2010 National Senior Certificate examination readiness: UMALUSI and Department of Basic Education briefings

NCOP Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture

24 August 2010
Chairperson: Ms M Makgate (ANC, North West); subsequently Ms D Rantho (ANC, Eastern Cape)
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Meeting Summary

UMALUSI and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) briefed the Committee on the state of readiness for the 2010 Matriculation Examinations. UMALUSI explained that it was given a mandate to develop and implement policy and criteria for assessment for the qualifications on sub-frameworks, and to approve the publication of the results of learners if satisfied that the assessment body or education institutions had complied with every condition set for the examinations. It was thus responsible for evaluating and accrediting assessment bodies, inspecting and monitoring them, and for the quality assurance of external examinations through the moderation of examination question papers, the conduct of examinations, the moderation of marking and the standardisation of assessment outcomes. UMALUSI also had to quality-assure internal assessments, through monitoring implementation of internal assessment tools, learner tasks and educator portfolios, as well as statistical moderation of internal assessment results. In the longer term, it would move more towards verification than moderation, but at the moment it was running procedures alongside the Department of Basic Education. It announced that 70% of the question papers falling under the DBE for the November 2010 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination had been approved. It was in the process of moderating question papers for two independent examining bodies. It was also in the process of finalising moderation on internal or continuous assessment.

UMALUSI described how it would determine the state of readiness of provinces to roll out the examinations, emphasising that it would look at policy implementation, systems, processes and procedures, as well as security around storing and distributing question papers and answer books, as well as security of printing facilities, and the availability and training of staff. In most provinces, matters were running according to plan, although the concerns for specific provinces were outlined, which included courier services and use of community members as invigilators in Western Cape, security of printing and facilities at examination centres in KwaZulu Natal, and the lack of centralised moderation of site-based assessments, proper Continuous Assessment monitoring and incomplete candidate registration in Eastern Cape. The problems in Mpumalanga during the previous year were being addressed, and DBE would be running the examination.

The DBE confirmed that the UMALUSI report had correctly outlined some of the procedures, but then presented what it was doing in respect of policies and procedures. 562 473 first-time candidates were registered to write the NSC exam in 2010, with another 80 000 re-writing after failing their matric a year or two previously. Not all provinces had programmes in place to support these learners. All were ready to run the NSC exams, although there were still some concerns, as previously outlined. The DBE explained its strategies to improve results in the long run. It conceded that curriculum changes did not show an effect within three to five years, but that the “Class of 2010 Campaign would give special support to learners this year, and that the “Schools 2025” campaign aimed to address the differentiation of standards and lead to higher attainment of all learners within the next 12 years.

Members had a wide range of concerns. They asked what plans DBE had to counteract the effects of the teachers’ strike on the preparation for the NSC exams, asked extensive questions about the teachers’ own training programmes, and why so little time was allocated to some of them, and questioned whether Western Cape using community members as invigilators did not pose a security risk. A Member said that Western Cape had been non-compliant with some aspects for a few years, yet the Department was not seeming to adopt a tough enough stance, questioned what the Department was doing about the problems with the integrity of the examination in Mpumalanga, what disciplinary actions would be taken and stressed that learners should not suffer. They also questioned whether courier, invigilator and IT issues could not compromise security, asked what could be done to assist poor and under-resourced schools to improve their results, urged that the Department should enforce learner support for the repeat-writers, and asked how the Department was monitoring, and whether it should not find some other system for classifying schools.

Meeting report

National Senior Certificate examinations 2010: Readiness briefings by UMALUSI and Department of Basic Education (DBE)
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson said that this briefing took place at a time that was particularly challenging for the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and UMALUSI, in view of the teachers’ strike that was ongoing, as well as the unusually long mid-year break in schools, due to the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup Tournament.

UMALUSI briefing
Ms Eugenie Rabie , Chief Operating Officer, UMALUSI, introduced UMALUSI as a quality Council (QC) tasked, in terms of the National Qualifications Act (NQA), to develop and implement policy and criteria for assessment for the qualifications on its sub-framework. The National Senior Certificate (NSC) was one of its qualifications.

Section 17 of the General Further Education and Training Quality Act (GENFETQA) said that UMALUSI could approve the publication of the results, if all quality assurance standards had been adhered to, no irregularities had occurred during the examination, and UMALUSI was satisfied with the integrity of the examination.

In terms of the Framework for Quality Assurance of Learner Achievement, UMALUSI’s practices were based on established and existing practises in assessment for certification. It had prescribed components of external assessment by way of examinations, which accounted for 75% of the final mark, as well as internal and continuous components, which accounted for 25% of the final mark. UMALUSI used a variety of systems, processes, and procedures to evaluate, inspect, monitor and report in turn on the examination systems, processes and procedures of public and private assessment bodies.

