Umalusi on its 2013/14 Annual Report

Basic Education

15 October 2014
Chairperson: Ms N Mokoto (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Umalusi presented its 2013/14 Annual Report and noted that Umalusi was an independent entity with a statutory mandate around certification and monitoring of education qualifications. Its mandate of developing and maintaining frameworks of qualifications was carried out in collaboration with the South African Qualifications Authority, the Quality Council for Trade and Occupation (QCTO) and the Council on Higher Education (CHE). It developed and implemented the necessary quality assurance policies, accredited private institutions, monitored the public education system, certified learner achievement and maintained databases. It also attended to research and advice to the Minister and conducted substantial advocacy. A summary was given of how it linked to other bodies and did its work. The links with the Departments of Higher Education and Training and Basic Education were mentioned, particularly in relation to the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) curriculum changes and the standard of assessment. It was noted that a decision had been taken to extend the senior certificate, which may affect the planning for the roll out of the National Senior Certificate for Adults. The quality assurance regime for 2013/14 was summarised. The main functions and achievements of the units were also explained. Umalusi had collected R121.1 million in 2013/14, from certification, verification and accreditation and the grant from the Department of Basic Education, but cautioned that it was likely to experience shortfalls in the following years, and requested Parliament to ensure that it would have sufficient funding. It would be concentrating on the  implementation of the General and the Further Education and Training Qualification Sub-Framework ,would set standards for it, and roll out the new accreditation processes which had been approved by the Minister.

Members congratulated Umalusi on its work, and asked questions around the accreditation of the National Senior Certificate, the reason for the apparent discrepancies in performance between grade 9 and grade 12 level, and the challenges around the proposed Adult certificate. They wanted to know about the competence of markers and how this was tested, the qualifications of foreign teachers, particular risk factors in Eastern Cape and Limpopo, the reasons for the staff turnover, and whether Umalusi could provide a list of independent schools. Members also wanted to know about accreditation of old certificates in the system, how Umalusi attended to security issues, and its spending on legal matters. Finally, Members agreed, particularly after hearing the responses, that the Committee needed far more information in a separate briefing session on language compensation and the decision by the Department of Basic Education to change the current system, particularly how this would affect learners. The Committee was assured that the preparation for matric examinations in all provinces was up to standard and that the Department was fully apprised of any potential problems and had made plans. 

Meeting report

Election of Acting Chairperson
The Committee was informed that the Chairperson, Ms N Gina (ANC) was called away to an urgent meeting and thus the Committee needed to elect an Acting Chairperson. Ms N Mokoto (ANC) was appointed and took the chair.

Umalusi on the 2013/2014 Annual Report

Dr Mafu Rakometsi, Chairperson, Umalusi stated that the mandate of Umalusi was determined by two Acts namely; The National Qualifications Framework Act of 2008 and The General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Act of 200, amended in 2008. The two Acts supported the independence of Umalusi to pronounce on quality assurance issues without fear or favour.

He summarised the essential parts of the mandate. Umalusi essentially developed and managed a sub-framework of qualifications in collaboration with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and two other Quality Councils, the Quality Council for Trade and Occupation (QCTO) and the Council on Higher Education (CHE). It also developed and implemented the necessary quality assurance policies through accreditation of private institutions and monitored the public system, and certified learner achievement. Its information task was related to its maintenance of a database of learner achievements, and it commissioned and published research related to the development and implementation of the sub-framework of qualifications. Finally, Umalusi advised the relevant minister on matters relating to the General and the Further Education and Training Sub-Framework (GFET) and collaborated with SAQA and the two Quality Councils as well as doing continuous advocacy so that the public could appreciate what Umalusi quality assured.

The impact of the external environment was summarised as follows:
- The National Development Plan (2011) must be followed when planning
- The process of collaboration with SAQA and the other QCs had meant that staff had been extensively involved in both ministerial and SAQA task teams
- Upon the finalisation of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) the ministerial regulation of the revised NQF had been published in the Government Gazette
- The White Paper on Post School System provided a vision for the post school system
- The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) had made a number of changes relating to colleges
- The Department of Basic Education (DBE)  was  implementing the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) and Umalusi was analysing the changes made to the curricula and the standard of the assessment
- The fate of adult learners remained uncertain as a decision had been taken to extend the senior certificate, which may affect the planning for the roll out of the National Senior Certificate for Adults.

The quality assurance regime 2013/2014 included Umalusi evaluating and benchmarking existing qualifications and curricula, issuing authentic certificates and development of new qualifications and curricula. It had ensured that the internal moderation processes were of an acceptable standard. It had ensured that the standardisation processes were reliable, and that standardisation decisions were upheld. This had resulted in accreditation of private institutions and accreditation of private assessment bodies.

