The Department of Basic Education (DBE), and Umalusi, gave detailed presentations on the 2014 National Senior Certificate (NSC) Examinations report. The report was not just about providing data, but it also served as an important indicator of the performance of the system. The Department had done a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the report to identify weaknesses and strengths of the examination system. The 2014 examination results were described as promising, and comparisons were given to the position in the 1970s as well as more recent years from 2008. It was noted that the lower quintile schools had performed exceptionally well, which was a positive indicator that education inequities were being redressed.
Overall there was an improvement in the number of candidates passing the examination and obtaining the NSC. On the other hand the integrity and credibility of the examination system was challenged by irregularities of group copying and cheating, in which seven out of nine provinces were implicated. The irregularities were highest in Kwa-Zulu Natal, where 20 centres out of 1 741 were implicated, and Eastern Cape, with 14 out of 924 centres implicated. The Department addressed the issue of irregularities with the utmost seriousness, by instituting investigations immediately after the allegations were made. In provinces where fewer centres were implicated investigations had been completed. All parties involved in group copying would be dealt with accordingly and if any teachers were found guilty of facilitating or initiating group copying they would be subjected to disciplinary proceedings stipulated by the Employment and Appointment of Educators Act.
The DBE had adopted several measures to improve delivery of education based on the findings of a National Diagnostic Report which provided feedback to learning and teaching and assisted in school based diagnostic assessment and intervention. The diagnostic report focused on the 11 key subjects. The DBE had embarked on providing differentiated leaner support, support by provinces and support for teachers. Monitoring mechanisms had also been enhanced.
The quality assurance report presented by Umalusi showed a maturing system that had made positive strides towards improvement in certain areas of assessment and examination. Part of the quality assurance required the moderation of question papers to ensure fairness and reliability. Overall there had been improvement in the submission of papers that met standards. However there were areas of concern with timeliness in approval of question papers. Moderation of internal assessment was also done which found some concerns such as incorrect allocation of marks and learners' inability to answer questions, either because of the way that these were worded, which implied certain prior cultural knowledge, or because of the rigid way in which the learners were being taught by rote. Examinations were monitored and it was found there was significant inadequate staff capacity. There was poor coordination between PDEs and District Offices.
Umalusi also quality assured marker selection and marking verification. Some provinces complied with the criteria for marker selection, but Limpopo was found to be the most problematic as there was no documentation to verify the marker selection process. Some improvements were observed during marking verification. The biggest challenge faced by quality assurance council was lack of regulation on how systematic regulations could be addressed.
Members raised a number of questions on general concepts as well as details. Although the reports had not contained details on retention and drop out of learners, and uptake of maths, literature and science, as opposed to those seen as softer options they wanted to know if these issues were addressed during the assessment of the examinations. They asked how provinces must use the documentation. There was some discussion on the significance of the results in the different quintiles, with the suggestion from some members that this illustrated that South Africa was a long way off having an equal system, with others suggesting that praise must be given where due. They questioned how difference in standards arose if Umalusi monitored both question and completed papers. Several questions addressed how competence of markers was promoted and tested. Members were agreed that any teachers who colluded in cheating did not deserve to remain teachers. They expressed concern at reports of capacity problems, and asked what plans the DBE had to resolve these issues. Specific questions were raised about the mathematics and science papers. They asked how inadequate rooms to write examinations, and too few invigilators, would be addressed and generally asked, in relation to any difficulties highlighted, how the DBE intended to correct the problems. They suggested the need to focus not only on Grade12 but earlier grades as well and asked for a breakdown of special needs figures. The special arrangements for supplementary examinations in some areas were interrogated. The Chairperson pointed out that similar issues had been raised in earlier discussions, and suggested, firstly, that discussions between all bodies were needed well in advance of examinations, that teachers should be trained to mark throughout the year and that the Committee needed a special session to discuss how to move forward on areas of particular concern.
The DBE and Departmen tof Transport then gave a presentation on the learner transport policy and current status of how it was operating in some provinces. The whole idea was that learners should be provided with better access to quality education by providing them with a safe and secure transport environment to get to school. This function had been transferred to five provinces (excluding Western Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo, Free State), and the budget was managed by the Provincial Department of Education in KwaZulu Natal, but by the Provincial Department of Transport in the others. The Education departments identified those needing to benefit. The policy was jointly drafted by the two national departments, approved by both ministers and published for public comment. The policy aimed to ensure timeous delivery of service, reduction in road accidents involving learners, uniformity of service tariff structure and a coherent performance monitoring system. Roles and responsibilities for each department were outlined, but comments suggested the need for an even clearer indication of functions, remuneration models, attention to learners with disabilities and greater emphasis on safety. About 4.2% of all learners qualified for learner transport, but of those, only 71% were being transported, with most of those not benefiting being in the rural provinces. The biggest challenges were insufficient budgets, increased needs as a result of schools mergers, lack of capacity in the departmental units, unroadworthy vehicles being used, safety issues and uncoordinated planning. Some of the interventions to address these were outlined, and it was noted that better monitoring at provincial level would assist with safety issues, but the responsibility of parents was also stressed.
Members were concerned that DBE's communication on the issues was not optimal. Some Members pointed out that this was not merely a question of getting permits, but other issues such as the needs for children to attend after-school activities, weekly requirements, safety of particular environments rather than using merely a distance consideration, routes to ensure that children were actually dropped at their school, and rationalisation of schools must also be taken into account. Members were critical that this policy had not been presented to the portfolio committees on transport and education in joint meetings, suggested that the current policy needed far more input and interrogation and that a clear statement of budget, and clear guidelines on who may be transported, must be given. Another Member asked if the Department had considered purchasing buses and hiring permanent drivers. All stressed the necessity for close monitoring. The Department would respond in writing.
A planned presentation on school governing body elections was postponed, due to shortage of time, although comments were briefly made that the matter was on track, and that advocacy would continue right up to the date of elections. They questioned the requirements around quorums.
The Chairperson said the meeting was important, and apologised for the cancellation of another meeting in the previous week.
Ms A Lovemore (DA) said she was not sure of the reason, but Members did not get any hard copies of the presentations. Electronic copies were received but hard copies should not be distributed on the day of the meeting.
Ms D Van De Walt (DA) wanted to unconditionally apologise to Mr Brown for saying, in a Committee meeting in the previous week, that she had not received any documentation before the meeting. The documentation had been received, but the attachment had been deleted by accident.
National Senior Certificate Examinations 2014: report and analysis: Department of Basic Education (DBE) briefing
Mr Paddy Padayachee, Acting Director General, Department of Basic Education introduced the delegates making the presentation on behalf of the Department of Basic Education (DBE or the Department).
Dr Rufus Poliah, Chief Director, Department of Basic Education, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present the National Senior Certificate (NSC) 2014 results and provide a detailed analysis of the data. The data was an important indicator of the basic education system. More importantly, the analyses needed to include both qualitative and quantitative dimensions as the data provided critical information on trends - for instance, on improvements in the system, identification of areas of strengths and weaknesses. The data also looked at possible reasons for drops in performance. The NSC examination results for a particular year were used to plan out interventions for subsequent and following years.
The DBE, in the current year, had ensured that the data got down to the levels where it mattered. In January a national workshop was conducted with all curriculum and assessment specialists, followed by an assessment lekgotla to review assessment processes. Currently, road shows were taking place where a team of DBE specialists were interrogating and evaluating provincial results to look at areas of underperformance. The teams were working collaboratively to put an improvement plan for provinces with problem areas into place.
In February, the Minister of Basic Education had held a two day meeting to engage with directors, and afforded them an opportunity to account for the performance of their district. Improvement plans for the districts were looked at. District performance was beginning to produce the desired results. DBE was targeting to improve underperformance overall, whether in provinces, districts, schools, subjects and classes.
Dr Poliah said the DBE would use a diagnostic report as the Department’s "bible" for 2015. The diagnostic would be used on an annual basis to look at how it could provide meaningful information. For instance the Department was beginning to track areas of weaknesses in the current year and comparing this with previous years. This was one way of ensuring that there was some kind of movement towards improvement.