UMALUSI evaluated, monitored and accredited independent assessment bodies. It also did quality assurance of external examinations through the moderation of examination question papers. It monitored the conduct of examinations, moderated the marking and standardised the assessment outcomes. It was also responsible for internal assessment through monitoring the implementation of internal assessment, the moderation of learner tasks and educator portfolios, and statistical moderation of internal assessment results. Where there were discrepancies between the continuous assessment mark and the examination mark, this would show up in the moderation process.

The final step in the process would be the approval of results. The results had to comply with minimum requirements. Here, the focus shifted from moderation to verification. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) itself had substantial systems for moderating examinations, with the result that UMALUSI was more a verification body.  At this stage, UMALUSI relied heavily on internal assessment by the DBE, and only moderated internal assessment. UMALUSI also broadened the definition of irregularities to include technical issues, credibility issues and non-compliance issues.

This briefly summed up the function of UMALUSI and how it carried it out, as well as the relationship between UMALUSI and the DBE.

Mr Vijayen Naidoo, Senior Manager: Quality Assurance, UMALUSI, delivered the rest of the presentation. He started with the quality assurance processes. The first process was the moderation of question papers. The purpose of this procedure was to ensure that the question papers were of the required standard. The standard was captured in the curriculum statement and in the subject assessment guidelines which formed part of the policy for the National Senior Certificate. UMALUSI must ensure that the papers did justice to those documents. UMALUSI was thus tasked with ensuring that the papers were fair, reliable, representative of an adequate sample of the curriculum, and representative of relevant conceptual domains, by testing lower and higher order cognitive skills. To do all of this, UMALUSI contracted external moderators who were subject experts. They ranged from school teachers through subject advisers to university professors. In some cases panels of moderators were used, so that the standard could not be determined by any particular individual, but by a panel.

He presented a table showing the scope of the quality assurance processes. This showed that for the November 2010 examinations, 70% of 130 papers had been approved. The remaining 30% were in the pipeline. For the March 2011 supplementary exams the same applied. For the two independent examination bodies, IEB and ERCO, 60% and 66% of their papers respectively were approved. UMALUSI had inserted another layer of approving the papers. This added a time delay, but the quality of examination papers were assured.

The next process was the moderation of internal /continuous assessment. This referred to any assessment conducted by the provider, whose outcomes counted towards the final result. In this instance subject specialists and panels of moderators were used. Moderation was done at school, district, provincial, and national levels. UMALUSI came over and above that with its level of moderation. In terms of the Act, UMALUSI had to provide the directives for internal assessment, and moderated against those. There were originally prescribed criteria for Educator and Learner Portfolios, but when Learner portfolios had been scrapped by the Minister, UMALUSI changed its model to look at the tasks presented.

UMALUSI had to ascertain the appropriateness and standard of the assessment tasks being developed in schools, to ascertain to what extent assessment bodies or provinces were attempting to ensure standardisation, and to determine the extent and quality of internal moderation and educator development, and the reliability and validity of the assessment outcomes. Tasks were designed within the schools, and were not standardised across all schools, so UMALUSI had to make sure that the standard was acceptable throughout. This moderation process would be ongoing. There would be three moderations per academic year across the 9 Provincial Departments of Education and independent assessment bodies. The outcomes would be fed back to teachers immediately.

He reported that for 2010, the moderation for term 2 had been completed. 11 subjects, plus Life Orientation, had been moderated in June in all provincial education departments as well as the independent assessment bodies. The key subjects, gateway subjects and those with large enrolments were moderated. The reports were ready to go to the provinces.

For term 3 of 2010, 12 language subjects plus Life Orientation would be moderated, and this was already under way, as planned, running from 18 to 26 August. ERCO, an independent assessment body, would be moderated on 29 and 30 August. Despite a few delays caused by the teachers’ strike, UMALUSI managed to do everything that was planned.

For term 4 of 2010, 15 subjects plus Life Orientation would be moderated. The planned dates were 12 October 2010 to 12 November 2010.

Mr Naidoo explained that in regard to the monitoring of examinations, UMALUSI would check for policy development and implementation, systems, processes and procedures. The monitoring assisted it in planning for assessment and moderation, the availability and the training of staff, and educator portfolios.

UMALUSI divided the monitoring of exams into two phases. The first was the state of readiness phase prior to the exams. The second was the actual monitoring and conduct of exams. UMALUSI monitored the state of readiness of the Western Cape, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu Natal (KZN), and the Eastern Cape. The DBE attended to all the provinces.  He explained that UMALUSI was shadowing DBE to ascertain the veracity of the processes and standards of the DBE’s assessment as to readiness. There was some duplication and overlapping in the functions of the DBE and UMALUSI in this regard, and so UMALUSI would, in time, leave the actual determination of readiness to the DBE, and only moderate the process. UMALUSI awaited a consolidated report from DBE, and would also currently compile its own report of the process. The two reports would be compared. However, he could confirm that the DBE was very thorough and efficient in its own assessment of readiness for the NSC examinations.

