02 Mar 2021
The Committee convened virtually to receive briefings from the Department of Basic Education as well as Umalusi on the National Senior Certificate Examination Outcomes for the 2020 academic year. The Deputy Minister was in attendance.
The Chairperson paid tribute to the resilience of the class of 2020 in having overcome some of the challenges of the Covid-19 epidemic; this in spite of the fact that for the class of 2020, there had been difference of a mere 11% between the 2019 and 2020 results.
The Deputy Minister stated that the difficulties faced in the education sector had raised challenges in the entire world including South Africa, where it had had a negative impact on the entire class of 2020, through Grades R to 12. This had led to the need to rework the entire school curriculum in order to combine work remaining from 2019 with the 2020 curriculum.
The Department congratulated the class of 2020 on its resilience, commitment and perseverance in having produced outstanding examination results. They cited role of the National Development Plan (NDP) in the drive to provide quality education and improved learning outcomes. A larger number of students had had to be managed in a context of social distancing and other Covid-19 protocols and generally speaking, the observance of protocols had limited the loss of life. The progressive improvement of their results in all subjects between 2017 and 2019 had demonstrated that this had been the strongest group thus far. The ratio of female learners had been higher than for males, justifying government policies to promote girls’ school attendance. In 2020, school-based assessment had been emphasised.
The matriculation pass rates, from 1970, had increased significantly by 2020. There had been consistency in full-time enrolment since 2017. The admission of 360 000 learners to Bachelor and Diploma studies had been noteworthy; 2 058 learners with special needs had sat for examinations, of whom 943 had obtained admission to Bachelor studies and 582 to Diploma studies. Active social grant learner recipients had performed better than the national pass rate.
Umalusi looked at the quality assurance processes conducted in 2020, compliance issues, and the state of readiness of the Department of Basic Education to conduct examinations. The latter included the implementation of mitigating strategies by the Provincial Education Departments to address anticipated shortcomings, with special reference to Covid-19; the improvement of security features at storage points; provincial departments recognising the importance of the accreditation of private centres, and the implementation of measures to manage non-accredited centres. Seating arrangements had been adhered to in conformity with social distancing protocols, enabling learners and examination markers to maintain high levels of concentration during the marking process.
The institution also gave extensive reports on the state of the marking centres as well as what had worked well in the marking processes and what needed to be improved. This included what Umalusi thought the Department could assist with, specifically in matters involving costs.
Members thanked the Department of Education, UMALUSI and the Minister and Deputy Minister for a job well done in 2020. They also congratulated the class of 2020, the teachers and parents, and they offered condolences to those who had lost loved ones due to the pandemic, during the 2020 school year.
A Member pointed out that there had been a 14% gap in terms of the results of fee-paying and non-fee-paying schools, suggesting a need for urgent intervention. She gave the example of certain schools that had not had mathematics teachers, obliging the learners to take other subjects. This was counter to the Bill of Rights. She was concerned that not enough was being done to improve conditions for poorer sections of the community.
Another Member asked what support the Department was offering to provinces that had higher learner enrolment, such as Eastern Cape, KZN and Limpopo. What support has the Department offered to the schools that have begun hosting study camps? What monitoring mechanisms are in place to address the teachers who produced poor student results at the end of the year?
Opening Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting, welcoming the Members, Committee support staff and guest delegates. He then announced the presence of the Deputy Minister, the Director-General of the UMALUSI team, amongst other delegates.
He paid tribute to the resilience of the class of 2020 in having overcome some of the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, marking a difference of a mere 11% between the 2019 and 2020 results. He also deplored some of the mishaps and criminal activities that had occurred in connection with the spilling of Mathematics and Science examination papers. He pointed out other challenges that had been faced by learners taking the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations, amongst which he cited the incorrect administration of papers, and the incorrect distribution of questions in some provinces. He hoped that there would not be a recurrence of such events.
He handed over to Deputy Minister for her opening remarks. The UMALUSI team would follow presenting the NSC results.