A historical analysis showed that in 1970 there were 43 000 leaners who attained the Grade12 certificate. In 2014 the figure had increased tenfold, with 403 874 leaners graduating with a National Senior Certificate. Looking at NSC performance over a period of twenty years (1994-2014), the drops could be explained by introduction of a new curriculum in 2008. Thereafter there was an improvement. The upward and downward trends were also similar for the Bachelors passes. Overall there was a gradual improvement over the last 20 years.
Performance of the Class of 2014
Dr Poliah said detailed results for the class of 2014 performance had been provided during the release of the 2014 NSC results at which Members of this Committee were present. A total of 532 860 learners wrote exams, which was a decrease of 30 000 from 2013. In 2014, 75.8% of the learners who wrote the exams passed and these improvements were also evident in improvements in Bachelors passes, sciences and mathematics, which were the key drivers in education improvement. Currently the achievement for Bachelors was 150 752, decreasing from 171 755 in 2013. The decrease should be understood in the context of a decrease in the overall population by 30 000. However, compared to 2008, there was a significant achievement.
School Performance within Different Percentage Categories
Analysis was done by categorizing schools' performance in scores of (%) 0-19.9, 20-39.9, 40-59.9, 60-79.9, 80-100, exactly 0 or exactly 100. Schools with a zero performance were schools with a low total numbers of learners, and some were independent schools. Looking at schools by quintiles was an important equity redress indicator. There were 2 189 schools that had performed between 80% and 100% in 2014 and nearly 1 000 of the schools were in quintiles 1 and 2. In addition, 292 schools had 100% pass rates, and almost 120 of the schools were in quintiles 1 and 2. This indicated that quintile 1 and 2 schools were doing extremely well.
NSC Passes by Type of Qualification, Per Quintile-2014
Types of qualifications were classified in terms of the quintiles and showed a significant number of quintiles 1 and 2 learners who attained Bachelor passes. Nearly 30 000 leaners from these quintiles had attained Bachelor passes. In 2013 quintiles 4 and 5 had the highest learners at 78 407 achieving Bachelors; however in 2014 there was a reversal as quintiles 1 to 3 had the highest Bachelors attainment. Even though there was an overall decrease in the number of Bachelors attained in 2014, there was still a positive move of lower quintile schools improving their performance.
Candidate’s Performance in Selected Subjects, 2010-2014
There was significant improvement in some subjects, particularly when compared to 2010, particularly in mathematics and physical sciences, which were focus subjects. Despite an improvement from 47.4% to 53.5% in mathematics and 47.8% to 61.5% in physical science there was still room for greater improvement in the subjects. The DBE was monitoring closely the performance of mathematics literacy and mathematics, as well as uptake in the subjects. Not only was performance monitored, schools were also being informed of their performance at the 40% pass level. At the 40% mark, performance was not at the desired attainment level.
From 2009 to 2014 performance in mathematics had an upward and downward trend. This could have been affected by fluctuation in numbers in terms of overall enrolment. Home languages performance was extremely good, but focus was on standard of African home languages compared with English and Afrikaans. The DBE was seeking to promote excellence across the board.
There were only seven districts which were performing below 60%. Five of the districts were in the Eastern Cape. These were Butterworth, Idutywa, Fort Beaufort, Mt Frere and Queenstown. The two districts in Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) were Ilembe and Umzinyathi. Seventeen districts were performing between 60% and 70%, which implied that a bulk of the districts was performing at above 80%, and this was a positive sign.
Performance of Special Needs Candidates
In 2014 there was a significant achievement in the performance of special needs learners. Out of 1 320 special needs learnera, 308 achieved Bachelors pass and154 achieved an endorsed NSC (five subjects especially designed for special learners). A total of 155 special needs learners did not achieve.
Irregularities relating to Group Copying: NSC 2014
Examination Irregularities were a common feature in Africa as well as internationally. A system's strengths and credibility would be influenced by its ability to identify and recognise irregularities and the ability to deal with the irregularities in a manner which did not compromise the examination as a whole. During the 2014 examination, a common irregularity, which featured in seven of the country’s nine provinces was group copying. Group copying occurred when three or more learners shared information or supported each other in an examination room. Group copying could be done with or without help from invigilators. Great concerns should be raised if support for group copying was orchestrated by invigilators or teachers.
Although numbers where group copying was identified might appear minor, the DBE was taking it as a serious irregularity. In KZN 20 centres out of 1 741 were alleged to be involved in group copying. The Eastern Cape had 14, Gauteng five; Mpumalanga two, North West, Northern Cape and Western Cape had one centre each alleged to be involved in group copying. When the allegations were made, the DBE, in conjunction with Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) and Umalusi, adopted a robust approach to deal with the irregularity. It was pointed out that invigilation might be looked at as the weakest link but the DBE had looked at it over the past two years. Centres where problems were anticipated to occur were isolated and administrative takeover was put in place. Other centres with perceived high risks had residential monitors and some had roving monitors. Higher vigilance was put in place in the whole monitoring system.
When group copying was identified, the DBE conducted an audit of schools or subjects where there was an indication that the irregularity had occurred. This was followed by interviews with learners and invigilators, and this process had been completed. The interviews were challenging in that a particular skill was required in order to carry out these specific kinds of investigations and be able to elicit the kind of responses from learners for the investigations to progress. It was found that evidence for copying was erratic, in terms of occurrence, schools and subjects. In addition, copying was limited to specific questions and was not wide spread across the scripts. There was also a confusing aspect which pertained to the isolated inclusion of specific figures or a paragraph in different parts of certain Provinces. That was a common answer that would appear in different schools in different parts of the Province. This might need further investigations.
The DBE was also confronted with denial of any wrong doing on the part of learners who responded that common answers, common wrong answers or verbatim responses arose as a result of group studies or the way in which they were taught. There were a few incidents where learners confessed to copying or cheating. However, based on the interviews, hearings and evidence from scripts, the DBE was able to confirm that support for group copying had been provided to the whole class in several centres. Copying had also occurred in sub groups of three to five who shared answers in a room. There was also evidence of erroneous teaching and rote learning which the Department was now investigating further. The investigations also refuted some of the allegations of cheating as no substantial evidence was found. Some cases had been completed cleared.
Progress to Date on Irregularities
Dr Poliah said that investigations relating to the implicated schools had been completed. Individual learner hearings were supposed to commence on 1 March 2015. However, because a large number of the learners were writing supplementary examinations, the hearings had had to be rescheduled, to avoid subjecting the learners to a hearing in the midst of their examinations. Those learners implicated had been allowed to write supplementary examinations on a provisional basis, as stipulated by regulations. Where there was teacher assistance imposed , the November results would be nullified and supplementary examination results might be considered. If learners acted on their own accord, normal sanctions would be applied, such as being barred from writing NSC examinations for three years. Teachers implicated would be subjected to the normal disciplinary process in terms of the Employment of Educators Act. The process for this would commence upon completion of learner hearings.
Strategies to Curb Irregularities
Dr Poliah also stated that there was a need to develop a culture and an attitude of respect for examination and assessment integrity, and this could not start from Grade 12 only. There should be an active campaign to promote integrity from Grade R, which should also be included in the Life Orientation curriculum. It should be inculcated in all learners that cheating was not an option when writing tests. Schools were to develop policy and implement systems to address irregularities from lower grades. Some of the strategies could be signing of an examination or assessment pledge across all grades by learners, teachers and officials.
The Department was also engaged currently in a policy review process to change the stance in dealing with irregularities, to be more proactive rather than reactive. The School Assessment Irregularities Committee (SAIC) would now be referred to as School Assessment Integrity Committees and would be intensified to promote integrity and deal with assessment malpractices when they occurred.
Categorisation of Exam Centres
Through legislation, the DBE wanted examination centres to be categorised and administered based on risk profiles. High Risk Centres would be administered by the PEDs, Medium Risk Centres would be placed with resident monitors and Low Risk Centres would be administered by the school with a roving monitor.
Accreditation of Independent Centres
The accreditation process had been initiated by Umalusi already, to ensure that centres which were not accredited by Umalusi did not administer examinations. This mainly applied to independent centres and independent centres should be monitored more robustly.
At the moment there was an assumption that all public schools, by virtue of being public schools, would administer examinations. However all public schools would be evaluated and if the school had repeated violations of the examination code, the school’s examination centre status would be lost. To be re-considered, such schools would have to undergo a rehabilitation status.