When monitoring the conduct of the examination-phase, monitors and staff, who were contracted to UMALUSI, would be deployed to the examination and marking centres. UMALUSI planned to use 32 monitors. Three or four would be allocated to a province. Each monitor would be allocated four days for monitoring the writing of the examination, and would cover at least eight centres. They would spend two days moderating marking at the marking centres, and one day in compiling their report. UMALUSI staff would shadow the monitors. UMALUSI paid unannounced visits to the examination and marking centres, to make sure that the monitors were doing justice to the process of monitoring the examinations.

UMALUSI was responsible for the verification of marking. The moderation of marking determined its standard, quality and whether it was conducted in accordance with agreed practices. UMALUSI recommended pre-marking memorandum discussions. This would ensure consistency across marking centres. UMALUSI conducted the moderation of marking on-site as well as off-site. UMALUSI planned to have the marking verified centrally, for 25 NSC selected subjects.

In previous years, Mpumalanga had released its results late, and the Minister of Basic Education had therefore asked UMALUSI to review the results processes. The subject structures were verified, and the candidate registration system had already been verified. The generation of mark sheets and the capturing of marks would happen on-site during September 2010. Data sets had been received and the input and comments from UMALUSI had been submitted to the DBE. The Data set format would be signed off at the end of August 2010. Standardisation booklets had been received and input and comments were submitted to DBE. In regard to the capturing of adjustments, DBE modules had to be submitted for verification. Modules would be signed off at the end of September 2010. In respect of statistical moderation and results, the DBE modules would be submitted for verification. These modules would be signed off at the end of September.

Mr Naidoo then explained the background to the verification of the results process. The DBE had an integrated examination computer system, would feed data into that and generate a report. UMALUSI had also tested this through its own system, and if the results of the two processes matched, then UMALUSI would confirm that the DBE results were correct.

UMALUSI had a new approach towards monitoring the national state of readiness for NSC examinations. There was now one assessment body with nine provincial arms. The process had been streamlined to avoid duplication and unnecessary burdens on provincial authorities. UMALUSI was meant to assume a verification role only, but it was currently still shadowing DEB to establish the veracity of the DBE monitoring processes. In time that function would be left to DBE, under UMALUSI monitoring.

The DBE monitoring process required that Provincial Departments of Education completed self-evaluation instruments, which were communicated with the DBE, any misalignments corrected, and a composite report would then be submitted to the authorities, including UMALUSI.

Mr Naidoo outlined the findings reached on the provinces that it had monitored. In Western Cape, it was found that there was an adequate provincial structure, that district offices were well resourced with expertise, that marks were captured per question, which provided for more in-depth analysis, that there were tools to diagnose poor performance and there was implementation of remedial/ intervention programs. Concerns included couriers delivering question papers, and the use of community members to invigilate examinations.

In KZN, UMALUSI had found that there was an adequate provincial structure, that the district offices were well resourced with expertise and candidates were registering. There were some concerns about the security of the printing process and the unavailability of secure facilities at examination centres, especially in remote areas.

In the Eastern Cape, UMALUSI found that there was an adequate provincial structure, that the province conducted state of readiness visits to the districts, and that the printing process of question papers were well managed. There were, however, concerns that there were no centralised moderations due to the vast distances and remoteness of some examination centres, and that candidate registration was not complete at the time of monitoring.

In Mpumalanga, a task team was appointed to manage the 2010 examinations as a result of the problems in the province in 2009. Experts were appointed to implement the revised examination system. The DBE itself was responsible for printing question papers and registering candidates, and the de-registration of private examination centres, because most of the problems that occurred were connected to private examination centres. However, there were concerns that the integrity of the exams could be threatened if there was not buy-in from provincial staff and teachers. The staffing at regional and district levels was not adequate, and there was some doubt about the security of new question paper distribution nodes, as well as the unavailability of secure facilities at exam centres in the remote areas.

UMALUSI had received the DBE’s Report on the Management of Public Examinations in Mpumalanga Province, dated 21 June 2010. UMALUSI acknowledged the interventions, but remained concerned with the new challenges emanating from these interventions. It had requested DBE to submit a further report by 3 September 2010, which would hopefully allay some of the existing fears.

UMALUSI was also awaiting the DBE composite state of readiness report for the remaining eight provinces. UMALUSI was monitoring the process within the provinces of getting ready for the NSC examinations independently. This would all feed into a report to UMALUSI Council, which would enable it to make a decision at the end of the year.