Deputy Minister’s Remarks
Deputy Minister, Dr Reginah Mhaule, stated that the difficulties faced in the education sector had raised challenges in the entire world, including South Africa, where it had had a negative impact on the entire class of 2020, through Grades R to 12. This had led to the need to rework the entire school curriculum in order to combine work remaining from 2019 with the 2020 curriculum. Learners had been unable to attend school on a daily basis; Grade 12 learners thus had lost almost two months, yet obtained good grades in the examination. The progression of some learners from Grade 11 to Grade 12 had not significantly impacted on these positive outcomes and indeed; some had gone on to achieve good results and higher qualifications.
She handed over to the team from the Council for Quality Assurance in General and the Further Education and Training (UMALUSI).
Department of Basic Education: 2020 NSC Examination Outcomes
Mr Hubert Mathanzima Mweli, Director-General, Department of Basic Education (DBE), expressed appreciation to the UMALUSI team for their hard work. He noted that the class of 2020 had out-performed the class of 2019, and this was probably the best class ever, except as regards the overall pass rate.
He then handed over to Dr Poliah to present on behalf of UMALUSI on inter-provincial dynamics, adding that this would be of interest to the Select Committee, which had been a part of the National Council of Provinces meetings. The 2020 session had been remarkable for its size, in that over 1 million examination candidates had been administered – the largest in the history of South Africa.
Dr Rufus Poliah, Chief Director: National Assessment and Public Examinations, DBE, briefed the Committee on the 2020 November NSC examination results. He pointed out that the preceding year had had unique challenges, dominated by the Covid-19 epidemic. The presentation was intended to offer to the Select Committee a detailed sense of how the different provinces had done.
He congratulated the class of 2020 on its resilience, commitment and perseverance in producing outstanding examination results. He cited the role of the National Development Plan (NDP) in the drive to provide quality education and improved learning outcomes. Standardised tests would confirm the success of this process. He presented the numbers of learners and teachers in each school category. The Department was to be congratulated for insulating this group of learners from the effects of the pandemic in the face of unique challenges, thus helping the class towards peak performance. Teachers had not always been able to be at school. In 2020, school-based assessment had been emphasised and had been applied more for learning purposes than for judgment. Also, the standard of examination papers had been ameliorated. He explained that a progressed learner designated one who had had a reduced number of subjects, and had not passed Grade 10 or 11 after two attempts. The year 2020 had been the third year in which sign language and technical subjects had been on the school curriculum. In the interest of representativity, two question papers had been added, namely Accounting and Business Studies. Apart from the Life Orientation course, all subjects now entitled learners to admission to higher education, contrary to the earlier situation.
He said that the May/June examination had been combined with the November examination, meaning that a larger number of students had had to be managed in a context of social distancing and other Covid-19 protocols. Even learners displaying Covid-19 symptoms or had had positive tests of the virus, had been accommodated thanks to the efforts of the provincial Departments of Education.
Both Senior Certificate and National Senior Certificate examinations had featured in the 2020 process; the former had been included to accommodate adults who had been unable to sit the examination earlier in their school careers. In the following slide he showed the breakdown of the 1 million total number of Grade 10 learners enrolled in 2020. The progressive improvement of their results in all subjects between 2017 and 2019 had demonstrated that this had been the strongest group thus far. He referred to the size and scope of the 2020 NSC examinations, breaking down the numbers between full-time and part-time learners. The appointment of 80 000 invigilators and 45 000 marking personnel at 190 centres, working in a contained environment over 16 days had been a remarkable achievement, although he regretted the seven deaths that had occurred during the marking process. Generally speaking, however, the observance of protocols had permitted a limitation of the loss of life.
He pointed out the consistency of full-time enrolment since 2017. Countywide, there had been an overall drop of 9 528 learners in five provinces, although attendance had increased significantly in four provinces. He went on to discuss the numbers of candidates registered by 15 March 2020, as over the number which had actually sat the examinations. On aggregate, the number of learners writing the examinations in 2020 had been higher than that of 2019, even though fewer learners had been enrolled. This had been due to the inclusion of all progressed learners the full examination.