Where there had been irregularities in the past with the Senior Certificate (SC), the examinations for such would be administered at designated centres within the district. The centres would be administered by the district officials and would be subjected to an audit by the DBE to ensure compliance with stipulated criteria. The centres would be accountable to the PEDs and the data base for the centres would be managed by DBE.
Dr Poliah said that monitoring would be intensified across the entire system to ensure regular reporting and feedback throughout the examination cycle. Invigilators would be trained intensively and Chief Invigilators would be appointed. In KZN, Eastern Cape and Limpopo, resident monitors would be appointed at the provincial level by the DBE. The monitors would be monitoring all the examination processes especially the key stages of the cycle and would be required to report to the DBE on a weekly basis.
Curriculum interventions arising out of the NSC Examination results
Mr Suren Govender, Chief Director, Curriculum, DBE said he would focus on curriculum interventions which arise out of an analysis of the 2014 NSC examination results. The main focus would be on Grade 12. Having analysed the 2014 NSC results the DBE had identified strategies which needed to be sustained, others which needed enhancement and at the same time had also identified areas which needed strengthening and corrective action.
The National Strategy for Learner Attainment (NSLA) was revised and strengthened. The strategy was for Grades R to 12 and focused on providing support in languages, maths, science and technology. Lessons picked up in 2014 and helped with re-strategizing in 2015 included the role and positioning of the NSLA in the sector. Several engagements had been held at different levels involving all stakeholders in the education sector. The DBE was trying to ensure that the NSLA was regarded as an accountability tool in the entire sector so that issues of efficiency in the system could be addressed adequately.
The NSLA had been divided into nine sections which address specific deliverables that provinces, districts and schools are expected to implement. Some of the sections addressed were management and leadership, early childhood development, high or Further Education and Trraining (FET) schools, comprehensive teacher development and provision of resources, There was a reporting mechanism in place which would enable tracking of progress.
Mr Govender reported that, for the first time in 2015, the NSLA was focusing on differentiated support for Grade 12 learners who were progressing and learners who were retained. Issues of home schooling were also being addressed, as well as being able to track all learners across the system and also being able to measure impact of teacher interventions. Measures of support were customised to meet specific needs of the learners. Not only was support being provided to Grade 12 learners that had progressed or were retained, but support was also being provided to progressed and retained learners in all grades.
The 2015 Grade 12 Evidence Based report had been presented to Umalusi as part of the standardisation process. The report had also been integrated into the NSLA, thereby streamlining how provincial and district reports would be reported to the DBE. In collaboration with and in agreement with Umalusi, the DBE used a specifically designed template for the evidence based reports. Some of the features of the template were criteria for selection of target, nature of intervention, duration, scope and impact of what had actually happened. The DBE had taken the initiative to produce interim reports in June, September and November for the Grade 12 evidence based reports. The final report would be produced at the end of November 2015. 2014 was the first time that the Department produced a comprehensive report that was then presented to Umalusi.
Marking for the 2014 examinations had started when the issue of subject analysis and diagnostic report was already in place. As such, when results for the NSC examination were released the findings of the diagnostic report were in place. The diagnostic subject analysis covered the 11 high enrolment subjects. The report identified weaknesses per subject and per question, and provided remedial measures for inclusion in the teaching programme planned for 2015.
A subject specific analysis showed that there was an improvement in the life sciences. Looking at individual questions enabled the sector to determine direct focus of attention. Within each question the analysis allowed a person to draw down to each question and analyse the results and performance. All the information was utilised in devising a 2015 subject improvement framework.
Life Sciences Paper 1 struggled as a subject and much of it was attributed to candidates not understanding or grasping general concepts of the question. Inadequate teaching of the subject also contributed to learners performing badly in the paper. As such the Subject Improvement Framework was not derived in isolation but it was derived directly from the Diagnostic Analysis report of 2014 in each of the subjects. Weaknesses were underlined in each subject and remedial measures and responsibility at each level were provided. Implementation was ensured by clarifying roles for the DBE, Provincial and District Education departments as well as the responsibility of the teachers. Therefore the DBE’s mission in 2015 was to ensure that support and monitoring mechanisms in the system were enhanced. Earlier in 2015, a workshop was held, upon recommendations by the commissions of the Teacher Development and Curriculum Management (TDCM) with a theme “Consolidation of plans in Pursuit of Quality and Efficiency”.
The sector began compiling subject profiles in 2014. Subject profiles were a complete analysis of subject status at provincial and district levels. They also drew down on setting of targets as well as all other issues that required attention and remediation, to ensure improvement in performance. Subject profiles had become commonplace in the sector and had been used in the development of improvement plans and learner support programmes.
In 2015, learner support started differently, in that for the first time provinces were asked to identify candidates who had been registered for 2015 supplementary examinations arising out of 2014 performance. The idea was to provide the necessary support to those candidates who needed it by providing additional learning and teaching support material. The DBE would also roll out study skills programmes for all learners, in partnership with other stakeholders such as NGOs and private stakeholders.
The DBE would ensure that provinces were mandated to provide support as well by ensuring that materials provided by DBE were utilised by intended users. In addition provinces were expected to organise learner camps in areas where severe under-performance was anticipated. Contracts between schools, parents and the learners should be enforced to ensure accountability for improved learner performance.
There was a need for fundamental changes to be made in the sector regarding monitoring and accountability mechanisms. Provincial road shows for NSC and Annual National Assessment were held, to ensure that the sector mandates for learner improvement and support were clearly understood by each level in the system. The road show programme had already been completed in high focus Provinces of Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KZN. Workshops had already been conducted with provincial officials. One workshop was in progress in the Northern Cape and another one would follow in Mpumalanga. Other Provinces would have a one day engagement with selected provincial and district officials so that the mandate for learner performance was understood by all. Also the engagements would ensure the reporting mechanisms and accountability systems the DBE wanted to institute in 2015 were compliant.
The DBE was also providing support for underperforming districts and schools by developing instruments using experiences of better performing provinces that had used the recommended monitoring systems for both better and under performing schools. The tools were shared in the sector to ensure uniformity.
A new management system for the NSLA, as the main accountability tool to ensure efficiency in the monitoring system, had been structured. The team comprised representatives from various branches within the DBE and was responsible for a particular area. Provinces had been requested to nominate an official who would co-ordinate NSLA activities in their respective provinces. A reporting schedule was already in place and provinces were requested to present NSLA progress reports, which were to be evaluated at TDCM meetings.
As a sector, having analysed the 2014 NSC results, diagnosed the responses of the learners and identified weaknesses, the DBE had put into place a framework for improvement in 2014/2015. The improvement framework was enhanced by various learner support programs based on the NSLA. The DBE was optimistic about the results likely to be achieved in 2015.
The Chairperson thanked the department for the presentation and asked what TDCM was.
Mr Govender responded that it was a subcommittee for Teacher Development Curriculum Management and reported directly to the Head of Curriculum. TDCMs were led by the DBE from branch curriculum and branch teacher development. All senior managers were on the committee and, from each of the provinces, there were also provincial heads of curriculum, teacher development inclusive education. TDCM also had stakeholder representation from Umalusi, Teachers Unions, IEB, SAQA and various other stakeholders.
Report on the Quality Assurance of the National Senior Certificate by Umalusi
Ms Fathima Dada, Umalusi Council Member, Umalusi, proffered apologies on behalf of the Chairperson of Umalusi Council, Professor John Volmink. On behalf of the new Council, she extended gratitude for the warm welcome and support given to the Council. Despite the challenges that Umalusi faced at the end of 2014, the Council was able to deliver and was satisfied with progress thus far. Some of the challenges that Umalusi faced were mass copying, as had been highlighted by the DBE in its presentation. Umalusi would like to emphasise that the integrity and credibility of the whole examination system was of utmost importance. Hence the response by the DBE both nationally and provincially in dealing with these irregularities had to ensure a thorough process with appropriate and strict follow ups without compromises. Stakes were high as the public awaited to hear responses from appropriate bodies.
A second challenge faced by Umalusi was related to curriculum implementation as it was an unknown element of the final exam and there was no anticipation of what the result would be. However, the progress made was heartwarming and it was encouraging to see the level of support that the DBE had on implementation, which would be strengthening in support of the curriculum.