Briefing by the Department of Basic Education
Mr Edward Mosuwe, Acting Deputy Director General, Department of Basic Education, said that the first part of the presentation was directly linked to readiness for examinations, while the other outlined the strategy adopted as a means of supporting learners in the run-up to the examinations.

Nkosi (S)  Sishi, Chief Director: Measurement, Assessment and Examinations, Department of Basic Education, acknowledged the very important role that UMALUSI had played in identifying any problems timeously. He reiterated that the DBE was doing its own assessment and checks for readiness this year, whilst UMALUSI monitored the process.

The state of readiness monitoring was one of the most significant undertakings of the DBE every year. A team of officials in the Department, who had expertise in various areas of national assessment, public examinations, provincial liaison and curriculum development would attend to this. The process was transparent, and included an examination of whether policies were in place and were being applied. It would also look at whether the standards used by teachers when assessing learners in classrooms were on par with the standards used in national external assessments. Resources were assessed and the quality of internal assessments and control of the system were investigated. The administration of examinations process would look at the scores of quarterly tests, the administration of the examination, and whether learners were adequately prepared. The state of readiness investigations were not only about evaluating the administrative readiness for examinations, but also about whether learners were properly prepared for examinations.

Another area concerned site-based assessment. A high quality of examination paper was a pre-requisite. The standards were clearly indicated in the policies. This was the responsibility of the national Department, and it measured the progress by UMALUSI reports on the moderation of the question papers. UMALUSI reported that 70% of all question papers were assessed and accepted as being of the required standard, which was high when compared to previous years.

With regard to the examination computer system, he said that DBE made it clear to the provincial departments that the system was merely a tool to do the work more efficiently. It was still the final responsibility of officials at all levels to make sure that results were processed in terms of existing policies. There was compliance in most provinces.

Question papers were printed in the provinces after they had been set at the national department. The printing facilities were at various stages of readiness; in some provinces they were adequate, while in other there were concerns. DBE would issue the provinces with a report stipulating the concerns, immediately after inspection, so that these could be addressed immediately. Eight provinces had been assessed and Northern Cape would be finalised the next day.

Dr Sishi wanted to focus on registration as an area of concern, because it was the beginning of the process. Most problems discovered at the end of the examination process were caused by poor registration processes, which in turn affected the credibility in the data fed into the system, and this would be reflected when the result came through. For example, in Eastern Cape a group of 1 500 learners who never passed grade 11 were registered in the grade 12 database. DBE communicated with the province on such instances. This was also a developmental process to address problems within the provinces’ systems and processes.

Dr Sishi noted that 562 473 fulltime learners were registered to write matric examinations in 2010. Another 80 218 were registered to repeat matric examinations, having failed previously.  
The provincial Departments of Education were told to create systems to support the 80 218  candidates who were registered for examinations, but were not attending classes or being prepared outside of their own studies. This had been done by some provinces.

Question papers were also prepared in Braille and adapted for deaf learners. They were also translated into both languages of teaching and learning for each different region in the country.

Dr Sishi noted that marking was a second area of concern. Experts were recruited to set the examinations, and standards could be easily controlled. However, marking involved large numbers of ordinary teachers, who varied in their competence, so it was harder to control the quality of the marking. Accuracy and merit were crucial aspects to ensure the quality in the marking process.

The DBE had designed a training program for the teachers who were going to mark the scripts. The training would take a full day, and a programme would stipulate in which areas they would be trained. The purpose of the training would be to create consistency in the markers, so that they would apply a single standard.

The third area of concern was site-based assessment. For 2010, weaknesses were identified in the level of preparation of learners, and so the programme to support them this year was more comprehensive. In all nine provinces, the national programmes had been customised, so it was not implemented equally. In some provinces the teachers taking extra classes were not developed enough themselves to do justice to the task. The Western Cape Provincial Department of Education had developed a comprehensive programme with different sets of targets for the different types of schools, and Free State had a similar comprehensive system for farm schools. Free State was still posing some challenges, as it was not moderating the Continuous Assessment System marks, and the DBE would be notifying the Minister of this.

Dr Sishi said that the processes leading to the release of the results were in place. All stakeholders were happy with the process. The results would be released on 6 January 2011. The DBE’s concerns regarding Mpumalanga were captured well in UMALUSI’s report. The team tasked with securing the process were very competent, and included some individuals recruited from outside the system. Buy-in by the teachers and provincial departments would ensure the success of the system.

Dr Sishi concluded that systems were in place at national and provincial head offices. The question papers that had been deployed to the provinces were in secured strong rooms, under 24 hour security. When the examination started, those papers would leave the secure areas, and this was when the problems could start, but the DBE would do its utmost to ensure that the concerns were addressed.