The following slide looked at part-time enrolment, specifically dealing with adults who had not been able to write matric examinations earlier in their school careers. Due to the epidemic, these numbers had dropped significantly. On the gender balance in education enrolments, the ratio of female learners was higher than for males, justifying government policies to promote girls’ school attendance. On subject enrolment, he noted increased enrolment in Accounting and Business Studies courses but a drop in Mathematics and Physical Sciences. The number of progressed learners had fallen due to the need for them to sit a higher number of subjects and demonstrate regular attendance at school. Learners with special needs had been in two categories: those enrolled in normal schools, and 2 161 who had severe barriers to learning enrolled in special schools. Of the latter, 2 058 had sat for the examinations. Provincially, the number of learners with special needs had been low.
Dr Poliah went on to explore different categories of learners. In terms of the ages of Grade 12 learners, those writing examinations at the age of 18 had comprised mostly girls, while above this age they were mostly boys, implying a smoother progression by girls through the school system. A total of 124 out of 133 full-time learners in correctional facilities had also been able to sit examinations; this applied to 45 out of 48 part-time learners. The Department had monitored learners who were recipients of social grants: the active recipients had received the grants up to Grade 12, while the inactive grant recipients had had the grant cut off because they had reached the age of 18 while in Grade 12.
He gave a historical overview of Matric pass rates from 1970, which had increased significantly by 2020. Over 60% of matriculants had qualified for admission to an institution of higher learning. There had been a gradual increase in the pass rates from 2015 and had it not been for the Covid-19 epidemic, the class of 2020 would definitely have surpassed the 81.3% pass rate, he reckoned. Looking at how the provinces had fared, he pointed out there had been drops in the performance of some provinces, which had necessitated stronger monitoring in 2021. He noted that the majority of independent schools had opted for the public rather than for the private examination. He compared performance in the fee-paying and non-fee-paying schools; context, he said, was important in determining the performance of particular schools. The performance level of fee-paying schools had been 85%, and that of independent schools had been 87%.
The admission of 360 000 learners to Bachelor and Diploma studies had been noteworthy; 210 000 admitted in the Bachelor category in 2020. Taking the figures at provincial level, he noted that the overall numbers had increased, even if percentages had been lower. The non-fee-paying schools had been the biggest contributors in terms of admission to Bachelor studies. He pointed out that in spite of the inclusion of progressed learners in 2019 and 2020, there had been no significant difference in outcomes, with the 2020 results having been lower by just 1.1%. This demonstrated that the drop in performance could be attributed to factors other than Covid-19; on the positive side, more learners had been able to attain matric. About 37% of learners had attained the NSC.
A total of 3 026 progressed learners had obtained admission to Bachelor studies and 10 000 to Diploma studies. This demonstrated the positive impact of the DBE policy, which had spared them from languishing in Grades 10 or 11. Government had been doing extremely well in supporting under-privileged and under-resourced schools. He noted that there had been a general drop in performance in a variety of subjects with the exception of Business Studies, History and Maths Literacy. Though relatively low (40%), the 2020 pass rate had slightly exceeded the 30% threshold adopted by the Department, which demonstrated that Covid-19 had not had too detrimental an impact on performance amongst stronger learners. There had been 99% maintenance of performance in Languages, where the class of 2020 had shown improved performance over the three previous years. Taken at District level the figures were less impressive, and this would necessitate heightened focus in 2021.
A total of 2 058 learners with special needs had sat for examinations, of whom 943 had obtained admission to Bachelor studies and 582 to Diploma studies. The percentage performance of part-time candidates, he said, had improved overall in terms of Distinctions obtained. The class of 2020 had out-performed that of 2019 both in terms of numbers and of percentages with the exception of Afrikaans FAL, Life Sciences, Maths Literacy and Physical Sciences. The Department would have to place emphasis on improving this situation. In 2020 progressed candidates had scored 15 Distinctions in Mathematics and 16 in Physical Sciences, which showed that no learner should be written off. Peak learner performance occurred between the ages of 16 and 18, decreasing up to age 24, then increasing thereafter. He suggested that learners who in their 20s should be moved out of the system into more appropriate forms of learning. In spite of this, he noted that mature learners had performed better than some of their younger colleagues, a trend reflected throughout the provinces. Speaking about learners receiving social grants, active social grant recipients had performed better than the national pass rate, while inactive recipients had performed at 60.97%. He asked if termination of the grant might have had a negative impact on performance, and whether the grant could be maintained until the end of schooling. In terms of gender, male learners had performed better than females (67% versus 64%), yet female enrolment had nevertheless been higher. In correctional services facilities, 124 learners had sat for examinations; of these, 71 had been admitted to Bachelor studies, 23 to Diploma studies and 13 to Higher Certificate. The matric achievement rate in this category had been 86.3%. Amongst part-time learners, 23 out of 48 had passed their examinations.