Ms Dada added that the DBE worked very hard in preparing for the 2014 NSC examinations. This facilitated Umalusi’s task and new ways of monitoring the system were implemented. It was important for everyone to think collectively about stakeholders’ mandate which was to improve education and quality from the bottom up for every South African. The Committee’s focus on final results was baffling. A lot had to be done to strengthen the system to come to the annual results.
The Chairperson said she did not understand well Ms Dada’s statement that the Committee focused on final results. She did not believe that was what the Committee was doing, so she regarded that statement as improper. The Committee would interact with the new Umalusi Council in the future to fully understand each other’s functions.
Dr Mafu Rakometsi, Chief Executive Officer, Umalusi, thanked the Chairperson and the committee for the opportunity to present the Umalusi Quality Assurance Processes for the 2014 NSC. He indicated that at the end of each examination a report was submitted to the Minister highlighting areas of good practice and concerns.
Umalusi derived its mandate from the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Act, section 27(h) which required the Quality Council to develop and implement policy and criteria for assessment for the qualification on its sub-framework. He also alluded to Section 17 of the GENFETQA Act which also guided the regulatory framework of Umalusi. He also mentioned the framework for quality assurance of learner achievement part of which required the use of systems, processes, and procedures to evaluate, inspect, monitor and report on examination systems.
Dr Rakometsi also mentioned the framework for quality assurance of assessment which set up the following function;
Evaluation and /or accreditation of assessment bodies
Periodic inspection of assessment systems
Ongoing monitoring of assessment systems
Quality assurance of external examinations by moderating examination questions, monitoring and moderation of SBA, monitoring the conduct of examinations, moderation of marking and standardisation of assessment outcomes
Umalusi also provided approval for the release of results, based on the examinations having been conducted in compliance with the applicable policies regulating the conduct and administration of the examinations. Also, at the time of approval, there was no serious irregularity that could undermine the credibility of the examination.
Quality Assurance of the DBE 2014 National Senior Certificate Examination
Ms Faith Ramotlhale, Senior Manager, Quality Assurance of Assessment, Umalusi, thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to present to the Committee. She said question papers were moderated to ensure that they were of the required standards of CAPS and SAGs. Moderation of question papers also ensured papers were fair, reliable, and representative of an adequate sample of the curriculum as well as the relevant levels of cognitive challenges. The DBE had its own moderation processes where question papers were set by a panel of examiners. The question papers were also moderated internally by examiners, whilst Umalusi did the external moderation.
During moderation of papers, the following criteria must be followed; technical, internal moderation, content coverage, text selection, cognitive demands, and language bias, amongst others.
There were areas of good practice during moderation of papers. There was an improvement in terms of submission of papers, which met the requirements after the first and second moderation for both the November and March examinations. Supplementary examination papers were also moderated at the same time to ensure equivalence of standards. Moderation of question papers had some areas of concerns, such as late approval for six question papers. Umalusi also found that the use of analysis grids for content and cognitive levels were not in compliance.
Moderation of internal assessment was conducted, as it counted for 25% at the end of the year. Umalusi wanted to ascertain how the DBE was ensuring standardisation across the provinces. Standard and quality of tasks had to be ascertained in order to establish the extent and quality of internal moderation and feedback. Verification of the reliability and validity of the assessment outcomes was also important.
The approach for moderation of internal assessment was started by conducting road shows across all the Provinces between March and April to give feedback of Umalusi’s findings. The DBE and SBA’s moderations were also verified during June/July and again in October and November 2014. Moderation focused on mathematics and sciences, English, arts and technology subjects.
The findings showed areas of good practice where moderation was indeed conducted at three levels in some subjects and a well-structured moderation process was in place. Moderation by DBE was found to be rigorous, brief, relevant and provided feedback to teachers. In some provinces, marking was found to be fair. However there were some areas of concern in marking where incorrect marks were allocated impacting negatively on the validity, reliability and fairness of the SBA. In some cases marking was too lenient, with wide gaps between marks scored in tests, examinations and practical tasks. The use of rubrics presented a major problem for teachers and the marking rubrics for assignments, research projects and practical investigations were poorly designed.
The state of readiness for monitoring of examinations was conducted by the DBE in all provinces and Umalusi shadowed the process by conducting independent verifications in 82 district offices and a few schools. There were problems of inadequate staff capacity with a high number of vacant posts in PEDs. In addition there were inadequate resources in Provincial and District education offices. The situation was particularly problematic in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KZN.
A lack of capacity by the education departments to audit the high number of independent centres might affect credibility of examinations. However, the DBE had standardised the turnout times nationally for distribution of question papers and return of scripts. In most provincial departments security measures were in place, and one place was piloting an electronic locking system which was a positive development. Provinces also had adequate to excellent printing, storage and distribution facilities.
Umalusi had managed to monitor 359 out of 6 704 examination centres during the writing phase of the examinations. Included in the monitored sample were centres offering SC and NSC which had records of irregularities, high enrolment and whistle blowers who had alerted Umalusi of possible irregularities. Most provinces followed appropriate practices and adhered to examination regulations. In some examination centres, resident monitors were assigned for the full duration of the examination. Others with limited space had several examination rooms and one monitor which posed a challenge on the monitoring process. Late delivery of examination material to rural nodal points was an area of concern, as well as poor record keeping of examination materials collected.
Some provinces had inadequate monitoring by assessment bodies. To ensure compliance to examination regulations there was a need for intensified training of chief invigilators and invigilators. Training of candidates on examination rules should be enhanced to ensure candidates were aware of the requirements and examination regulations and consequences for irregularity. The DBE should produce a manual for candidates highlighting the consequences of mass copying.
There were 132 marking centres and Umalusi monitored 104 of them. Overall, the marking centres were well organised with adequate security personnel. Marking personnel had undergone a thorough and effective training process. However there were poor facilities for markers. Some markers arrived late and the marking process was affected by load shedding.
The marker selection had been well monitored by Umalusi to ensure establishment of a benchmark for the selection process. Gauteng performed well in the marker selection process and did not compromise on the marking process. Limpopo had challenges in verifying credibility of markers as there was no documentary evidence for applicants. There was also no documentation for markers previously declared as incompetent. Furthermore, unqualified markers with no subject specialisation were selected as markers. Mpumalanga had documentation for markers competencies; however there were anomalies in the appointment of Physical Science P2 markers and incomplete application forms were accepted.
North West Province’s marker selection process was thorough and did not compromise on appointment of markers. Training of markers was conducted in a satisfactory manner.
KZN kept records of previous year markers but was not in compliance with the selection criteria for markers. The pass percentage of markers was only considered for the employment of chief markers. Free State, Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape selected markers in line with the set criteria although for some of the Provinces there were a few observable discrepancies.
Umalusi also conducted a marking verification exercise which helped in picking up on irregularities as the verification process helps in determining standards and quality of marking. Verification also ensured that marking would be conducted in accordance with agreed practices. Within the verification process several exercises were carried out. One of the verification exercises was memo discussion meetings, which went relatively well and improved training in most subjects had been observed. The exercise faced a time challenge as the marking dates and the memo discussion were too tight. Secondly, Umalusi carried out verification of centralised and on-site marking which found that use of Computer Appliance Technology (CATs) was commendable for ensuring consistency of marking across the provinces. However candidates had difficulties in the interpretation of specific verbs that denoted to cognitive level of questions. Further to these areas of concern was the appointment of incompetent personnel as chief markers and internal moderators. As such, mistakes in the marking might be attributed to non-compliance to the marking memorandum by markers.
Umalusi intensified the marking moderation process by deploying external moderators to the nine provinces. The period for sampling scripts was also extended and Umalusi carried out its own sampling of scripts. Irregularities in KZN, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape were identified during the verification of marking processes. Irregularities occurred mostly in high enrolment subjects such as Mathematics, English FAL, Geography, History, Physical Sciences, Business Studies and Accounting. The DBE was informed to conduct an audit and outcomes for two provinces were presented. In KZN, 39 centres were identified and 19 centres were identified in the Eastern Cape. Umalusi deployed external moderators and internal staff to the provinces concerned.