Mr Edward Mosuwe said that the DBE had developed strategies for improvement. There would be continuous attempts to improve the system. A strategy had been developed with the aim of improving outcomes for Grade 12, whilst also aiming for wider positive effects. This improvement strategy was founded on four pillars; comprising the support that the DBE provided for more teaching and learning opportunities, support to ensure that schools functioned at a basic level, support of districts and circuits being devolved down to schools, and rallying of the wider community and stakeholders around education.

This strategy formed part of Action Plan 2014, which must be supported by clear long and short term plans and targets. Year on year performance targets would be set. Important aspects included the enrolment planning and support at school level, strengthening of career opportunities and curriculum support.

Mr Mosuwe said that, as already mentioned, learners had to be prepared for the examinations. Schools and districts that achieved less than a 60% matriculation pass rate were targeted for interventions. Mechanisms would be developed for experienced and qualified teachers and subject specialists in the district to support schools. A District Development Plan would be developed to improve learning outcomes. Curriculum interventions included targeted support for high enrolment and high impact subjects, such as accounting, mathematics, mathematical literacy, and physical science. They would also address the inaccessible language of examinations for many learners. Chief Markers’ reports would be used to identify content and skills that required attention.

Teacher training was key to improve the performance of learners, and different interventions would deepen teachers’ knowledge into their subjects. Provinces had developed learner attainment strategies to support under-performing schools and improve their overall and subject pass rates. These interventions included school visits, content training of teachers, support of school management teams, provision of assessment item banks to improve quality of assessments and enrichment classes for learners.

He reiterated that education was a societal issue and communities had to be mobilised in order to support education in general, and grade 12 performance in particular. A Quality Learning and Teaching campaign was running, and the DBE’s “Support for the Class of 2010” campaign would ensure that this turned trends in education around in a positive direction.

The Chairperson asked how the teachers’ strike had influenced the preparations by the DBE and the learners for the NSC examinations.

Mr Mosuwe said perhaps the DBE had not shared enough information about the contingency plans to support learners during the teachers’ strike. Recovery plans had been put in place. In some communities learners were guided by the DBE and provincial Departments into forming study groups. In the Western Cape, Gauteng and KZN, learning centres were established to provide additional support to learners. Camps were also planned. DBE had called on churches and university students to volunteer to assist learners, in particular matriculants, to continue their preparation for examinations. Spring Schools and weekend classes would help learners to catch up during the September school holidays. The Recovery Plan was a permanent feature of the system.

Dr Sishi added that this Recovery Plan was not only used this year, but had been rolled out as needed over the past two years. DBE’s extensive support to learners included learner support materials, study guides and the use of the SABC and other media. While the strike was still in progress it was not advisable to divulge too much, but he assured Members that the DBE was up to the challenge.

Ms R Rasmeni (ANC, North West) noted that although UMALUSI raised many concerns, it had offered no solutions during the presentation, and asked what mechanisms were put in place to resolve the identified difficulties and key challenges. 

Mr M De Villiers (DA, Western Cape) noted that the provincial Departments of Education were required to complete a self-evaluation instrument. He asked UMALUSI how far from completion this self evaluation instrument was.

Dr Sishi explained how the self-evaluation tool worked.  Before the DBE went to monitor at a province, it looked at previous reports on the same province. In 2010, the DBE had looked at the previous four reports for each province, and developed questions relating directly to previous recommendations, to assess what progress had been made on historical challenges, not only those from the preceding year. All provinces had provided the DBE with their self evaluation tools and these were available. If the DBE found any loopholes, it engaged the province on those during the monitoring visit. The President had made a public statement on this in the State of the Nation Address already, and the Minister and Department were committed to this. DBE would visit the provinces to determine how prepared the learners were.  

Mr De Villiers asked UMALUSI how the Western Cape Provincial Department of Education was planning to address the challenge of the use of community members as invigilators, which was unacceptable to the DBE.

Dr Sishi reiterated that the Head of the provincial Department would receive a report before the Department’s inspectors had left the province, so that the challenges could be addressed immediately. The Provincial Department had committed itself that in 2010, 50% of invigilators would be teachers and in 2011 all would be teachers.

Mr de Villiers asked UMALUSI whether it made a plan for reorganising distribution of examination papers, to address the security risk of using courier services.

Dr Sishi said that the Western Cape would use the nodal distribution model this year, where distribution points would be closer to remote areas so couriers would cover shorter distances, thus avoiding delays and other irregularities.

Mr De Villiers asked UMALUSI how the Provincial Department of Education in KZN and in other provinces planned to address the non-availability of secure centres.

Dr Sishi said that finding secure facilities in remote areas was a challenge not only in KZN, and there were risks of security breaches everywhere. However, there were equally serious risks about the learners’ answer books. Often provincial departments would forget that the answer books had to follow the same secure route to the marking centres. The DBE had focused this year on securing the integrity of the question papers and answer books. South Africa was privileged to have an examination system with solid foundation, a long history and traditions of good practice to draw on. The identification of problems allowed for constantly improving the system, taking it to higher levels of excellence.

