prejudice learners who then had less time to make their career choices.

Dr Rakometsi clarified that the intention was that the statement of results would still be issued to the schools on 31 December, so that learners could look at their results provisionally, and raise any problems. The results would not be published. Any missing subjects could be corrected between 31 December and 7 January. The results would be downloaded to universities, as requested by Higher Education South Africa (HESA), so that they could start with their admission requirements, their projections of learner enrolment, and to be able to work around the problems caused by the crush on academic processes caused by the Soccer World Cup.

Ms Mushwana noted that those schools who did not supply markers did not perform very well, which seemed to suggest that the markers were learning and improving from doing this task. She therefore suggested that Umalusi should try to have every school included in the marking processes.

Dr Rakometsi said that the appointment of markers fell under the Provincial Departments of Education. Umalusi could only check the criteria for the appointment of markers. Different provinces applied different approaches in terms of demographics according to their competency criteria.

Ms A Mashishi (ANC) was concerned with employment equity and asked for a breakdown on people with disabilities.

Mr Thomas that the dashes meant that no disabled people were employed. 

Mr Makhubele asked for the reasons for the terminations of staff, and also noted that some vacancies were not filled.

Mr Thomas noted that Table 4.2 indicated that all termination types were resignations, and that nine staff resigned during the financial year.

Mr Makhubele asked whether private school evaluation was obligatory or voluntary.

Mr Thomas noted that it was compulsory.

The Chairperson said that would prevent fly by nights.

Mr Makhubele expressed concern about the low success rate and asked how this could be improved.

Mr Thomas said that the report on the high failure rate for the vocational programmes was included in the package, and Umalusi had shared its findings and recommendations with DoE.

Mr Smiles asked Umalusi, with regard to the leaked papers, to confirm that the person arrested was a previous employee of the Department that now had his own private school, where those papers had been found.

Dr Rakometsi said Umalusi was not able to say whether the person arrested in Mpumalanga ever worked for the Department, as it had not yet received the report from DoE’s Irregularities Committee.

Mr Smiles wondered, now that Umalusi was not monitoring provinces, if it was worried about the quality in the provinces, and what it would do about this.

Ms Gina added that one of the major problems causing delay to the exam results was the pass mark, and asked how Umalusi would ensure that provinces were complying, since this impacted on the product expected.

Ms Gina also noted that Umalusi monitored and evaluated private institutions, including the qualifications of teachers, and asked, in the event that institutions were not up to standard, what would it do and what measures were taken to alert people not to register in those institutions.

Ms Rabe clarified that in terms of monitoring of provincial departments, the original Act that established Umalusi required Umalusi to monitor the performance of provincial departments and report to the Minister, but Umalusi never really entered that space. It had found this very difficult. Although it had commissioned various papers around it and met with Heads of Departments, it never actually happened. It was also quite inappropriate for a Quality Assuror to be looking at a provincial department.

In terms of assessment, at a different level, SAPSCERT, prior to Umalusi, and Umalusi itself did monitor  provincial systems. Before the national papers were introduced, each province was setting its own papers. Continuous assessment could do with improvement at all levels, and it was a very difficult thing to monitor in terms of standards, because it was so localised in each of the 28 000 schools. Currently, Umalusi verified the internal moderation of continuous assessment at Grade 12. Each provincial department had its own system of clustering of schools that met on a certain programme, and they then set instruments and tried to set a standard across clusters. Umalusi looked at all those systems, across clustering of schools in districts and then at provinces and so on. It would also do a sample of portfolios for every subject every year, but that sample was not sufficient to make a judgment that was 100% consistent.

Mr Smiles commented that it made sense for Umalusi and the department to spread the difficult questions over two maths papers rather than having them all in one paper. It was a fatal mistake to remove geometry,  because it gave reasoning and logic that learners really needed.

Ms Mushwana noted that since Maths Paper 3 was not written by all learners, this meant that many learners were learning less maths.

The Chairperson said when the committee had spoken to the Council for Higher Education, asking why benchmarking tests were being done at some universities, it had been said that some universities were considering introducing entrance exams for their faculties. Maybe this was the answer.

Dr Rakometsi said that the combination policy was the domain of the DoE. The Department decided policies with regard to assessment, and at the time when they received the data sets the combination conditions were already factored in for Umalusi to certificate, according to the policy signed off by the Minister.

The Chairperson said if Umalusi were going to quality assure, then it must be clear at what point it would step into the arena, and indicate its views that doing things in a certain way might undermine either quality or standards, as opposed to merely pronouncing on the standards.

Dr Rakometsi said the Department of Basic Education consulted with Umalusi before they ratified policy that touched on assessment. Umalusi would look at anything that dealt with assessment and make comments.  That also had to be finally approved by the Minister. Umalusi also had representation in a structure of DoE called the Inter Provincial Examinations Committee (IPEC) and also in the Curriculum Management Committee, which worked hand in hand with IPEC. Umalusi’s Senior Manager attended those meetings, advised and gave input before the policy was approved.