The DBE recommended clearance of additional centres to EXCO, which was done after Umalusi’s verification. DBE and the Eastern Cape Chief Directors had presented their investigations reports to Umalusi for the oversight role. Different methodologies were used in investigations in the Eastern Cape; the Chief Invigilator, Invigilators and candidates were interviewed by one team on the same date. In KZN Invigilators and Chief Invigilator were interviewed separately from candidates. Following the interviews 20 and 14 centres were implicated in KZN and Eastern Cape respectively. The results of implicated candidates were blocked pending the outcome of the hearings of the candidates.
Umalusi, DBE senior management and the Minister held meetings to map way forward as well as addressing conflicting views wrongly reported by the media. DBE provided Umalusi with the plans for the conduct of formal hearings in KZN and Eastern Cape scheduled for March/April 2015.
Provinces with a few irregularities had already dealt with the irregularities and appropriate action had been taken.
Standardisation and Verification of Result
Umalusi has the power to standardise raw scores. Standardisation of raw scores is a common international practice. The process was used to mitigate any errors other than the learner’s knowledge and aptitude on the learner’s performance. Umalusi verified all steps that DBE went through in terms of preparation of standardisation of results. Capturing of data was also monitored, school based assessment marks and final examination results were also monitored. As CATs was new some practices had to be changed and verified by Umalusi for correctness.
Standardisation Decisions DBE NSC 2014
DBE presented 58 subjects to be standardised, 35 subjects were accepted as raw. This was explained as learner marks being accepted as they were. 13 subjects were moderated upwards and 10 subjects were moderated downwards. Physical Science subjects had marks adjusted upwards as the paper was a bit difficult, whilst for mathematics, the marks had to be scaled downwards. At the lower end the paper was harder whilst at the upper end the paper was too easy. Geography had a downward adjustment as it was found the paper was a bit easier. English HL had to be scaled down as learners did not perform well. All standardisation was based on the norm.
Ms Ramothlale said there were some areas of concern with statistical moderation. Some recommendations for adjustments were not in line with the principles of standardisation. Essay questions in English FAL were left out which still remained an area of concern. Another concern was late submission and submission of inaccurate data delayed the approval of results. She added that Umalusi also quality assured the Independent Examination Board (IEB) and the South African Comprehensive Institute (SACAI), which was a new institute and was in the process of applying for accreditation. Part of the accreditation process required SACAI to run an independent examination to determine award of accreditation status.
Dr Rakometsi concluded that the findings of the quality assurance report were an indication of a maturing system that had on the one hand made positive strides towards improvement in certain areas of assessment and examination. There were still challenges that needed to be addressed. For instance, current regulations did not address how systematic irregularities should be addressed. He agreed with Dr Poliah for a need to classify problematic centres and deregistration of centres that were continuously problematic. Despite group copying in KZN and the Eastern Cape, Umalusi was pleased with the manner in which the 2014 NSC examinations were administered.
Umalusi appreciated the concerted efforts from the national and provincial departments of education, and all stakeholders, including whistle blowers, in ensuring that credibility and integrity were not compromised in the examinations. Umalusi had a toll free number for whistle blowers to report any fraudulent activities.
Ms Lovemore wished to make references to issues that would not be in the technical report but still needed attention nevertheless. The issues were retention, high dropout of learners and trends in uptake of necessary subjects like maths and literature, and the increase in subjects like tourism, which was considered as an easy subject. The low uptake in Computer Applications and Technology and IT were of concern as these were much needed subjects for the country. She asked if these issues were addressed during the assessment of NSC examination results, and, if not, was it possible to include them.
Ms Lovemore said that the NSLA was a very detailed document. She was interested to know if it was ginding on the provinces; there was already an enormous administrative burden on provincial departments to comply with what was required by the national department. The NSLA said there would be distribution and mediation, but she was not sure what mediation meant. If the NSC diagnostic report was going to be used as a "bible", then what would guide teaching and learning because the diagnostic report was not on the national strategy.
Ms Lovemore asked Dr Poliah why the DBE was minimising the differences between quintiles. Differences existed as there were different schooling systems in South Africa and it could not be said that they were anywhere near each other. For example 32% of learners in quintile 1 schools achieved more than 80% and in quintile 5 schools 79% of learners achieved more than 80%. The difference was dramatic, in whatever way the figures were seen. It was false to say that South Africa was close to having an equal education system. She asked why the DBE was not admitting it, so that something could be done about it.
Ms Lovemore wanted to know how MST fit into the "one plus four" plans as MST teaching fell in one bullet point in the NSLA. She did not understand why, if Umalusi moderated the exam papers, the difficulties of standard were not picked up then.
Ms Lovemore made the point that Limpopo performed badly as it had no documentation on markers who were previously found to be incompetent. It was her strong view that a competency test for markers was needed, and so she asked why Umalusi was not specifically pushing for that.
Ms J Basson (ANC) thanked the DBE for a comprehensive report and commended the Department for bringing data from the 1970s. The analysis should have gone deeper, to compare the status quo of 2014 which could have clarified the question that Ms Lovemore had raised about quintile 1 and quintile 5 school differences. She asked what the maximum punishment was for invigilators who were found to be facilitating mass copying. He enquired as to the total number of learners implicated in the irregularities, especially leaners that were barred from writing exams for two years. He wondered how true were the complaints that the mathematics paper was too long for learners. He asked how was the department going to intensify staff capacity and what plans did the department have to resolve the problem? She did not know what was meant by resident monitor, and asked how they were recruited? She had a problem when it came to accountability for irregularities because last year the Department had reported that it was in the process of revising legislation on recruitment of markers, so questioned why there was still reference to a 2002 policy. Finally, she enquired how far along was the Department with the Khulumani learners.
Ms D Van Der Walt said that, based on the presentation there was no doubt that markers should be adequately evaluated. Looking at all the provinces it was clear that not everyone qualified as a marker. She was concerned with Limpopo’s performance, which was really bad, as there was no documentation capturing markers' experience, and there was use of unqualified markers with no subject specialisation, which she thought was "a disaster". There should be awareness by now that departments were not telling the DBE the truth in the reports submitted.
Ms Van Der Walt said there was a huge problem with Grade11 physics science paper in 2014. In fact there was a court case pending where several organisations were claiming that indeed 27% of the content of that exam paper was wrong. This would have a negative impact on people’s lives and their careers afterwards if they were not to pass. This was not affecting officials in the department but lives of learners in the country. The Committee needed an explanation as to what exactly went wrong in that paper.
Mr T Khoza (ANC) said most of the questions that he had on moderation of papers had been covered by other Members. He likewise said it was a great concern that errors were only discovered at a later stage, when there were moderators working on the ground throughout the year. He appreciated the DBE’s stand on dealing with irregularities and encouraged the Department to address issues of this nature. Furthermore, educators who were involved in destroying the lives of learners should be disciplined, or taken out of the system if possible, because they did not really qualify to be teachers if they could cheat. In trying to address irregularities, he asked what plans the Department had to resolve issues of accommodation, because in some centres, there were inadequate rooms, and it was very difficult for centres with one monitor and one invigilator to work if there was no school hall.
Ms N Mokoto (ANC) appreciated efforts by the DBE and Umalusi in dealing with irregularities. Referring to page 31 of Umalusi’s presentation there were two instances where it was mentioned that there was not enough time to take the markers through the memorandum. It meant that some of the markers were ill prepared. It was also stated on the second slide of the same page that the memorandum did not follow the due process. She asked for more detail on that, how it had impacted the process and what plans there were to correct the anomaly. What was the penalisation of learners involved in copying and the invigilators who facilitated or allowed copying? She wanted to check whether the issue would end there, pointing out that there were essentially two issues: first, the breach of the law, and secondly, the compromise on quality. She asked if the Department was going to take the matter forward as she was of the view that fraud had been committed. The Department talked much about the learner and did not say a lot about the invigilators.
Ms Mokoto welcomed the interventions put forward by the Department. There was a need for greater involvement in the preparation of 2015 reports. She wondered why the Department was prioritising matriculants only? Grade11 was also doing the same curriculum as Grade12 learners, and she thought it rather too short-sighted to focus only on that.
Ms H Boshoff (DA) asked if the Department could provide the Committee with a breakdown of disability for special needs education. Why was achievement for special needs education so low? Only 104 marking centres were monitored, therefore she asked if cheating could be ascribed to lack of monitoring.