Explaining the use of the term “inclusive basket”, he said that the performance of an entity should not be judged solely on the basis of a single indicator, which in the present case was taken to be the overall pass percentage. Applying a group of indicators would provide a more representative picture of performance in given provinces or districts. He cited the seven relevant indicators by which performance could be judged. These were Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Bachelor attainment, distinctions, participation rates and throughput rate which together provided the weighting. He went on to say that the different provinces, districts and schools were ranked according to the seven criteria of the inclusive basket. This information was in turn fed back to the various entities so that pass percentages did not remain the central focus when dealing with examination results.
He summed up by saying that the system should be judged by the extent to which it had permitted access, redress, equity, efficiency, quality and inclusivity. The examination system served as an example of how these six criteria could be applied in their turn, and the matric results had exemplified them. He cited, as examples, equity in terms of the number of girl learners, quality in terms of subjects, and efficiency with regard to the situation of progressed learners.
He handed over to other members of the UMALUSI team for their presentation on examination administration and processes, as well as compliancy issues. He referred to a need for increased training for examiners, stronger school-based assessment and better marking processes that would include pre-marking. He reiterated that it was necessary that security measures be reinforced across provinces to prevent the leakage of examination papers as had occurred in 2020. He saluted all other parties and entities that had contributed to making the 2020 school year a success, and paid tribute to the teachers who had lost their lives while working in the environment of the epidemic. He expressed appreciation to the Select and Portfolio Committees and to the Department of Education for their support.
The Chairperson thanked the UMALUSI team for its untiring contribution to the examination process. He expressed concerns about performance in certain rural provinces, citing Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal; in spite of high enrolment rates, their results had been relatively poor. He referred to poor management, resource allocation or other systemic challenges as having been possible causes, and asked what the Department could do to improve the situation where necessary.
Briefing by Umalusi
Prof John Volmink, Chairperson, Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (UMALUSI), took the floor. He introduced the UMALUSI delegation comprising Dr Mafu Rakometsi, Chief Executive Officer; Ms Zodwa Modimakwane, Executive Manager of Quality Assurance; Mr Emmanuel Sibanda, Executive Manager: Qualifications and Research; Ms Mary-Louise Madalane, Senior Manager: Quality Assurance and Assessment; Ms Stella Mosimege, Senior Manager: Strategy and Governance; and Mr Lucky Ditaunyane, Senior Manager: Public Relations.
He said that the presentation would focus on UMALUSI’s quality assurance mandate. Recognising that 2020 had been challenging for the education sector throughout the world, he informed the Committee that the challenges had been successfully dealt with. On behalf of the Council, he announced that the Head of Education in the Eastern Cape had succumbed to Covid-19, and said that he would be greatly missed. He conveyed deepest condolences to the learners and teachers and education officials and members who had lost friends and relatives to the pandemic.
He went on say that the presentation would focus on UMALUSI’s quality assurance process for the entire value chain of the 2020 national assessment processes. That included the standardisation of the year-end NSC and Senior Certificate amended examination results. He said the Council was again satisfied that the organisation had delivered on its quality assurance mandate through the oversight role of its Assessment Standards Committee, which had worked hard in January and February to standardise the 2020 examination results. To that end, the Council had announced its approval of the 2020 examination results, after it had been satisfied that based on evidence from the DBE, the conduct of the examinations had been fair and credible. However, it was to be noted that despite the leakage of Mathematics paper 2 and Physical Sciences paper 2, the Executive Committee of Council had determined, based on the available evidence presented by the DBE, that there had been no systemic irregularities that may have compromised the overall integrity of the examinations. This provided a further reason for UMALUSI to commend the DBE for successfully administering, conducting and managing the NSC examinations.