Dr Rakometsi added to the comments on the Maths papers. A learner passing Paper 3 would already have had to pass Papers 1 and 2. The universities had not made it a requirement that learners pass Paper 3 before they could be admitted. The universities would have been consulted, but the Portfolio Committee could still go to the Department and say that had to be corrected.

Another challenge was, unlike the Senior Certificate, that Maths Papers 1 and 2 were now written by about 200 000 learners.

The Chairperson said that was the difficulty with universities. Departments consulted them very extensively in the drafting as well as the examinations process. From the Committee's point of view, universities would have no leg to stand on if they wanted to introduce the new entry exams, because they had not made their requirements clear at an earlier point.

The Chairperson asked, if there was a standard of maths offered by the Department in the form of Paper 3, to what extent were learners writing that exam.

She asked Umalusi to give the Portfolio Committee a sense of what its stance was with the Department, and whether it had a separate stance in respect of the Higher Education issue.

Dr Rakometsi replied that more learners were now writing maths and the pressure on the education system was also with mathematical literacy. The teacher demand and supply did not allow for that.

The Chairperson said the problem was Umalusi did Quality Assurance, and not the DoE. Umalusi may take cognisance of the fact that there were not sufficient maths teachers. She repeated her question whether there were learners writing paper 3 in schools that had maths teachers. If there were maths teachers in every single school, but Maths Paper 3 remained as an optional paper, then few learners would wish to exert themselves to do it. If HESA decided it was not going to accept the exemption under the matric as automatic entrance into some of the faculties, then this was undermining the essence of the matric. Universities said that they were testing on the curriculum, but this may well be in terms of what was in the curriculum for Maths 3. She suggested that another option might be to make Maths 3 compulsory in the schools where there were teachers to teach it.

Ms Rabe did not have the figures for how many learners wrote Maths 3. She said that when the idea of a third maths paper was conceived, there were certain considerations. She clarified that it was not so much a question of numbers of maths teachers, but whether they had the capability to teach advanced maths. The idea was that the content of the third paper would, after the first year, be phased into Papers 1 and 2 over a period of time. At this stage it did not seem that that was going to happen. She agreed with the Chairperson that matric had been devalued because of this option and there was a need to bring more pressure to bear on the system.

She noted that the findings for Papers 1 and 2 had been that the distribution of questions was not what it should have been. There were less cognitively demanding questions than there should have been. That showed up in the higher proportion of A results. This had been corrected in the current exams.

Dr Rakometsi commented on HESA. He noted his concern that the universities had not adjusted their programmes to meet the new cohort of learners, especially not considering how to close the gap left by the inclusion of certain topics only in Paper 3. The universities were conservative in their approach.

The Chairperson said it was most likely that the lack of sufficiently qualified maths teachers would be found in the previously disadvantaged schools, in particular in the townships. If the universities were to introduce a maths entrance exam equivalent to Paper 3, this would be to the disadvantage of a learner without that grounding. This made the universities’ approach a gate-keeping exercise, particularly for the scarce skills such as engineering. If there were schools with sufficiently qualified teachers it should be absolutely compulsory for those learners to do Maths 3, so that then there was a pool of children from all walks of life that could enter into those faculties on merit. The current system translated into many black children not being able to enter. There was a need to look at the larger picture, and consider whether there was real change to the apartheid education system. More pressure must be brought to bear on the Department to ensure the quality of teachers. However, much as the Department was trying to produce more teachers with sufficient qualifications, it was still left to Higher Education to do the training. If HESA was saying it could not accept the matric standards, that was ridiculous. The Department should be making more demands on HESA to train teachers in maths and science.

Dr Rakometsi agreed with the sentiments of the Chairperson and would follow up those issues with the Department.

Mr N Kganyago (UDM) thought that in the past the N3 was regarded as an equivalent of matric, and that a certificate could be issued for additional subjects. He asked what would now be the equivalent of matric. He also noted that there were strong complaints about what was required for study of certain subjects at the FET colleges, and apparently the instructors in subjects such as plumbing were complaining about the length of time that they were required to spend teaching subjects not allied to the trade itself, such as IT and English. 

Ms Rabe responded that N3 was more or less on the standard grade matric level, and if it was combined with two languages, a person could obtain a standard grade matric. In respect of the vocational training, she noted that Umalusi had extended its maintaining of standards project, not only to further school subjects but also to include a comparison between the standard of the NCV and the matric in the six gateway subjects. It would be reporting further on that issue. There was indeed concern about the NCV and whether this should grant access to university, and HESA had recently issued some information that in certain circumstances it would be accepted.

The Chairperson asked Umalusi to sent their report to the Committee.

Ms Rabe answered the question around the trade training. The South African Colleges Principals Organisation (SACPO) had a task team that was repackaging the NCV to try and make it shorter, particularly for learners who already had done matric and had passed the language subjects, so that they would not have to re-do them, to allow for the time period to be shortened. Umalusi would be evaluating that very shortly.