The Chairperson said this was not the first time Umalusi and DBE had made such presentations to the Committee. Every time, Umalusi raised the same areas of concern to DBE, and vice versa. She called for another session to have discussions on the persistent areas of concern. The discussions should be held earlier, not so close to the examination period. From the presentation it was evident that everyone agreed that not all teachers were markers. From Grade R upwards, all teachers should be able to mark and there should not be gaps where they were not equipped. She feared that the next stage might be to assert that not all teachers could set examination questions.
The Chairperson added that the Department talked about differentiated learner support and she understood where it was coming from, but wanted to know how learners were going to get the right support if teachers were going to be given differentiated support? She did not expect an immediate answer, but asked if the teachers were being prepared or trained to give differentiated support to learners.
Mr Padayachee responded to the question on areas of concern being a reoccurring issue. He responded that in terms of processes of examination, every year Umalusi would provide the Department with a report. In the past the Department received a report about examination papers not being set on time. There was also another report three to four years ago about the number of times a paper would be moderated. These issues were dealt with when the Department received a report, and it would work to address the problem. Dr Poliah would dwell more on that when responding to the question on marks. The suggestion that the Committee and Department should meet to discuss a way forward on the areas of concerns was welcomed.
Mr Govender responded to questions regarding NSLA. The presentation had concentrated on Grade12 NSC examination results analysis, which was why the presentation focused on that grade. However, the nine sections of the NSLA covered all classes from Grade R to Grade12. Different sections in the NSLA spoke to different components. For example section 2 dealt exclusively with early childhood development. Section 3 dealt with primaries, GED scores, foundation phase, intermediate phase and senior phase. Section 4 dealt exclusively with FET bands, section 5 dealt with mathematics and science and technology across the entire system. The selection of materials presented to the Committee was in line with the Grade12 analysis, but the Committee could be assured that the DBE was not focusing on Grade12 only at the expense of the other Grades.
The issue of enormous administrative burden could best be explained by looking at the sections of the NSLA and the manner in which deliverables were unpacked and the requirements for reporting. Then indeed, it would constitute an administrative burden. The Department got to a comprehensive "one stop shopping" accountability system tool as a result of complaints from provinces that they were expected to report piecemeal to a whole range of people at the DBE. The provinces were of the view that it was better to report to different forums, so that such reports could go from one level to the next. The TDM was an important agent in the department. Every province was required to fill in a template, and PowerPoint presentations on progress were made at each TDM meeting. The Department analysed each report that was submitted on a quarterly basis. Responses were given to provinces highlighting areas where the province needed to focus attention. Whilst it could be said that this was an administrative burden, it was playing an important role in the sector, by enabling the Department to track performance in provinces, as well as identifying areas in provinces that required support. Last year the DBE initiated a programme where high level curriculum officials went to provinces to engage with weaknesses arising out of the NSLA report. It was the Department’s intention to carry out this exercise again in the current year.
He agreed that the presentation did not dwell much on the diagnostic report. The diagnostic reports in the sector were two-fold. The first was on subject and grades. The second focused on the eleven high enrollment subjects. The diagnostic report was only an entry point into the system and was used by the sector to acknowledge areas of weaknesses. It was called a framework for improvement so that the diagnostic report was clearly aligned to a whole section in the report. Not every weakness aligned in the framework would belong to every province with the same degree of intensity. The diagnostic report and the framework for improvement that was currently being discussed in all the provinces in respect of mediation was about uplifting the key weaknesses and drawing attention in what the remedial measures were in each level. All of this was done under the banner of the NSLA.
There was expectation of subject improvement in each province. During an oversight visit in 2014 one of the framework templates required provinces to show evidence as to how the diagnostic report and the framework for improvement had been used to achieve individual subject improvement.
"One plus four" only constituted one bullet in the entire section five of the NSLA. Provinces were also required to give progress reports on the one plus four. Members might have heard in the past week about some provinces that resulted in one plus five whilst others one plus nine. All these would be consolidated. There was a host of interventions that related to the FET bands.
He responded to Ms Mokoto’s question on lack of focus on Grade11 learners that the 2014 NSC diagnostic report also contained the 2015 framework for improvement. The framework contained weaknesses which were identified at Grade10 level and what should be done about them. In terms of Grade11 there was a very clear focus in the sector that weaknesses of Grade12 could not be corrected by effecting change and remedial action only at Grade12 level and so remedial action at that level would have to speak to Grades10 to12. External examinations and assessments for Grade11 had been encouraged in all provinces.
Mr Govender said that for the first time this year, differentiated support and retention had been infused in the NSLA. This was so the Department could get a grip on the retention issue in a way that was needed in the sector and reporting purposes. The Ddepartment was aware that it was unlikely to achieve everything it would like to in 2015. The Department was struggling to attain the necessary information from provinces such statistical information on candidates for grades, retention and progression. This was a result of inconsistencies in the application of national promotion regulations. The Department did not provide adequate support to 2015 supplementary candidates, and as such had already started planning for 2016. Further on differentiation, the current group that was out in provinces mediating the National Senior Certificate results and annual results constituted three key components of the DBE. That was curriculum, examination and teacher development. Teacher development programmes developed for 2015 had arisen out of the annual and NSC diagnostic report and framework for improvement.
Trends and uptake in subjects were addressed by subject profiles in the presentation. Subject profiles in both GED and FET tracked trends in subject participation and trends in needs of a particular subject. Subject profiles were also about how subjects like CATS and IT were not recognised and given points by higher education institutions in a way that would be expected. This was a huge disadvantage in the sector to learners. This begged for engagement with the Department for Higher Education and Training (DHET) and DBE had initiated this already.
Dr Poliah said he understood that when listening to the report on NSC examination results, there could be an impression that there were serious problems. Problems raised should be looked at in the context of the size and complexity of the examination. Over 800 000 candidates wrote the exam, over 100 000 officials were involved in marking and invigilation. Progress made should not be undermined in terms of credibility and administration. Whenever issues were raised they were attended to. For example, in a particular province, if a chief marker and an internal moderator did not attend to a memo discussion it did not mean that the province continued marking even though one of the officials did not attend the memo discussion. The DBE would put a mechanism in place. Last year there were three cases where one of the officials from the provinces did not attend marking guideline discussions. An internal moderator from the department was deployed to manage that particular centre. Sometimes there was just an impression created that if problematic markers emerged then the whole marking process was compromised. Sometimes when issues were raised there was no time to review contingency plans so that standards were not compromised. Marking was a complex process and as a department, the DBE had a number of quality control and quality assurance mechanisms. He understood that the competency test had not yet gone off the ground; however this did not mean that without that competency test, standards were flawed or that marking was not at the required level. The moderation was put in place by Umalusi, DBE moderators were deployed and provincial moderators that were at the centres ensured that no examination script was marked by one individual. Quality assurance mechanisms were enhanced and this was evident by a decline in the number or remarkings requested. In any case, the remark did not produce outcomes significantly different than the outcome in the November examination.
It was undisputable that quintile 4 and 5schools would outperform quintile 1 and 2 schools. The DBE was saying that despite the deprivation and lack of resources, learners in lower quintile schools were doing extremely well. A total of 1 190 centres in a total group of 2 189 in the 80% achievement were from quintiles 1 and 2. A significant number of the lower quintile schools also scored in the 100%. Quintile 4 and 5 schools would perform better but narrowing the gap was also important.
Dr Poliah said that as an exam unit the Department would take responsibility for the discipline of learners. Teachers would not be treated in a lighter manner. They would be subjected to labour union proceedings. Services of implicated teachers might be terminated, fines imposed and if there was enough evidence of fraud then the matter would be treated as a criminal offence.
In KZN 2000 learners were implicated and in the Eastern Cape around 900 learners were implicated in the 14 schools.
The selection criteria for markers were in a review process. New criteria could not be implemented legally unless the policy was changed. The issue of using learner performance was being done in certain provinces in consultation with the department’s social partners. There was variance in terms of application from one province to another. The department was in the process of amending the PAM document and a whole host of additional criteria was brought in which would strengthen the process. These changes would go through public comments and would be gazetted. It was hoped the new criteria would be in place for the 2015 NSC examination.
