Grade 9 Certificate, Matric Results and Abet Level 4 Examination: briefing by Department

Basic Education

12 March 2002
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


12 March 2002

Prof S Mayatula (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Report on Senior Certificate Examinations, 27 December 2001
Tables of Findings
Analysis of 2001 Senior Certificate Examination Results
Briefing on Examinations (Appendix)

The Department briefed the Committee on Grade 9 results, ABET examinations and Matric results for 2001. There was great concern over several aspects of the ABET programme as the pass rate was generally very low and there was a high proportion of registered learners who had not written the examinations.

There was also concern over whether the Grade 9 GETC had value considering the number of administrative problems experienced and the fact that most pupils stay in the system after Grade 9 anyway.

The Matric results were quite well received. Issues raised included the leaking of exam papers and the practice of holding back pupils in grade 10 and 11 in order to achieve a higher pass rate in Matric.

Finally, some administrative matters regarding the forthcoming study trips to Thailand and Mpumalanga and the Free State were discussed.

ABET Level 4 Examinations
Please refer to the briefing document on examinations, presented by Mr Duncan Hindle: Deputy Director-General, General Education and Training.

Prof S Ripinga (ANC) said that the poor pass rate in the natural sciences suggested that a new cadre of teachers were necessary. The Department should reconsider mathematics as a pre-requisite.

Mr Hindle said that the maths curriculum clearly needed to be reconsidered.

Mr R Van den Heever (ANC) said that the 958 candidates in KwaZulu Natal and the 566 in the Western Cape, as compared with 5 000 in the Eastern Cape is not because of lack of resources, but because some provinces do not hold Adult Basic Education and Training as a budgetary priority.

Mr Hindle said that this is a good point. Perhaps it is because of low budget allocations, although there are other factors as well. It was encouraging that out of 18 000 registered in the ABET programme, 12 000 were women.

Mr R Ntuli (DP) asked how much money was being spent on ABET, because with only 78 passes its value was dubious. The low pass rate in Technology, not to talk of Mathematics was worrying because the private sector needs to redress inequalities. Lastly, Mr Ntuli said that perhaps the high participation in the Eastern Cape could show how the same could be achieved in the other provinces.

Mr Hindle said that he did not have the figures of the cost of the ABET programme on hand, but that there was no doubt as to the importance of the programme. Mr Ntuli had a valid point regarding the private sector. However, he was not sure as to the high figures of enrolment in the Eastern Cape.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) asked Mr Hindle to what he attributed the fact that only 78 people passed.

Mr Hindle said that the 78 should not be seen as a percentage of the 18 000. The constraint on resources is one factor. Another problem is structural; many ABET Centres are not custom built but rather school classrooms. The quality of teaching was sometimes poor as it is often schoolteachers who teach ABET. ABET teaching is a career in its own right and UNISA is developing a training course, with EU funding.

Mr L Kgwele (ANC) asked why adult learners do not take part in examinations. He said that this is a grave problem that needs to be investigated by the Department. How are unemployed learners able to pay for the examination deposit?

Mr Hindle said that the Department acknowledges the existence of these 'ghost-learners' and that it is a problem experienced by ABET programmes world-wide. The deposit has been put forward as only one of the possible solutions and all factors would be considered.

Prof S Ripinga asked if some educators had posts in more than one area and if they did, could Mr Hindle explain the reason for this. He also expressed concern over budget allocations being set by the provinces. Has there been any tangible transformation since 1994?

Mr Hindle said that shared posts are a problem. He explained that Provinces had the final say in budget allocations

Mr Van den Heever asked how many learners wrote all eight courses.

Mr Hindle said that he would make the figures available to the Committee.

Grade 9 Examination
Please refer to the briefing document on Grade 9 Examinations

An IFP Member asked if frustrated individuals are not being created.

Mr Hindle said that a systemic evaluation of Grades 3, 6 and 9 is underway which will start to address concerns of how the system is succeeding as a whole.

Mr Ntuli asked what the sustainability of the situation is, in light of the fact that the first crop of OBE (Outcomes Based Education) Matriculants is due in 2004. Mr Ntuli asked how the teachers' competence in continuous assessment could be assured.

Mr Hindle said that a significant amount of training in continuous assessment has been undertaken, but not enough.

Mr Vadi expressed the view that no certificates below the matric certificate can have any currency in the modern world where a matric is considered a minimal qualification.