He then handed over to Dr Rakometsi to lead on the UMALUSI presentation.
Dr Mafu Rakometsi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of UMALUSI, greeted and thanked all present. He first focused on the UMALUSI mandate and regulatory framework, the Framework for Quality Assurance of Assessment, the quality assurance processes undertaken in 2020, the Scope of the 2020 quality assurance of assessment, Areas of improvement, the Tracking of directives for compliance in 2018-2020, Standardisation and Resulting, Recommendations and the Conclusion.
He described the UMALUSI mandate and regulatory framework. The mandate was derived from the Constitution of South Africa, the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Act (Act No. 67 of 2008) Sections 27(H) and 27(I), and the General Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Act as amended in 2008. Its Section 17(A) states that the Council must perform the external moderation of assessment of all assessment bodies and educational institutions. The Council may adjust raw marks during the standardisation process and the Council must, with the concurrence of the Director-General and after consultation with the relevant assessment body or education institution, approve the publication of the results of learners if the Council is satisfied that the assessment body or education institution has satisfied the conditions that warrant such an approval.
The framework used for Quality Assurance of Assessment was based on several pillars and stages to ensure that the certificates issued were credible. This was applied to schools, adult education and training centres, as well as vocational education and training colleges. Quality assurance of assessment had been conducted to ensure that assessment leading to the award of certificates in schools, adult education centres and technical and vocational education and training colleges was of the required standard. Activities carried out were: the moderation of examination question papers, Practical Assessment Tasks (PAT) and Common Assessment Tasks in the case of Life Orientation, the monitoring and moderation of School Based Assessment (SBA), the monitoring of the conduct, administration and management of assessment and examination processes, the monitoring and moderation of marking, the management of concessions and examination, the standardisation of assessment outcomes, and the approval of release of results.
In 2020, there had been 726 335 learners in the Department of Education. The slide showed figures for full-time and part-time candidates. He said that the NSC was also administered by the Independent Examination Board, with a total of 13 163. Again, this should be compared with the 2018-2019 figures. The South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI) administered it. Much work had been required in 2020 because of the Covid-19 epidemic, a problem that had been compounded by the shifting of examinations from June to November 2020 for the same reason. To this should be added the numbers of students sitting for Senior Certificate Amended, of which the total was 368. Upon this he handed over to Ms Mary-Louise Madalane, saying that he would conclude the presentation thereafter.
Ms Madalane, Senior Manager, Quality Assurance and Assessment, Umalusi, looked at the quality assurance processes conducted in 2020. UMALUSI had moderated and approved 142 DBE/NSC November 2020 question papers, and moderated them together with their marking guidelines. This had been effected between January and September 2020. The organisation had moderated school-based assessment between October and November 2020 in 13 selected subjects across the nine provinces, verifying the moderation of Practical Assessment Tasks (PATs) for five subjects in five provinces. A State of Readiness to conduct examinations had also been conducted across the nine provinces. UMALUSI had monitored a sample of 446 examination centres and 32 marking centres, across nine Provincial Education Departments (PEDs). UMALUSI had attended and participated in 133 marking guideline standardisation meetings; 34 subjects had been sampled for the verification of marking across the nine PEDs. The DBE had presented a total of 65 subjects for the standardisation of the November 2020 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination and 35 subjects for the Senior Certificate (SC) examinations. The Provincial Examination Irregularities Committees (PEIC) appropriately dealt with all irregularities identified that had been. Challenges experienced had been appropriately captured and presented to UMALUSI. A detailed report, covering all quality assurance of assessment processes, had been shared with the Department of Basic Education.
She followed with an individual examination of various aspects. She compared the moderation by the DBE of question papers over the period 2017-2020. Within this process, question papers had been submitted to UMALUSI for moderation, following which they had been classified as being compliant with the required criteria. Some question papers had been submitted up to five times. In the November 2020 case, question papers had been approved at the first or second reading. This had been an improvement over other papers that had been submitted four times.