In the case of Khulumani learners, unfortunately Grade1-11 learners would be repeating. Grade12 learners had been allowed to write supplementary examinations and a large number had taken up that option. Those who could not write either the November or supplementary exam would be repeating the year.
Dr Poliah said that marking in Limpopo was not a disaster as the issue raised by Umalusi was that some of the documentation was not available. Documentation not being available did not mean that markers were appointed willy-nilly. The Department also did an audit and found that there was compliance with the criteria. The case picked up by Umalusi was an isolated incident.
A common Grade11 examination in physical science and mathematics was implemented for the first time. The examination was left optional to schools and PED. When setting a common paper that complied with CAPS documents, it was likely that in the first year of implementation there would be serious complaints. There had been a lot of complaints about the Grade11 common examination; however it was still raising standards. KZN and Afri-Forum had raised complains about some of the questions in the common examination. In any case the complaints mainly centred on the marking, with the comment that the marking guidelines were not exhaustive enough. The common examination was a pilot in 2014, and the Department was hoping to go full scale in the next year, when marking guidelines would be provided to schools.
He confirmed that indeed, in provinces like Limpopo, accommodation was an issue. Nonetheless there was still a criteria that centres had to comply with. The criteria were audited and monitored and where there was non-compliance, alternative arrangements were made. The Department would continue to work in this area, particularly in rural areas and districts.
Pre-marking meant that every marker at the national pre-marking guidelines should have marked a sample of previous scripts. To his knowledge most of the chief markers and internal moderators were able to do that. The main challenge with pre-marking was the tight timeline.
Special needs learners should be looked at in a combined context of diplomas and bachelors. There were 900 special needs learners that had attained combined bachelors and diplomas passes and this was a significant achievement. The Department would provide statistics on type of disability against achievement.
Dr Poliah said Umalusi was referring to monitoring that it conducted, but there was still monitoring by DBE, PED and the districts. Almost all marking centres would have been monitored. The Department was also looking at setting common tests for all grades. This would raise the profile and also expose markers to marking at a guide level so that every teacher could become a competent marker.
Dr Rakometsi said some questions were only discovered to be difficult after the exam had been administered. This was because examination papers were not field tested. Questions might go through many officials and be classified as a low order question, only to discover later on that it was not a low order question. Experienced markers have found that due to some unforeseen circumstances questions might throw off learners, if, for instance, their home language might influence cognition. Some questions may be set in a particular way that biased some learners based on experiences. The best option would be to have a pool of questions based on theory that had been tested and would be fair to all learners. This could not be achieved in the short term as it was a long process.
Umalusi supported the appointment of competent markers. He could not comment on how the competency of markers was arrived at in the absence of policy. However Umalusi monitored the processes of different PEDs. It could point out the strengths and weaknesses but at the same time could not prescribe to provinces which process to follow. It was difficult to vouch as to which was the perfect approach. The Western Cape was following a competency test which was done in 11 subjects only. Umalusi had not seen the question used in the competency test so it was not possible to determine whether the approach was correct or not. Perhaps if Umalusi had quality assured the competency test it would have been possible to pronounce on it. Umalusi could not prescribe to the DBE competency tests to be used. Umalusi was appealing for a policy development so that national criteria could be followed by all provinces. Umalusi would support the national policy and add input and experience in its development. A pronouncement was made in support of a competency test in an individual capacity, but this was not the Council’s official position.
Dr Rakometsi said the problems regarding the 2014 mathematics paper had not been brought to the Council’s attention. Umalusi also considered a report by Association of Mass Educators of South Africa (AMESA). He pointed out that some rumours were able to get credence without ever being reported to officials. The issue of inadequate staff capacity related to the PEDs, which were overstretched.
He confirmed that Umalusi was not involved in quality assurance of Grade11 Physical Science papers.
He agreed with Mr Khoza that teachers who colluded with learners in group cheating did not deserve to be teachers. The Department had said it would take drastic measures against such people.
The Ddepartment was handling the administration of the marking process well. The Department was facing problems in managing memorandums because PEDs marked at different times and if an amendment had to be made on the memorandum, it might be that another province could be marking.
When areas of concern arose, officials from the Department were always cooperative and readily dealt with the problems. However the areas of concern could still be looked at and persistent or complicated ones would benefit from being isolated, as the Chairperson had suggested.
Marking of questions was coupled with understanding of content by the teacher as well as the teachers’ language proficiency. Indeed there could be some educators who under performed as markers. Criteria for markers had been heightened. Not all teachers were trained in assessment and the DBE was working towards correcting the problem.
The Chairperson asked what had happened to learners around Malamulele who were not able to sit for the supplementary exams and what action the Department had taken to address the situation.
Dr Poliah responded that the closing date for registration for the supplementary exams had been extended. Learners who had not registered were given the opportunity to register. So far the Department had not received any reports that learners were unable to register for the supplementary exams in the area. Only one report had been received, about another area, where some learners in one school did not write the supplementary exam.
Mr Padayachee added that the DBE was working with other national departments to ensure continuing provision of education services in the area. A catch up plan was being finalised which contained provision of temporary classrooms whilst the burned-down class rooms were being rebuilt.
The Chairperson thanked Umalusi and DBE for the presentations and appreciated the way the that both were working to ensure that examinations remained credible. This was visible in the way learners were performing, with particular reference to lower quintile schools performing really well. She excused Umalusi and the presenters from the first part of the meeting.
Learner Transport: DBE and Department of Transport briefings
Mr Solly Mafoko, Director: Physical Planning, DBE, said the objective of learner transport was to provide access to quality education by providing a safe and secure transport environment for learners. So far, the learner transport function had been transferred to five provinces only (KZN, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and the North West). In KZN the budget was with the PED whilst in the other provinces it was with the Provincial Department of Transport. The PED was responsible for identification of learner transport beneficiaries.
The learner transport policy was drafted by DBE and the Department of Transport, through a consultative process. The policy was approved by ministers in the two departments and had been published for public comment. Comments were being analysed by an interdepartmental committee. The desired outputs of the policy included a timeous delivery of service, reduction in road accidents involving learners, uniformity of service tariff structure and a coherent performance monitoring system amongst others.
Mr Mafoko outlined the roles and responsibilities of each department. He summarised the policy areas as location and management of the function, learner transport planning, learner transport safety and security, and criteria for learner support beneficiaries, service design for learner support, procurement of learner transport operators, funding and universal design.
Following consultations, the comments received requested a clear location of functions. There was also a need for developing a clear remuneration model that would also help in providing safe transport for learners with disabilities. It was suggested that a cost analysis must be done to ensure safety for non-subsidised learner transport as most accidents involving learners concerned non subsidised transport.
Currently about 4.2% of learners qualified for learner transport. Only 71% of the learners qualifying for learner transport were transported. A significant number of learners in the rural provinces were not being transported. Some provinces, such as the Free State, were determined to transport all learners but this had implications for budget expenditure.
Learner transport was facing challenges. The largest was the challenge of insufficient budgets which was affecting the number of learners being transported. There was an increase in learner support needs as a result of some schools closing down and schools merging. Unfortunately this was not followed up in terms of budget provisions. There was a lack of capacity in provincial learner transport units. Some transport providers were not using roadworthy vehicles. In some cases vehicles were being overloaded.
Monitoring mechanisms had been put in place to provide a collaborative uniform and integrated national framework for the governance and management of scholar transport in the country. A framework for the implementation of scholar transport would be provided, once approved, to ensure safety and efficiency. Elements of the policy which required administrative action only would be implemented and major changes in existing practice would be carried out in phases.
Mr Elmon Maake, Director: Learner Transport, Department of Transport said that learner transport was challenged by safety issues. In some instances private learner transport operators were appointed without involvement from the Department. This contributed to high accidents involving learners, as some of the vehicles were not roadworthy. Uncoordinated planning was another issue that needed to be addressed as an institutional matter by the departments concerned, to resolve how to streamline functions without encroaching on other people’s responsibility.
From a policy and legislative perspective the current Learner Transport Act of 2009 provided for the appointment of transporters, but there was currently a lot of illegal activity and poor enforcement of the Act. The Policy was not developed in isolation from the other legislation when drafting the regulations as to who was supposed to operate what kind of vehicle. The Traffic Act was also consulted, as it regulated the fitness and licencing of vehicles. The policy was trying to tighten some of issues discussed around operational matters. There was a broader support for the public transport system as a whole, to support the technical needs of the learner transport programme.