Mr Kgwele asked if the Department was doing anything to prevent schools from failing a high proportion of Grade 10 and 11 pupils in order to achieve 100 percent pass rates, a process known as 'culling'.

Mr Hindle said that Mr Lehoko: Deputy Director-General, Further Education and Training, would answer these questions in his presentation.

Grade 12 Results
Please refer to the document on the Analysis of the 2001 Senior Certificate Examination Results.

An ANC member noted that there was a decline in enrolments. Do some pupils get lost in the process?

The ANC member said that schools are in a catch-22 situation: Schools are under pressure to deliver and therefore 'cull' students to achieve high pass rates, which makes the child a victim. What is preferable: better results or better education?

Mr Lehoko agreed and reiterated view of the Minister, recently expressed, that the Department is not obsessed with a 100% pass rate. He warned however that the Department must be careful in sending out a message that schools do not have to perform. The definition of a good school is one where all can succeed.

Mr Vadi asked what the reason for the decline in pass rates in Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape were.

Mr Vadi asked if the Department wishes to shift the emphasis of education towards technology.

Mr Lehoko said that TVE (Technical Vocational Education) is not en vogue any longer. There is nothing wrong with TVE, it is not inferior, and in some cases there are higher private returns than an academic education.

Mr Vadi asked what the investigations into the leaking of matric examination papers have yielded.

Mr Lehoko said that it has only been possible to catch a few students and not the "big fish" who sell the papers. The only way to ensure against theft was to keep the exam papers under 24 hour CCTV surveillance. He had spoken to Jackie Selebi (Commissioner of Police) to deal with this. The most effective way to deal with this matter would be to treat it as part of the moral regeneration process whereby pupils who get offered papers refuse to buy them.

Mr Ntuli said that the redeployment of teachers and principals should be monitored and controlled.

Mr Lehoko said that a school in Soweto had dramatically improved its performance and had reported that the reason was because the Minister's representatives from the Department visited the school and encouraged them. It is usually better to encourage than threaten with redeployment. He said however that in some cases threats do work and in others threats, visits and increasing the resources does not work as the divisions and tensions in the school are so great that radical intervention is necessary.

Mr Ntuli said that he thought there was no qualitative difference between high grade and standard grade and that there was an equal emphasis on knowledge, application etc. He added that each grade should focus on the different needs of the child.

Mr Lehoko said that there is a definite need for two grades due to the different capabilities of learners. He said however that the difference should not punish standard grade learners and that the criteria that each grade should meet needs to be examined more closely.

The Department concluded their briefing.

The Chair mentioned that the forthcoming trips Mpumalanga, Free State and Thailand would be comprised of a delegation of six members- four ANC and two opposition Members. He asked if the Committee could endorse this.

Members agreed.

The Chair asked if the opposition could furnish him with the names of the opposition members by the next meeting.

Mr Ntuli asked what the logic was in giving the ANC so much space considering that there were twelve opposition parties.

The Chair reminded the Member that these were National Assembly rules and not the rules of the Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.

Portfolio Committee Briefing on Examinations
12th March 2002

Two reports:
ABET level 4 examinations
Grade 9 examination

ABET level 4 examinations

This exam is equivalent to the Grade 9 school examination, at NQF Level 1, which qualifies for the award of the General Education and Training Certificate (GETC). This allows for progression in to Further Education, either in a College or in a workplace-based learnership. It is an important breakthrough in using the NQF. Makes use of different routes to a qualification, and offers portability.

These were the first ABET Level 4 exams: let me talk about the examination, its nature and results, and some of the lessons learned.


33 025 adults registered for the exam, but only 55% (18 438 candidates) turned up to write. This is concern in itself, since there is a cost associated with people not turning up - papers have been printed and invigilators arranged. CEM has called for an investigation into this; perhaps an exam "deposit" could be considered - refundable to those who write.

The highest participation was in the Eastern Cape, with over 5 000 candidates who wrote, followed by Free State (3 029) and North West (2 250). KwaZulu Natal fielded a disappointing 958 candidates, and Western Cape only 566.

Of the 18 438 adults who wrote, they passed 30 232 courses at all levels, in 21 learning areas. These include 10 "subjects" plus 11 official languages. The overall pass rate was 62.7%, although this is not a good indicator since many students wrote only one or two papers, as part of a cumulative approach to obtaining the qualification. Only 78 candidates passed all eight learning areas, resulting in the award of a GETC.