Mr De Villiers asked the DBE whether there was a programme to assess learners in Grade11.

Dr Sishi said that he had not reported on programmes to assist learners earlier in the year for examinations, but the Director General had written a letter to all provinces before the DBE embarked on the monitoring visits, stipulating which areas would be examined, and this had included the annual national assessments from Grades 1 to 9. These would help to turn the system around, so that there would be a greater focus not only on the final exams, but on performance of learners in every grade, all of whom would, in future, write nationally-set assessments. DBE had already asked the provinces to report how the results of the assessments would inform their interventions.

He added that the South African examination administration system was one of the best in the world, but the country failed to prepare learners adequately to take the examination. The aim was for the DBE to have information available to the public about performance figures of all learners in the system. In this way problems could be diagnosed and addressed during the early years and interventions were not delayed until the learner was in matric.

Mr De Villiers asked the DBE whether there was a monitoring tool to follow up on the reports left with the provincial departments on their readiness.

Ms B Mncube (ANC, Gauteng) noted that provinces were accredited, but thought that there were still two high-risk areas, both of which involved Western Cape. The first related to the courier services, and the second related to community members invigilating examinations. She asked if anyone was punished if there were breaches, and if there were any policies or mechanisms to correct the risks. The fact that Western Cape results were often higher than in other problems was suspect.

Dr Sishi commented that, in respect of the invigilation, teachers had asked that they be used to invigilate, because they would be paid, as would the matric markets. DBE wanted to stop paying for exam-related paid responsibilities, believing that these were part of the normal teacher duties. There would be problems, also, if one category was paid whilst another was not. DBE would explain to the trade unions that this was in the interests of teachers. Only those markers who marked away from their home centre would be paid subsistence and travelling allowances.

Mr Mosuwe added that UMALUSI set certain principles and its mandate was to ensure that invigilators were properly appointed and properly trained. The DBE had no legal hold over community members if they breached the code of conduct, although it could act if those invigilators were teachers. UMALUSI had not preference for either teachers or community members being used.

Ms Mncube quoted that in Eastern Cape there had been no CAS moderations, and that Eastern Cape results would consequently not be released at the same time as other provinces. She asked what else UMALUSI and DBE planned to do to address this.

The Chairperson asked why, if it was aware of the problem, DBE had not addressed this long ago, instead of waiting almost until the examination months.

Mr Naidoo said that although there was no moderation of these marks in Eastern Cape, UMALUSI had a measuring tool, which was statistical moderation according to what the learners had achieved. This would take care of those issues. He also noted the distinction between an ordinary and a good moderation. Since the Mpumalanga incidents UMALUSI had decided to monitor the capturing of CAS marks. UMALUSI had agreed with DBE that these must all be captured by November, so that the subsequent processes could take place.

Dr Sishi added that the Eastern Cape moderation was an extreme case. The DBE spent an extra day in the province and had verified that no moderation happened this year, and also suspected that in past years the moderation may have been less rigorous than it should have been. DBE would make an announcement about its proposals to the Minister about this issue. There would be an intervention before the commencement of the examinations in order to prevent any problems during the examinations or with the release of results. One of the reasons the matters were raised was to indicate DBE’s commitment to resolve them.

Ms Mncube said that in Mpumalanga and elsewhere, officials committed irregularities, yet learners were the ones who were affected. Ideally, the guilty officials, and not the learners, should be punished.

Ms M Moshodi (ANC, Free State) asked what measures were in place to prevent the withholding of Matric results again in Mpumalanga.

Dr Sishi replied that in fact many learners had not told the full truth and had been taking advantage of a chaotic situation. These learners were informed that anyone who claimed not to have received their results would be given a separate assessment. Nobody came forward to take advantage of this. The genuine cases were identified and dealt with.

Ms Moshodi asked whether the DBE was capacitating the Mpumalanga staff or was running the examinations alone.

Dr Sishi replied that DBE had a mandate to establish capacity for the province to run examinations. This year, not only would systems be put in place, but DBE would also identify Mpumalanga officials who could be trained in order to take over from DBE officials. When systems were in place that ensured credibility, DBE would withdraw. He commented that unfortunately some Mpumalanga learners were stigmatised. The DBE national office would stay in Mpumalanga until it was satisfied that the system was functioning well.

Mr Mosuwe added that UMALUSI was concerned that learners should not be disadvantaged. It analysed the results from all the schools in Mpumalanga within two days. UMALUSI had to withhold the marks of the province until it was confirmed that the problem was confined to a few localised locations.

