2018 Matric Results: DBE & Umalusi briefing, with Deputy Minister

NCOP Education, Sciences and Creative Industries

13 February 2019
Chairperson: Ms L Zwane (ANC; KwaZulu-Natal)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was first briefed by the Department of Education on the 2018 matric results. The Deputy Minister was in attendance.

The Deputy Minister said that no-fees schools have performed extremely well and there has been notable improvement in the subjects of Mathematics and Physical Science. There are challenges which still remain but overall the Department is very proud of the examination outcomes.

The Department highlighted the challenges of efficiency and quality in the system. It also highlighted the high number of repeated learners, progressed learners and the ability of students with disabilities to access the system. The issue of undocumented learners was also raised as a challenge in sustaining the system. The drop of enrollment in the subjects of Accounting, Economics and Mathematical Literacy was also raised as a concern.

The Committee was then briefed by officials from Umalusi on the 2018 matric results. The presentation highlighted that the mandate of Umalusi is expanding due to the introduction of additional subjects. The directives issued to the Department were mostly complied with but some would continue to be observed in 2019. In particular the adherence to subject assessment policies and the moderation of question papers will continue to be observed. Also highlighted was the issue of manual handling of question papers, security at printing sites and the verification of students’ identities before they enter exam venues. The Department was commended for their swift response in dealing with the cases of alleged irregularities.

Members of the Committee raised concern on whether teachers were competent to teach technical subjects in the new technical high schools. Also raised was the high drop-out rate and the tracking of students who are lost in the system. Mother tongue education and the literacy rates of younger grades was highlighted as a concern. The high number of progressed learners was also raised as a challenge that needs to be addressed as well as the improvement in the equipping of classrooms with qualified teachers. Members also asked whether consequence management was being implemented in schools that underperform.

Meeting report

The Chairperson greeted members of the Committee, the Deputy Minister (DM), the Director-General (DG) and officials from the Department of Basic Education (DBE). An apology from the Minister was noted and officials from Umalusi were also welcomed to the meeting. Officials were asked to do their presentations quickly because members need to attend the State of the Nation Address (SONA) debate.

Remarks by Deputy Minister
Mr Enver Surty, Deputy Minister, DBE, greeted the Chairperson and everyone present. Members were thanked for their support, hard work and the effort taken to visit schools.

He stated that the presentation will be limited to allow members more time to engage on it. It will be led by the DG and officials from the Department. The education system has stabilised and there has been an improvement in both the access and quality of education. The no fees schools, that are generally under-resourced, achieved significant Bachelor passes and distinctions. Students who attend these schools demonstrated a clear will to succeed. In particular, there has been progress in the subjects of Mathematics and Physical Science. There were no adjustments in both of these subjects. New subjects were introduced and Sign Language has contributed to the principle of inclusivity. There still remains challenges which lie ahead. He asked the Chairperson to be excused early to attend another critical meeting.

The Chairperson thanked the DM for his opening remarks and congratulated the Department on the improvement in the matric results. Members were asked if they would like to comment before the DM is excused from the meeting.

None of the members had any issues to raise.

The Chairperson said she is excited about the introduction of technical high schools. Do we have teachers who are adequately trained to teach in these kinds of schools? It is critical to have sufficient and competent teachers to teach technical subjects.

Deputy Minister Surty replied that when the Department introduced the vocational stream, it first introduced pilots in grade 10, 11 and 12. This was done to ensure that the necessary resources were available and the schools were furnished. Another reason was because of the long absence of a technical element in the education system. There have been workshops where educators who are competent in technical areas are trained and re-trained. Some people are not qualified teachers but they have great skills in technical areas. The Department wants to be more innovative in areas such as Wood Work and Electrical Engineering. The education system will comprise of the academic stream, vocational stream and occupational stream which will include Welding. Pilots will be used to test it to see how the system can be sustained. The intention for this year is to introduce pilots so that when it becomes available in all of the provinces next year, the Department will have properly identified the environment in which it would operate. Having subject advisors in technical schools is also something that needs to be looked at.

The Chairperson thanked the Deputy for his input and asked the DG to continue the presentation.

Mr Hubert Mathanzima Mweli, Director-General, DBE, asked his colleague to take Members through the presentation quickly.