The examination

Very few of the people involved, including curriculum developers, adult educators or examiners have huge experience of this field - it is pioneering work. The intended use of a 75% continuous assessment mark could not be implemented, because of a lack of expertise in the adult centres to do this effectively, and students wrote a single, terminal examination. Moderation could not be based on any historical trends, also because this was first time exercise.

The results

The results fall into three distinct categories. Languages were most encouraging, except for English (37%) and Afrikaans (22%), but the African languages showed consistently high results (70% for IsiZulu and IsiXhosa, and 98% for Tshivenda). African language classes are generally taught by mother tongue speakers, and students excelled in these areas.

A middle group of subjects, with pass rates indicated, included Applied Agriculture (52%); Arts and Culture (49%); Small Enterprise Development (32%); Economics (20%), Human and Social Sciences (50%) and Life Orientation (31%). These marks are probably consistent with the expectations of students and the department.

The problem area is in relation to the Natural Sciences, where the success rate was much too low. Maths (14%), Natural Science (23%) and Technology (5%) suggest that there is much to be done here.

The problem with the Maths pass rate is compounded by the fact that this is determined by SAQA as a "fundamental learning area" for the GETC, so that without a pass in Maths there can be no certificate. The principle is not a bad one - all general education learners should be exposed to Mathematical Literacy. But the examination in this case was closer to a school Maths exam than an examination of Mathematical Literacy - knowledge about Maths, rather than high level mathematical competencies. As a result only 2 093 out of the 14 302 candidates who registered passed Maths. We will therefore be looking very closely at future exams to ensure that we are indeed testing what is intended, and not something else. And we will be looking at the teaching of Maths in ABET Centres to see what can be done.

In the light of the above concerns we had considered cancelling the June ABET Examinations, so that we could correct the problems. However provinces have requested us to proceed since there are learners who have registered with a view to writing in June, and we cannot disappoint them. But we will scrutinise the nature of all the papers, to ensure they are consistent with our expectations, and we hope that a better result will emerge this year.

The Grade 9 examination

In the normal course of events pupils in schools who successfully complete Grade 9 this year, as the first cohort of OBE pupils to complete the General Education band, would have been awarded a GETC.

This position has been reviewed in the light of the following information:

Firstly, this design of this GETC certificate was based on the assumption that pupils would make active choices at this "exit point", with many opting to move to Further Education Institutions, or to the workplace to take up learnerships. In reality, neither of these is materializing and the reality is that more than 95% of pupils will progress to the next grade in the same school. It has been agreed that to mount an expensive and time consuming, high stakes, exit examination simply to provide for normal progression into Grade 10 is a wasteful exercise.

Secondly, the value of the certificate is being questioned. We all know that matric certificate is hardly a "passport to success", and that further studies are usually necessary to secure a decent job. The value of a GETC in the labour market would be even lower, again raising questions about its real value.

Thirdly, a pilot conducted in a number of schools showed large discrepancies between the school based, continuous assessment, and the standardized "Common Tasks for Assessment", which serve to moderate the results. This suggests teachers and schools are not yet able to properly assess a candidate in relation to national standards, which raises question about the 75% component of the final mark. Until we are confident that schools are reflecting a fair and comparable assessment of their pupils, we cannot award a standardised SAQA accredited certificate to learners.

The Ministry has therefore agreed, after consulting with provincial education MECs, that the GETC certificate will not be issued at the end of Grade 9 this year. Instead, we will adopt the following developmental approach:
school based assessment will count for 75% of the year mark;
the other 25% will come form "Common Tasks for Assessment", which will be drawn from a national data bank; and
the normal requirements for progression will apply, which are that pupils should be awarded an "achieved" rating in at least half of the specific outcomes, balanced over the eight learning areas.

A nationally designed report card will be issued to all pupils, which may serve as an exit and entry certificate for those few who wish to transfer to other places of learning.
The Department of Education is also establishing a Specialist Task Team to investigate the value of the GETC, and its nature and purpose. Is it a school leaving certificate, and if so, what is its currency? The team will also compare the ABET GETC and a school GETC - are these the same, are they intended for the same purpose. It may be that many adults would want to go no further, whereas we would hope that no young pupils would stop learning at this stage. The report will guide us towards the intended implementation of the GETC in 2004.


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