Ms Eugenie Rabe, Chief Operations Officer, Umalusi, highlighted the achievements of the Qualifications, Curriculum & Certification unit (QCC) and the Quality Assurance of Assessments Unit (QAA). The QCC role was to ensure and enhance the status and quality of the qualifications Umalusi certified. This unit quality assured the qualifications and their related curricula to ensure overall quality of the certificates that Umalusi issued. Umalusi would also oversee the issuing and verification of certificates. The qualifications that it covered were summarised (see attached presentation) as SC, NSC, N3, NCV 2, 3, 4; GETC: Adults.

The QAA role entailed establishing, maintaining and improving standards at exit points in General and Further Education and Training. In order to fulfil this function, Umalusi had five key processes - namely, the external moderation of question papers, verification and monitoring the conduct of examinations, the external moderation of marking, the external moderation of continuous assessment; and standardisation of assessment results. The same levels of qualifications applied.

The Evaluation and Accreditation Unit (E&A) was responsible for accrediting private institutions through quality assurance of their provision for the qualifications Umalusi certified. This Unit evaluated the capacity of education and training providers to implement registered qualifications and approved curricula, evaluated the quality of the enacted curriculum in providers, checking that they were providing teaching and learning at the required standard. It also assessed the capacity of assessment bodies to conduct practical, internal and external assessments of learner achievement at the required standard.

The Statistical Information and Research Unit (SIR) conducted research as identified by the needs of the organisation, established and maintained databases, led in statistical research and analysis and informed and provided statistical support for the work in other units. It also played a role in organisational and professional development at Umalusi.

Mr Jeremy Thomas, Chief Financial Officer, Umalusi, spoke on the Governance and Office of the CEO  Information Technology Infrastructure & Systems, Finance, Human Resource and Administration Support and Finance.

The Governance and Office of the CEO (GOCEO) ensured that strategic and performance plans were in place and that the organisation carried out its remit. It ensured that correct corporate governance, following King III, was implemented. It ensured that the work of Umalusi was advocated through a communications and public relations strategy, and built and managed stakeholder relationships.

He stated that creditors were paid within 30 days and surpluses were invested at Corporation for Public Deposits (CPD). Speaking to human resource and administration support, he noted that eight bursaries had been given to staff, four had undergone in house training, and 33 had taken short courses. The vacancy rate was 12%, while the turnover rate was 6%, which was mainly as a result of staff leaving Umalusi due to promotions.

The total revenue collected in 2013/2014 was R121 133 119 from certification, verification and accreditation, the grant from the Department of Basic Education, as the main sources. Expenditure was R101 529 647. The surplus was R19 603 472, which arose as a result of: increased accreditation applications, private Further Education and Training (FET) college fee collections increased, interest income from reserves was still not expended and there had been lower expenditure due to the process for approval of posts to be filled over two financial years. Umalusi’s three-year forecast was analysed and he noted that in 2015/2016 it would live have a shortfall of R16 884 016 which would increase to R33 836 343 in 2016/2017, and R42 361 804 in 2017/2018. A request was thus made that Parliament should ensure that 80% of the budget was funded by the State.

Dr Rakometsi summarised the current issues and the way forward. He noted that Umalusi would concentrate on the implementation of the General and the Further Education and Training Qualification Sub-Framework (GFETQSF), would set standards for it, and roll out the new accreditation processes which had been approved by the Minister. Finally, he wished to thank the Acting Chairperson and the Portfolio Committee and members for their ongoing support.

Ms A Lovemore (DA) congratulated Umalusi on its work as well as commending Professor Sizwe Mabizela, Chairperson of Umalusi. She wanted to know how the National Senior certificate was accredited, and wanted comment in particular on the 3% low performance of grade 9, and how this linked to the 80% pass in grade 12. She asked how the National Senior Certificate for Adults was administered and what were the challenges. She called for an explanation on matric exam markers who had not undergone competence tests. She asked what the way forward would be for language compensation. She also wanted comment on the risk factors in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

Mr H Khosa (ANC) congratulated Umalusi on the clean audit and asked for clarification on the readiness of the exam in the two provinces. He asked how independent schools were being managed as they did not have teachers who were fully employed. He also spoke to when it was likely that South Africa may have at least five languages that were popular.

Mr L Ntshayisa (AIC) asked whether there was any difference between the National Senior Certificate for Adults and the Matric Exam for Grade 12, and on how prepared the children were to attain certificates for Grade 9.

Ms J Basson (ANC) congratulated Umalusi and asked who attended to the standardisation and how it was carried out. She asked how Umalusi could assist parents in registering children in private schools. She also enquired how Umalusi could support the adults, especially on the extension of the Senior Certificate. She wondered how well-authenticated were the certificates for foreigners that were teaching in South African Schools.

Ms N Mashabela (EFF) asked what the reasons for high resignations were, and whether Umalusi could provide a list of independent schools, so that Members could find out whether schools in their areas had been registered with Umalusi.