Department of Basic Education: Briefing on 2018 matric results
Mr Hilton Visagie, Director: Exam System Administration, DBE, greeted members of the Committee and thanked them for allowing the Department to present on the outcomes of the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations for 2018. The majority of learners are found in public schools. The principles of efficiency and quality are the main areas that need to be improved on. There needs to be an improvement on the percentage of repeaters by ensuring that schools stop holding back learners for an improved pass rate. Schools are criticised for holding back learners unnecessarily in the system. There also needs to be an improvement on the issue of inclusivity to make sure that learners with disabilities have better access into the system. The number of full time enrollment learners have been dropping in all of the provinces except for the Western Cape, Free State and the Northern Cape.

Mr Visagie said the Department is closely monitoring the number of part-time enrollments so that they do not increase. On subject enrollment, Accounting, Economics and Mathematical Literacy have dropped. The number of progressed learners has increased and the implementation of the policy has to be managed better. There is an issue of undocumented learners accessing the education system. Some of these learners enter the system at a very early age; have to repeat grades and this inflates the numbers. The policy of progression is intended to minimise the drop-out rate. This policy is based on strict criteria and the performance of progressed learners are monitored closely. The Western Cape is the worst performing province when it comes to progressed learners and their management of progressed learners needs to be improved.

Mr Visagie said the introduction of Sign Language as a home language and technical subjects were demanding on the system. There is also a challenge of access to data in schools. The number of part-time learners are increasing and this needs to be monitored carefully. Concerning SNE (Special Needs Education), the application of concessions needs to be monitored. On active social grants, recipient learners have performed extremely well in their examinations.

The Chairperson asked for more detail on school-based assessments (SBA’s).

Mr Visagie explained that the directives issued from Umalusi were strengthened in all provinces. Sufficient support given to Sign Language was a key intervention. The moderation system and monitoring and support of teachers were also key interventions.

The Chairperson said it is critical to include the impact of social grants and thanked the Department for presenting this. She then handed over to officials from Umalusi to begin their presentation.

Umalusi: Briefing on 2018 matric results
Mr Mafu Rakometsi, Chief Executive Officer, Umalusi, greeted everyone present and introduced his colleagues from Umalusi. An apology from the Chairperson, Mr John Volmink, was extended.

He indicated that the number of candidates in the education system is massive. The mandate and regulatory framework of Umalusi is expanding and additional subjects contribute to this expansion.

Ms Mary-Louise Madalane, Senior Manager: Quality Assurance of Assessment in Schools, Umalusi, greeted members of the Committee and spoke on the moderation of question papers and directives issued. There has been improvement by the Department but there are still areas of concern. On SBA’s, the moderation of question papers that did not comply with the directives will continue to be monitored. There was non-compliance in adhering to subject assessment policies and this directive will continue to be observed. There is also an increase in the monitoring of high-risk exam centres.

Ms Madalane said that the state of readiness of schools happens before examinations are written. Most of the issues were addressed before examinations but those that weren’t still need to be addressed by the Department. In the North West and Free State, there needs to be an improvement in the manual handling of question appears. In the North West, security at the printing site was not adequate. On verification, some exam venues allowed students to go through the entry point without identity documents. The rule of identification was relaxed in some centres. Concerning the issue of principals recommending markers, there were some cases where they did not recommend but markers were still appointed. It does not necessarily mean they marked papers but this directive will remain so that it doesn’t continue in 2019.

Mr Rakometsi continued the presentation on the standardisation and resulting process. The process is practiced by all large-scale assessment bodies. It is done to ensure that learners are not disadvantaged and to achieve consistency in the results. Marks may be adjusted either way but this is subject to limitations. There is a tendency to compare different assessment bodies but the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) and the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI) are different from the Department. In the IEB, their system is small and the subjects are non-official languages. They obtain raw marks because there is a smaller number of candidates. Their results therefore look better because of the size of their system.

Mr Rakometsi said the presentation fails to include a list of the new subjects and an apology was given for this. A full list of how these subjects are standardised will be submitted to members. Technical Sciences, Technical Mathematics and History were some of the subjects that were adjusted. The Department is commended for its swift response in dealing with the alleged cases of irregularities. The Department is commended for the growth they have shown and for taking the directives issued by Umalusi seriously.

The Chairperson thanked Umalusi for their detailed presentation. The apology is accepted and members will expect the list to be sent to them timeously. Members were asked to raise questions on both of the presentations. 

Ms T Mampuru (ANC; Limpopo) congratulated the Department on its achievements. Why were members not invited to observe the releasing of the matric results? Members would have liked to attend the ceremony. In Limpopo, there was no increase and improvement. What measures are put in place to assist this province? What are the challenges that are causing it to not perform? 