There had been an increase in the number of question papers fully compliant with the six listed criteria. Compliance had been good for the past three years and the DBE was considered competent in this matter; no more directives needed to be issued. On the PED access to training scripts, she said that these had not been fully utilised in every subject, and she called on the DBE to address this. Improvement had been observed in areas of marking. The seating arrangements had adhered to social distancing protocols, making it easier for marking personnel to maintain a high level of concentration during the marking process. Less evidence of shadow marking had been reported for the marking centres, and in the Western Cape, constructive feedback sessions had been implemented for Afrikaans Home Language by the internal moderator and chief marker, to ensure a consistent and focused marking process. The marking process for SASM Papers 1, 2 and 3 had been executed much more smoothly than in previous years. Two factors had contributed to this improvement: the fact that only Grade 12 SASM home language teachers had marked the Literature paper; and that Deaf Teaching assistants had aided with dialect variations during the marking process. Other areas of improvement had included the quality of internal moderation, the recruitment of more experienced marking personnel, and excellent on-site training.
For the SPA moderation, areas of improvement had been noted. These included the use of cognitive analysis grid in Accounting (KwaZulu-Natal); the creation of a safe ICT system with secure drives permitting fair, viable and reliable assessment on the retrospective exhibition; the final NSC practical examination by the Western Cape PED for visual arts; and the improved quality of tests at Philadelphia School of the Deaf. Directives had been issued in the 2017-2020 period pertaining to the 3 following areas: Quality assurance should be subject to the practical for both the practical assessment tasks and practical examination. There had been non-submission of oral and sight-reading for moderation before the commencement of practical examinations. There had been poor management and monitoring of the presentation and assessment requirements for both the practical assessment tasks and practical examination needed attention. A directive had been issued. There had been non-submission of oral and sight-reading for moderators before the commencement of practical examinations. There had been poor management of the presentation and assessment requirements for PEDs. The DBE needed to ensure and strengthen adherence to subject assessment policies in all subjects and in all provinces.
In the matter of recycle tasks there had been partial compliance, and the DBE had been requested to ensure that the use of recycle tasks and shadow marking in School-based Assessment (SBA) were discouraged through effective internal moderation processes. Although there had been moderation compliance at all levels, there had been poor or no moderation of SASL Home Language tasks. A directive had been issued. There had been an improvement in the quality of tasks at Philadelphia School but a lack of moderation of tasks at all levels. Here too, a directive had been issued. In connection with SBA, the DBE needed to ensure that teachers were capacitated on quality development, in order to improve the quality of assessment tasks. The DBE needed to ensure adherence to the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) with regard to conduct and administration of SBA oral and practical assessment tasks. Teachers needed to be capacitated on the development of the use of marking guidelines, because there had been poor usage and understanding of rubrics in the marking of literary essays in English five. Visual arts had not been selected as a subject for moderation; this would be rectified in 2021.
Before marking commences, UMALUSI audits the list of all markers appointed, in preparation for the end of the year. In this area there had been some improvement. In the Eastern Cape, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and/or the Eastern Cape Department of Education had endorsed foreign qualifications of appointed marking personnel. Submission of Annexure C “Declaration by Marking Personnel” by the Western Cape PED indicated that if the appointed marking personnel had a child, children or relative in Grade 12, within the provision of a contingency plan regarding the appointment of markers by the Western Cape PED, this was appreciated. However, a directive had been issued because not all areas related to this had been complied with. In future, the DBE needed to ensure the qualifications of all markers at all levels before appointments were made, since it had been found that in certain provinces there had been markers whose credentials or qualification transcripts had not indicated whether they had the requisite qualifications for appointment. The speaker emphasised that this procedure had been implemented prior to marking and towards the end of the marking process.
Speaking to the following slide, the presenter said that provinces had dealt with the highlighted issues during the pre-marking audit. Recurrent non-compliance had been observed where some PEDs had failed to avail the transcripts of applicants. For the proper carrying out of audits, UMALUSI required all information pertaining to persons listed as potential appointees for marking duties. There had been partial compliance with a new directive issued in 2020, which concerned the need for the DBE to ensure that PEDs submitted the necessary data; they provided access to the online administrative system for audit purposes. She turned to the State of Readiness, a process that was conducted prior to the conduct of the examinations towards October. The PEDs and DBE received reports on the outcomes of UMALUSI’s analysis during the audit of the State of Readiness. They then prepared themselves for the final year and ensured that they addressed the highlighted items. In 2020 it had not been easy to carry out face-to-face audits, and the Department had relied on online meetings with the DBE. At these meetings, the PEDs had presented their cases and because they had already submitted their self-evaluations, notes were compared at those meetings and final observations and decisions made on the state of readiness of each PED.