Learner transport was trying to support learners who travelled long distances to access transport and education. Areas of focus had been identified to improve delivery. Planning should be improved by locating it within the framework of municipalities and provinces. Monitoring at a provincial level, mainly through law enforcement, would assist in improving safety of learner transport. Greater parental involvement was required to ensure that children used safe learner transporters. Once the policy was approved operational guidelines would be developed.
The Chairperson was concerned that the DBE was yet to develop a communication policy on learner transport safety, pointing out that in the meantime, children were dying in road accidents.
Ms Van Der Walt said learner transport needed measurable implementation, which was still a challenge. In June 2014 the two Ministers, of Basic Education and Transport ,appointed officials for learner transport. She was concerned that the Portfolio Committees on Basic Education and Transport had never met jointly to discuss issues concerning learner transport, as she believed that this was necessary. At the heart of the learner transport policy was the need to get learners to school and back to home in a safe way. This was not just about issuing a permit to be on the road. Many learners who needed learner transport were from disadvantaged communities already, and needed to be incorporated into after school activities, so any policy had also to take this into account. She wondered also how issues between primary and secondary schools could be resolved. She asked if the budget would take into account the financial needy only, or whether others who needed transport might also be included on a contribution basis.
She noted that the rationalisation of schools was not taken into consideration but it was important to do so before the policy could be implemented. Surely there would be an impact on accommodation for learners as schools were closing, including whether they needed hostels. The current policy said that learners who lived more than five kilometres from schools should have transport. However in some parts of the country learners could not walk 500 metres without being bullied or sexually assaulted, and in addition the physical environment could be dangerous for learners on foot. She added that if the programme was left to municipalities to implement, nothing would happen, as some of them were unable even to provide water and sanitation in schools.
The timing of policy, by bringing it in towards the end of year, was rather unpleasant and unacceptable. It would be better to extend the time frame so that combined meetings could be held. The rationalisation of schools should also be taken into consideration. She was of the view that the policy could not be finalised in its current state as there were still many challenges. It would also be interesting to know the budget allocation for learner transport.
Ms Van der Walt said she was pleased to hear that law enforcement was going to be implemented, but the statistics of children killed in taxi accidents whilst on their way to school should be looked at too.
Mr H Khosa (ANC) asked if the routes would be properly planned, to avoid a situation where learners would be dropped off one or two kilometres from school. He said the idea of learner transport had been around for some time, but one of the points in the presentation indicated the need to do a cost analysis. The Department should not be talking of unroadworthy vehicles or overloading; that was absolutely unacceptable for learners. He wondered why learners in KZN were still not being transported.
Ms Lovemore asked about the need to transport learners to hostels. In her constituency there was a town with one primary school but no high school so that learners needed to go to a fee-paying high school outside the town during the week. Many of them would need transport, yet this policy did not refer to weekly transport requirements. Many learners simply stayed at home because their parents could not afford the R400 monthly cost for a taxi.
Ms Lovemore pointed out that substantial comments on the policy had been made since last year. Comparisons must also be made with the February 2009 final draft of the national public transport policy was published. She submitted that the draft policy was fatally flawed, and should be withdrawn and be replaced with an easily understandable document. There was no standard in the policy as to when a child should get scholar transport. She suggested that either the Department revert to the 2009 policy, which was much clearer, or it should re-publish and get more comments to make better revisions.
Ms Mashabela said that some of the scholar transport, especially in rural areas, was extremely inadequate. She asked whether it was possible for the Department to purchase buses and employ permanent drivers. Such buses could also be used for school trips. Many provinces were failing to budget sufficiently for scholar transport, so she asked what the DBE could do to ensure that learners had access to scholar transport.
Ms Basson said most of her questions had been covered, but she asked who would be monitoring the transporters, as there were instances where a transporter may have two or three routes yet only had one vehicle. Learners ended up being picked up for school as early as four o’clock in the morning to cover all the routes. She also said it was difficult to penalise transport providers. She had noted that in KZN non-subsidised transport was being used in rural areas because learner transport providers were refusing to go to quintile 1 schools which had bad roads leading to them. She wondered how the departments would resolve these problems.
The Chairperson said there was a need for a proper structure to ensure that learners benefited fully from learner transport. The structures in provinces should have clearly allocated functions and individuals responsible for executing and managing particular functions. It was not enough to say that DBE would give out money. Officials from each department should be clearly visible in their functions and monitors should be able to monitor everything. It was not up to parents to choose whether to enrol their children for high school education; if this was being done, then DBE was failing to provide what it was supposed to provide. These issues should be well communicated and implemented. The policy should be applied uniformly. During the Committee’s oversight visit to KZN the Committee learned about price-fixing amongst transport providers, and also found that the transporters were still being provided even if the bus was empty. There were many areas of concern that needed to be fixed. Learner transport as presently run was not achieving value for money, and management needed to resolve how best to improve.
Mr Padayachee said issues about the draft policy would be taken into account when finalising the policy. Whilst waiting for the learner policy to be finalised there was still the issue of providing learner transport in the meantime.
Mr Padayachee suggested that the presenters should respond in writing to the varied questions.
Ms Van Der Walt appreciated the reference to a current obligation for provision of learner transport, and suggested that perhaps a report be compiled on how the departments were dealing with this obligation. She added that the issue of safety for learners, especially concerning pick up points, should be taken into consideration and incorporated in the next budget.
Proposed presentation on School Governing Body elections
The Chairperson noted that Members had to prepare for their afternoon session and it would not be possible to take the proposed presentation on School Governing Bodies (SGB) elections.
Mr Padayachee said that although the DBE had come prepared to give this presentation, it could indeed be postponed. He mentioned briefly that the Department had done everything to help facilitate SGB elections in provinces. Elections would be running from 6 to 28 March. The Department could come back and report on the results.
Ms Van Der Walt said that, on a positive note, there was awareness about SGB elections in constituencies, as information about the elections had been posted on social media, and communities had been well informed.
Ms Lovemore was not convinced that the people who needed to vote understood the power of SGBs, or that there was sufficient interaction and undertstanding on the ground, despite the district and provincial road shows and the Minister's talk on the SGB elections. She wanted clarity from the DBE about quorums. It was understood that when the SGB calls for a meeting and a quorum was not met, a second meeting would not have to meet the quorum, but could still go ahead and make decisions.
The Chairperson said that in her area, everyone was talking about SGB elections, so she believed that there was awareness, although there might be areas where advocacy about the elections was not effective.
Mr Elijah Mhlanga, Acting Director: Communications, DBE, said the Department started focusing on SGB elections as early as June/July 2014. A communication strategy was put together and this as well as key messages were shared with all the provinces in the sector. In addition DBE visited each province to ensure they were ready with their communication on SGB elections. The communication approach was implemented in phases, and topped by road shows in KZN, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and the Western Cape. Community mobilisation was done using the road shows, where officers as well as the Minister would talk to people, and SGBs and federations were invited to urge members to participate in the campaign. Radio campaigns were still going on because it was understood that mobilisation should be done until right before the elections. Other platforms such as social media, websites, and different bill boards had been designed to honour the multimedia platform. Each province had its own plans, which were implemented at the beginning of the week.
Mr James Ndlebe, Director: Education Management and Governance, DBE, said the15% quorum was agreed upon as part and parcel of the advocacy campaign. The reason was that if it was taken away then schools would not go out of their way in the advocacy campaign. The Department was also working with SGB Associations who had done a wonderful job in the advocacy campaign.
The Chairperson repeated the question if it was true that if a quorum was not met on the first day of elections, then no quorum would have to be present at the second meeting.
Mr Ndlebe said it was true that a quorum was not required the second time the SGB met.
The Chairperson said the Department should continue working on its advocacy. She thanked all officials and Members, saying the Committee had benefitted from the discussions, which would contribute to learners getting the education they deserved.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Learner Transport presentation by Department of Basic Education
- 2015 SGB Elections presentation by Department of Basic Education
- Umalusi report on Quality Assurance of National Senior Certificate (NSC) presentation
- National Senior Certificate Examinations – 2014 presentation by Department of Basic Education
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