Ms P Samka (ANC; Eastern Cape) spoke in isiXhosa.

Ms D Ngwenya (EFF; Gauteng) apologised for arriving late and thanked the officials for their presentations. On examiners and internal moderators, the percentage has stayed the same. What is it that needs to be done to make the percentage go up? On questions that are asked in the papers, it is important for standards to go up so that matriculants can be proud of themselves and know they did well. They need to know that it wasn’t an easy paper for them. What can be done to make sure of this?

Ms Ngwenya asked, on non-compliance in the North West and the criteria of markers appointed, how do you select them? Is there any training in particular for teachers who are pensioners? Concerning Sign Language markers, what criteria is used in getting those markers? The criteria must ensure that students are marked fairly. On adjustments not exceeding 10%, is 10% not too much? Can we not take it a bit lower? On the raw statistics of Economics and Business Studies, is it because there are a lesser number of candidates? What is the reason for them being left as raw?

Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA; Western Cape): spoke in isiXhosa.

Mr C Hattingh (DA; North West) said there is a tendency of political bickering between provinces and this doesn’t take the country anywhere. The presentation over-emphasizes aspects that brings political bickering into focus. This is contrary to the position that the Minister took on this. In the media, there was a percentage report of the literacy rates of grade 4 pupils. The low percentage is alarming. Mother tongue language education in the first 3 years of childhood development remains a big challenge in this country. Is there any relationship to learners who are being deprived of mother tongue education in their first 3 years and their outcomes as students later? Learners are being forced into schools where they cannot understand the languages being presented to them. How does this impact their future success?

Mr M Khawula (IFP; KwaZulu-Natal) asked for more information on the standardisation of IEB so this can be compared with the NSC. There is confusion with the numbers in the presentation. The numbers of enrollment in the Department and the figures in the Umalusi presentation do not add up. Please can you provide clarity on this? What is happening there? Why are the numbers not talking to each other?

Mr Khawula said the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) is second to Gauteng when it comes to population but the number of camps and learners are not sufficient. What is being done about this? Gauteng has a much greater population than KZN but the latter had more matriculants. Is it because most of the learners migrate to Gauteng? On standardisation, when you do moderation, is there a correlation between what you have detected and what comes out in the end? Standardization is always interpreted negatively and I don’t know if it is a good or bad thing. Is there a relationship between the two?

The Chairperson said the drop-out rate is high. Where are these students? Did they go to other colleges? What happened to them? On the standard of education, what is the difference between IEB and the Department? There is a perception that the IEB is much better than a learner who writes the NSC. What is the difference? The qualifications of teachers and the equipping of classrooms to be used needs to be improved. Is there a need to retain Mathematical Literacy? Should the focus not be on Mathematics?

The Chairperson said, on progressed learners, the notion of increasing this number says that teachers don’t do their work in the lower grades because they know the learners will be progressed. This needs to be researched. Why is it that the minute the students get to the higher grades they start to perform? The issue of low ranking schools performing much better than higher ranking schools needs to be researched. How are socially-disadvantaged schools performing better than those who have more resources? On the decline of enrollment in certain subjects, what could be the reason for this? On schools that are still getting 0% pass, what are you doing about the leaders of those schools? What is the consequence management?

Mr Rakometsi said the criteria for the appointment of markers are clearly indicated in the Department’s Personnel Administrative Measures (PAM) document. It has to be people who are active in the teaching of the subject and have taught it for a number of years. They must have experience and have a major in that subject. The performance of students in that subject is also a factor. On capacity of examiners and moderators, joint sessions are held with them so they have a common understanding of the standards, cognitive level and level of difficulty. This is done in the subjects that become problematic. There needs to be a model for the training of moderators and examiners and this is going to be done. On printing facilities in the North West and the Free State, the manual system needs to be abandoned and replaced by an automated one. On pensioners, they are not markers. On the criteria for Sign Language markers, it is the same as PAM. Concerning the 10% issue, Council has to endorse this principle and it is a minimal of 6 marks downwards or upwards. 

The Chairperson asked about the issue of 10%. When you decide to do it, does it pertain to all learners irrespective of performance or do you select certain students to standardize?

Ms Ngwenya asked if members can have access to the standardisation booklet.