Mr T Mashamaite (ANC, Limpopo) said that in 2009, the standard of the physical science paper was too high, equivalent to first year university level. He asked UMALUSI to comment on the standard of the physical science paper for 2010.

The Chairperson also asked what UMALUSI’s response had been to the outcry over the standard of the Mathematics and Physical Science papers..

Mr Naidoo said that Members must bear in mind that the NSC was a new qualification, and new curriculum, separate from the Senior Certificate. In 2008 the Mathematics paper was fairly simple. Many students passed well, but that caused an outcry from the universities. However, this must be seen in context since this was made a compulsory subject in 2008, for the first time, with all learners having to do either mathematics or mathematics literacy, and about half had chosen mathematics. Secondly, there was an added complication through having a Maths Paper 3, which contained the most difficult parts of the curriculum, and which was optional. The reported marks for the candidates were derived from Papers 1 and 2, and were relatively high.

In 2009, papers 1 and 2 were set at a more difficult level. Once again paper 3 contained the more challenging questions and this paper was optional. Only about 8 000 candidates wrote paper three.

During 2008, in regard to physical science, UMALUSI, when preparing for the standards, had conducted a “Maintaining Standards Project”, which aimed to evaluate the curriculum of the Senior Certificate to the curriculum of the NSC, as well as evaluate the standard of the question papers in the higher grade, standard grade and in the NSC. Already in 2008, UMALUSI indicated that the physical science curriculum was much broader and much more difficult than the Senior Certificate, but the question paper was then aligned with the curriculum statement, and tended to be more difficult. In 2009 the same issue was raised. The curriculum had not been amended, but it was too soon to do so. In its 2009 report, UMALUSI had recommended to DBE that it must look at the curriculum, and DBE had issued a circular that addressed this to some extent and making it more reasonable to assess. Hopefully, this would mean that the 2010 paper would be set at an appropriate level, and address the criticism that it had equated to first year University level. He said that it usually took three to five years for any new curriculum or new qualification t settle in. Learners would not suffer. UMALUSI was standardising the paper and could effect adjustments, within stated norms and principles, if the paper was too difficult.

Mr Mashamaite asked why the security in all centres around examinations would not be tightened, as the presentation suggested that this would only be done where problems had been identified.

Dr Sishi said that the DBE would take Mr Mashamaite’s advice on the issue of security. He agreed that the general security situation around question papers and answer books had to be upgraded, instead of focussing on isolated areas where there were breaches of security in the past.

Mr Mashamaite said that teacher training programmes in schools were not working because the unions were resisting them, claiming that training should happen during school hours.

Mr Mosuwe said that DBE hoped that, through the teacher development plan, many of the inadequacies that existed within the system would be addressed. It was now 60 days to the start of the examinations. Everybody had to start mobilising for support for matric learners. He conceded that sometimes subject adviser and teacher training did not happen as successfully as it should. There were labour issues involved, but the challenges around the whole question of the teacher developmental process must be recognised. DBE was making an effort to provide sufficient support at the level of the district, so that subject advisors at that level would be able to support teachers at school level.

Ms D Rantho (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked if DBE had measures in place to address the problems in the Eastern Cape.

Ms Rantho asked if the subject advisers in the province understood the assessment framework referred to in the presentation, and asked if this applied to the higher bands, or to Grades R to 12.

Dr Sishi responded that the same standard as had applied to matric for many years must be applied in future to all grades, in order to identify problems early. The Eastern Cape had appointed a set of new advisers over the last two years and made good progress regarding this area. He thought that the DBE needed to do more than setting frameworks, but would need more assistance.

Ms Rantho asked which provinces had programmes to support the 80 000 or so repeat-writers, noting that if some did not, then representatives of the provinces could initiate those support programmes.

Dr Sishi said that although the DBE was not happy with the level of support to these learners in all nine provinces, there were certain provinces that were making progress. The Free State, Western Cape and Mpumalanga all had programmes to support second chance repeat candidates in place. Even where the programmes existed, many repeat learners were not aware of them.

Ms Rantho asked what was done to replace markers who were expelled from marking centres, and asked also whether they were still selected by calling for CVs.

The Chairperson was concerned how to ensure that all markers had the same standardised training.

Dr Sishi said that if a teacher was expelled, he or she would not be employed again as a marker without undergoing further training first. The quality of that teacher’s work at his or her own school would be investigated, together with the person who recommended him or her. This was a systems issue. Markers were selected by the district officials, but must also actually be teaching the subject that they were to mark.

Ms Mncube said that Western Cape had been a “risk factor” for the past four years, according to DBE, and was a serial offender in not complying with certain requirements. She thought that the DBE was firm in regard to Mpumalanga, but was unacceptably soft in regard to the Western Cape.