Umalusi developed sub-framework qualifications, and was proposing a more flexible and shorter qualification, which would also allow for certain credits to come from the Quality Council for Trades and Occupation (QCTO), so that it would link in the same way that the N2 used to link with the trade test.

The Chairperson said it seemed logical. People learnt differently, so some would prefer not to do the academic matric but, around Grade 10 level, would want to go into a different and more practical stream to become qualified in a different way. She asked, in light of the disbanding of trade schools, whether those certificates would be able to deal with the need.

Mr Kganyago noted that the Chairperson had referred to people who had already done English and Afrikaans. He thought that those who had failed matric should be encouraged to study further at the technikons, not go to FET Colleges and get certificates which would still leave them with lack of practical skills, which were so sorely needed.

Ms Gina said it was a question of articulation. If a learner had done up to Level 4, which was an equivalent of matric, and wanted to continue to study, but could not express himself or herself properly, then it was not possible for that learner to continue at the tertiary level.

Ms Rabe thought the NCV was a good qualification, but it was benchmarked against the Senior Certificate,  because there was a suspicion that it was more difficult to pass an NCV than to pass matric, due to the combination rules. That research would come out shortly. It might be that the vocational training was pitched at the wrong level.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee would like to hear what the plans were, and whether it was necessary to include languages. It was the content that was important. If this was supposed to be a post-matric qualification, then it must be described as such, not a technical qualification. The Committee remained concerned about the need to address those learners who had dropped out at lower levels, but who should still be brought back into the system, even with some basic artisan skills, so that they were not simply left unemployed.

Ms Rabe agreed that this was of huge concern to Umalusi, which was aware of about 500 000 young people dropping out of school every year or not passing matric. It was also aware that the DoE was recapitalising technical schools and there was a strong drive to redevelopment of the whole area.

Mr Smiles was disappointed that Umalusi had mentioned “adding its voice” on higher education issues, as he would have expected it, as a Quality Council, to lead on issues.

Dr Rakometsi responded that 'adding its voice' meant that it had pushed the agenda of the Meeting Standards Report and would continue to do so.

Mr Smiles asked for the impact of the difference between the number of certificates printed, and the number verified. He also commented that since Umalusi was responsible for issuing the certificates to the provinces or national departments for distribution, it should be concerned with the distribution to learners.

Ms Rabe explained that printing certificates was related to a demand from assessment bodies and provincial departments, whereas verification came from other agencies wanting to know whether a certificate was real.

Umalusi was concerned about the distribution and did check on this, although it could not do anything as this was a provincial competency.

Mr Thomas confirmed that when Umalusi's monitors went into the various provinces they had raised concerns with the DoE twice, because they discovered that some certificates were not distributed and were packed and stored at the district offices. In addition, sometimes learners did not collect their original certificates, but would apply for a duplicate certificate. The storage of certificates at the district offices was an issue for the Department to take up. Umalusi was not sure of numbers, but at the time it was discovered there were piles sitting at the various district offices.

Mr Smiles noted that some FET Colleges, such as Cape Academy, had been liquidated, but were still allowed to continue in operation for one more year, and were also on the Department’s website. He thought this was wrong, and asked what Umalusi felt about the matter.

Ms Rabe said that accreditation was done in stages. Umalusi tended not to refuse accreditation unless a college was absolutely shocking. It was aware that if accreditation was refused, the college would simply continue to operate under cover. Umalusi would prefer that colleges not be punished, but brought into the system and get them to a point where they complied with requirements. Umalusi did not have the mechanism nor the mandate to hunt down illegal providers, but, in the case where there were institutions operating illegally, it would try to register them, to give them a licence to operate, and accredit them on their quality. Both processes were mandatory, and were linked. Informing learners had always been a problem, because a national advocacy campaign was very expensive. Umalusi went to career exhibitions, where it handed out a 'The letter to the learners', in which it explained the different kinds of qualifications, and the kinds of questions that learners should be asking. It worked closely with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).

The Chairperson asked for a copy of “The letter to the learner”, which the Committee would try to distribute to all Members of Parliament.

Ms Rabe continued that there was also a need to get that out to the rural areas.

Ms Rabe noted that if there were complaints about a provider Umalusi would call that college in. If the College was on the register, Umalusi would do mediation. If not, it would get it registered. Umalusi could not shut down a college or school; only the Department could do that, and if there was a serious problem Umalusi would request the Department to intervene. She noted that Umalusi would have to investigate the situation with Cape Academy. It had probably continued so as not to prejudice its learners, but take them to a point where they could transfer to other institutions or move on elsewhere.

The Chairperson announced that Dr Rakometsi now had the figures on Maths Paper 3: 12 315 had written the paper and 40% of them had passed.

Other Committee business
The Chairperson reminded Members of the programme for the next couple of weeks, and noted that there would be a closed session for a report from the Auditor-General on Tuesday 3 November.

The meeting was adjourned. 


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