Mr Rakometsi replied that it is not a public document and that standardisation is a confidential process. In some incidents, there is an adjustment across the board but in other incidents scaling is done to suit the category that is to be corrected. In standardization there is no way that the rank order will change. Students are not compensated unnecessarily. How does Umalusi arrive at standardisation? This is done by looking at patterns on tables, graphs, the 5-year average in that subject, what is happening in the year compared to that average and if the result is above the norm. The NSC is assessed by IEB, SACAI and the Department. It is one qualification. All students have done the NSC it is just administered by different assessment bodies which are all qualitatively assured by Umalusi. When the full list is submitted to members, the numbers for IEB and SACAI will also be sent because the numbers in the presentation aren’t correct.

Mr Rakometsi said there is a correlation between moderation and standardisation. They are different terms but they don’t operate separately and rather inform each other. The IEB standards are not higher because all students do the national curriculum. Papers are sent to external moderators and the same moderators are used for IEB, SACAI and the Department. The difference is that IEB have fewer students in class and their parents have greater earning-capacity. All students get one certificate from Umalusi and when they go to university they all use the NSC. Students don’t sit with an IEB. On retaining Mathematical Literacy, there is a need to do this because the country needs people with these skills. There is a school of thought that says it should rather be called Qualitative Literacy and not Mathematical Literacy. It must not be compared unfavourably with Mathematics.

Mr Rakometsi explained that the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) establishes Umalusi and other sister organisations each with its own Council and its own CEO. Each of these bodies has to establish its own policies. This allows members to sit in each other’s Councils and they retain an ex officio position. This is in the spirit of synergy. SACAI deals with qualifications and Umalusi deals with quality assurance. Learners will pass through Umalusi and then their qualifications are uploaded to the National Learner Record Database (NLRD). On the National Qualifications Framework Amendment Bill, Umalusi usually issues certificates but now SACAI are saying they will have the certificate issuing function. This amendment is not right.

Ms Madalane said that the decline in the quality of question papers isbeing observed. When all the papers are written, they are approved so there is no paper which is written with those deficiencies.

Mr Mweli said that all qualifications are kept in the NLRD. On verification, this is done with SACAI. On schools that still obtain 0%, the South African School Act is very clear that the school and governing body have to account and report on their improvement plan. This plan will include consequence management. There was a school in the North West in 2005 which got 0% and there was efficient consequence management. It led to the suspension of the District Chief Manager, subject advisors were removed, as well as the heads of Department and principal. The school moved from 0% to 96%. This was also done in the Free State and Gauteng.

Mr Mweli said that on the declining enrollment in gateway subjects, it is proportional to the overall decrease of the learner enrollment. On the progressed learners issue, the Department has done preliminary investigations and some of the progressed learners are manufactured which means principals identify weaker learners and put them together with progressed learners. Progressed learners have the option to not write all 7 subjects and until they do this they do not form part of overall pass rate. This works to the advantage of some of the schools. It is a deviant way of propping up the results and this is being addressed by the Department. Schools will be penalised for grouping these learners together with learners who don’t meet the requirements of progressed learners.

Mr Mweli said that Mathematical Literacy is needed for social consumption. It is used on a daily basis and should rather be called Functional Mathematics. It has been suggested that Mathematical Literacy should be taken by all learners. On vocational education, the Deputy Minister explained the situation and since SONA, more teachers are going to be required. The problem is that universities are not producing enough teachers. The Department is meeting with universities to inform them that there is a need for suitably qualified teachers. The Department depends on teachers who are coming from Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries. This is not stable.

Mr Mweli said that a researcher from the University of Johannesburg wrote an article saying that at the end of grade 9, learners have the option to go to colleges or other institutions and this means that there could be learners who drop out of the system. There are more learners who are repeating grades than those who progress. Learners spend more than 12 years in the system. There is a higher repetition rate than a drop-out rate. Some learners should be completing matric by the age of 18 but many complete matric beyond this age. The older they become in the system the poorer they perform.

Mr Mweli said that the population of Gauteng surpassed the population in KZN. It suggests that people who go to Gauteng are those who choose to leave their families behind. Migrant labour is still very much alive and well. Many people go there because of economic activity and they leave their families behind. An apology was noted for failing to invite members to the release of the matric results and this will not happen again. On the winter schools in KZN, the number was prompted by cost containment. It was only in Gauteng that they were able to persuade their treasuries to give them more money or they received money from partners in the private sector. On mother tongue education, this is extremely important and the Department is looking at extending it up to grade 6 and not only grade 3.

The Chairperson asked the DG to respond to the rest of the questions raised in writing and the meeting was adjourned.


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