Mr T Khoza (ANC) stated that although other Members had covered some of his questions, he wondered if Umalusi  had any intention of verifying old certificates in the system.

The Chairperson asked how Umalusi was dealing with security measures, and how much it was spending on legal matters.

Dr Rakometsi firstly explained the alignment and the apparent disparity across grade 9 and grade 12. He stressed that grade 9 exams were different from that of grade 12, as they were not focused on an individual learner but were merely an evaluation of the progression from one grade to the other.

On the competence of markers, he stated that Umalusi had been monitoring the appointment of workers through PEM systems, which prescribed how they were to be appointed, what must be their qualifications and experiences and the performance in grade 12 in terms of the marks they were producing.

Dr Rakometsi maintained that the risks and readiness for exams in Eastern Cape and Limpopo depended on the availability of resources. The two provinces did not have enough resources. However, Umalusi had alerted the Department of Basic Education and it was up to the DBE to deal with the issues as Umalusi's task was only to ensure that nothing had been compromised.

He confirmed that Umalusi was currently finalising the certificates of accreditation, considering that the Minister had now approved the accreditation policy.

Dr Rakometsi noted that the certificates had been subjected to security measures in that they had a water mark that could not be duplicated, the serial numbers were different and  a magnifying glass would show the mark of Umalusi, which was not present in fake certificates. Furthermore, the auditors had given the certification process a clean bill of health.

Foreign qualifications were attended to by SAQA who checked whether the qualifications were authentic with the countries of origin, before foreigners were given work. However, Umalusi also had its own checks and balances including that persons handling the question papers signed on the days they worked on them, and there was a chain of persons dealing with the papers at different intervals and in the organisation, any activity dealing with the papers could be traced back to a person's use of a pass word.

In relation to questions on the languages, he noted that at present, all South African languages would be considered and given equal status in the certificates. Language compensation was as a result of past imbalances where the learners would be trained to be proficient in English so that they could comfortably compete with the others. However, there had been an ongoing debate and resolution to end language compensation, and as a consequence, research was being conducted on the impact of the termination. He thought that this could be minimal but the stigma could be immense to the learners, although discussion with the DBE had agreed that language compensation would be terminated.

Dr Rakometsi asked for, and received permission to leave the meeting at this point, to catch a plane.

Mr Jeremy Thomas explained that from the R46 million obtained, R8 million was to be used in this financial year to prop up the budget, as there was a shortfall. The accrued R10 million would be used to pay providers for work commissioned but not yet paid for. The rest of the money would be put to renovate the building next door to the tune of almost R10 million, with the remainder being put aside as a reserve to assist Umalusi with its cash flow problems.

He noted that the 6% turnover rate was as a consequence of five staff members that had left, but noted that this was five from a total of 89 members. He then explained that the legal fee of R430 000 was spent to obtain legal opinions on legislation.

He noted that the Department of Basic Education had given its input on the issue of the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, and would give an update to the Committee on this. He noted that there were staff shortages and resource limitations in these two provinces. However, the provinces had prioritised the functions relating to the NSA exams. The DBE had gone to the two provinces, as well as the other provinces, and had not identified any serious compromise there in relation to the exams. For example the processes of printing question papers, distribution, and marking were intact and would take place as planned. Independent monitors from within and outside the province would be hired.

In relation to standardisation, Mr Thomas said that the DBE was doing the best that it could to improve learner performance. On the other hand, Umalusi’s task was to compare the performances against previous years, given that it would not approve performance over 2-3% deviation per annum. The question was on the empirical basis around the limitation of 2-3% increase in every year. The onus lay with the DBE to provide the empirical data to Umalusi to justify what the increase should be, and this did create tension between DBE and Umalusi. As a result, there was a need to do a comparison with other nations on how they conducted the standardisation process.

Mr Thomas added to comments made earlier on the question of language compensation, which was introduced by Umalusi on the basis of the disadvantage of learners. He noted that if this was done away with, those who previously had the advantage of language compensation would have been shown to have an advantage over others.

The Chairperson said that some of the issues that DBE had raised were of concern, and proposed that there should be another meeting specifically on language compensation to properly solve the issue. She asked what would be the result of testing the withdrawal of language compensation on the mock examination that had been done.

Dr Lovemore added that the Committee needed to know what would be the empirical results of doing away with language compensation, and agreed that there should be another meeting to discuss it.

Mr Thomas responded that the mock examinations were still being marked and eventually the outcome and results on the learner performance would be provided. However, there had been a number of changes on the examinations and the performance would not be entirely pegged to language compensation. The fact that that was not the main exam should be taken into account. Therefore, the results would be merely a performance indicator on what the final performance could be. Further, there was no empirical data to justify the disadvantage and whether it had been addressed, and he said that the onus was on the DBE to ensure that any disadvantage was addressed. He agreed that a special discussion on language compensation would be necessary.

The meeting was adjourned.

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