Dr Sishi said that DBE was not treating the Western Cape gently. The WC was told that the performance of learners in Gugulethu and Khayelitsha would be the measuring stick for the performance of that province. The integrity of the officials in all nine provinces was good. Dr Sishi said that any officials who were involved in irregularities were dealt with severely. The DBE had identified that in KZN some officials were writing exams for students. Those officials had been suspended and the investigations were under way.

Ms Mncube raised the issue of the “One Goal” campaign. All learners had to have access to education. In 2010, 562 000 learners would write the examination. However, about half would pass, whilst the other half would effectively “disappear” into the unemployed mass of people, and would not be able to repeat as certain provinces were not committing to the second chance programme, despite having received money for two years to implement this programme. She said the DBE should be actively regulating this, instead of simply appealing to the provinces.

Mr De Villiers asked whether the DBE had asked the provinces to submit programmes for the repeaters, so that these could be in place by next year.

Dr Sishi said that there were chances given to people to improve on their first attempts at matric. The DBE would consider regulation for the “One Goal” strategy to support repeat candidates in the provinces. At the same time it did not want to regulate for every problem, and end up over-regulating.

Mr De Villiers said that performance at the 144 quintile 5 schools was not so good. He asked if the DBE had followed up on this, and what had been its assessment of the level of preparedness of the learners at these schools. He also asked what must still be done to ensure that there was progress at these schools.

Mr de Villiers asked if there were programmes in place to address teachers who did not have the correct qualifications to teach a certain subject. 

Mr Mashamaite asked whether there were plans to gain control over private examination centres.

Dr Sishi responded that DBE insisted that private exam centres adhered to policy. DBE had a clear policy around their accreditation and they could not be registered as private centres until they had been registered and accredited by UMALUSI as an examination centre. DBE’s past experiences had shown that irregularities most often occurred at these private centres, whose motivation was often not strictly educational.

Mr Mashamaite asked how far the roll-out of the computer system had gone.

Ms Rantho (acting as Chairperson) asked a follow-up to the question Ms Makgate asked. She noted that markers received training to mark, but this only covered a half-day, and she would have thought that a weekend was more appropriate.

Dr Sishi said that the training of markers had to be seen in the context of the entire teacher development programme. At the marking centre, teachers were trained in the process of marking, making sure that the quality assurance standards were adhered to.

Ms Rantho asked how electronically secure were the IT systems employed to store exam papers, and whether it was not possible to hack into the system to steal the question papers electronically.

Ms Rantho quoted the report of UMALUSI that three to four Monitors per province would be deployed to monitor exams. The Eastern Cape was vast, and one municipality could stretch for over 300km, with poor roads. She wondered if the monitors would be efficient and effective.

Ms Makgate said that the DBE had said that immediately after the visits to provinces, it would give a report to the provinces, and wondered how often it received progress reports from the provinces.

Dr Sishi said that monitoring happened on a daily and continuous basis. There were monthly inter-provincial exam committee meetings where provinces had to account and produce reports on how they were preparing for the examinations. Those committees were directly accountable to the Council of Education Management (CEM). These had authority and power to deal with issues being raised. Monitoring was important, because everything had to be proven. If the province claimed that a certain number of candidates had registered, it must produce the registration forms. He noted that, for example, 17 500 subject changes were picked up in the Western Cape, in contrast to about 500 in other provinces, and this was raised with the head of the Western Cape department. It turned out that this was due to better IT systems in Western Cape, whereas other provinces were trying to register the changes manually.

Ms Makgate asked whether schools should not be classified into categories. Some schools were under- resourced, yet were being held to the same standards as prestige schools, which she considered unfair.

Dr Sishi said that the DBE was looking into the norms and standards for releasing the results. He agreed that more care should be taken on this. Last year the DBE had produced a set of norms and standards for releasing results. When provinces selected the top 10 learners, their aim was to encourage learners, and to showcase those who had worked hard under difficult circumstances. However, this could also be counter productive, if certain issues were not taken into account. The Minister had asked the inter provincial examination committee to consider the introduction of new criteria to use. The Schooling 2025 campaign was based on pillars of accountability, performance management and remedial interventions to correct specific issues.

Mr De Villiers said that no doubt the DBE would say that it was supporting poor schools through the Schooling 2025 campaign. However, he made that the point that under performing schools were a legacy issue, and it was generally township and rural schools that fell within that category. This highlighted that it was not an exam issue, but a systemic issue that could only be addressed comprehensively through Schooling 2025.

Dr Sishi said that despite the challenges mentioned, Basic Education had improved tremendously over the last five years. The poor level of attainment amongst the learners, throughout the system, was still a problem. Internationally, South African learners were amongst the lowest achievers. Early detection of problems as well as remedial interventions were built into Schooling 2025, which, hopefully, would address poor learner attainments within twelve years.

The meeting was adjourned.


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