There had been a few areas of improvement with regard to the State of Readiness. They included the implementation of mitigating strategies by the PEDs to address anticipated shortcomings, with special reference to Covid-19; the improvement of security features at storage points such as the implementation of the double-locking system; PEDs recognising the importance of the accreditation of private centres, and the implementation of measures to manage non-accredited centres. The areas of improvement noted in the 2019 State of Readiness had been strengthened, and the directives issued during the 2019 State of Readiness had been complied with. There had thus been full compliance with directives issued in the three previous years. However, the issue of staff shortages needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency, in accordance with a 2019 directive. This would be further monitored. The high vacancy rate of examination-related staff and the shortage of markers in high-enrolment subjects had required further monitoring.
The institution had carried out monitoring of the writing of examinations, of which the total number was 466. There had been areas of improvement in the monitoring of writing. The effective publication of the DBE-published Health and Safety Protocol for Conduct of Examinations had been adhered to across districts in the nine PEDs. There had been a notable monitoring visit to sample centres during Life Orientation by district officials. There had been concerns about this issue in 2019, because the Life Orientation course was supposed to have been written at schools before the final examination. During the 2019 monitoring by UMALUSI, it had been noted that monitoring at district and provincial levels had been very limited. In this matter 2020 had shown great improvement; 2019 areas of improvement had been maintained by the DBE and PEDs with partial to full compliance.
Ms Madalane proceeded to discuss the monitoring directives for the 2020 examinations. The DBE, she said, should ensure verification of candidate identities at the entry point of examination centres, with relevant documentation, to avoid impersonation. There had been a few instances of non-compliance in this regard. The remaining directives had been fully complied with. The PEDs were encouraged to conduct pre-writing audits of all examination centres, and were to provide feedback reports to all examination centres. Some districts had undertaken audits, but had not made the audit reports available to the centres monitored by UMALUSI.
Most centres had been affected by power outages and she recommended that they be furnished with back-up systems, so that candidates should not be affected. Systems should be in place for the monitoring of invigilator performance. This requirement had been introduced because of the negligence of some invigilators. Monitoring and consequence management of invigilators were currently in place in order to prevent irregularities, especially those caused by invigilator negligence. Marking had been monitored during the marking process and there had been some areas of improvement. The DBE had played a role in ensuring acceptable levels of readiness in preparing for the marking process across PEDs. In all PEDs marking processes had been free of disruptions, and implementable strategies had been applied to mitigate any possible risks relating to marking. Each PED had developed strategies to mitigate possible marker shortages, and this had been verified by UMALUSI at sample marking centres. Across marking centres, there had been high levels of compliance with DBE health and safety protocols for managing marking centres. There had been full compliance with a number of directives issued in 2019, including that covering training materials. A directive on strict security measures and the training of security guards had been only partially complied with, and it was expected that the DBE would institute measures to ensure full security at all marking centres. It had been noted that some marking centres still had limited electricity backup, and a directive had been issued in that regard. All centres needed to be audited before being allocated marking centre status. Some centres had been deemed unfit for this purpose as reflected in the UMALUSI report. Each PED was to provide centre managers, with audited lists of appointed markers for verification purposes. There was to be a uniformed security presence in all the marking centres. UMALUSI attended the marking guidelines discussion meetings conducted by the DBE, and the marking guidelines had to be signed off by UMALUSI moderators. Aiming to mitigate Covid-19 challenges, the DBE had organised virtual platforms to augment face-to-face meetings.
In 2020, there had been significant compliance with the pre-marking requirements as compared to 2019. It was, however, necessary that DBE ensure that chief markers and internal moderators be provided with the required 20 scripts, this being part of adherence to DBE policy. Sufficient time had to be allowed between the writing of question papers and the marking guideline discussion meetings to allow chief markers and internal moderators to mark the sample number of scripts. This had not been consistent across all subjects. This needed to be taken into consideration in preparation for the marking guideline discussions in the following year. Other directives issued in 2018 had been complied with, demonstrating that some sustainability had been achieved in the matters under discussion. PEDs needed to address the fact that the training scripts had not been fully utilised for all subjects.
There had been improvements in marking preparations. Seating arrangements had been adhered to in conformity with social distancing protocols, enabling markers to maintain high levels of concentration during the marking process. There had been less evidence of shadow marking. In the Western Cape there had been constructive daily feedback sessions for Afrikaans Home Language by the internal moderator and chief marker in order to ensure consistent and focused marking procedures. The marking of South African Sign Language (SASL) papers 1, 2 and 3 had proceeded much more smoothly than in previous years. This had been due to the fact that only Grade 12 SASL language teachers had marked the Literature paper, and deaf teaching assistants had assisted with dialect variations during the marking process. There had been an improvement in the quality of internal moderation in the physical sciences. In KwaZulu-Natal there had been improvements relating to Paper 2. The marking of Creative Answers for Music, Paper 1, had been another improvement over previous years. This had been attributed to the appointment of more experienced marking personnel, and excellent on-site training. The placement of examination assistants in the Mechanical Technology, Automotive Fit and Welding venue had been a definite improvement, contributing to the addition of marks on the scripts. Marking errors had been identified for Mathematical Literacy in Papers 1 and 2 in the Western Cape and UMALUSI had requested markers to avoid the recurrence of similar errors. This type of engagement had been both informative and developmental for all marking personnel.
Marking across subjects had been synchronised across the PEDs. However, a more effective means had had to be found to ensure that any approved changes to the final UMALUSI-approved marking guideline arrived timeously in the PEDs. This requirement had been partially complied with. Appointed markers had confirmed their attendance for marking prior to the commencement of the marking process. PEDs had managed to replace markers who had withdrawn or had declined appointments, using reserve lists. In the absence of such lists, UMALUSI would have had difficulty in verifying such replacements.
She cited some issues of non-compliance with the verification of marking. Markers who specialised in a particular subject had, at times, been made to mark the strips of other areas of specialisation. This had been the case with Mechanical Technology. The DBE therefore needed to ensure that markers for Mechanical Technology who specialised in each of the three areas of expertise were appointed to marking duty. SASL Home Language teachers had marked the Literature papers, with deaf teaching assistants helping with dialect variations. The DBE needed to ensure that markers of South African Sign Language and Home Language were current Grade 12 teachers of the subject. New directives had been issued for verification of marking. The DBE needed to ensure that there was a sufficient pool of markers from which to draw in case of shortages due to unforeseen circumstances. The DBE was required to issue and distribute letters of appointment prior to the commencement of marking. For the welfare of markers, additional personnel needed to be appointed for administration duties. This would release the chief markers and internal moderators from administrative duties to concentrate and add value to the marking and moderation processes. The DBE needed to ensure the appointment of marking personnel with the requisite subject content knowledge and teaching experience at Grade 12 level. This applied to English First Additional Language. Such markers should be conversant with the different genres applicable to Paper 2. Ten percent of whole strip moderation had to be completed by deputy chief markers and internal moderators.
She stated that should the Covid-19 pandemic continue in the current year, Covid-19 protocols would be adhered to at all marking centres. The centres had been generally compliant, although there had been some pockets of concern that needed to be addressed by the DBE. She handed over to the CEO of the Department, to speak on standardisation and resulting in 2020.
UMALUSI CEO, Dr Mafu Rakometsi, told the Committee that Prof Volmink would have to excuse himself from the meeting, saying that he would take questions intended for the Professor.
He informed Members that standardisation was a process used to eliminate the effect of factors other than the learner’s knowledge, abilities and aptitudes. Standardisation was done to ensure that learners were not advantaged or disadvantaged by factors other than their knowledge of the subject, abilities and aptitudes. It was aimed at the achievement of comparability and consistency of results from one year to the next. Standardisation had its own principles as approved by the Council. The first was that no adjustment should exceed 10% of the historical average either upwards or downwards. Should the distribution of raw marks be below or above the historical average, the marks might be adjusted in either direction subject to limitations. In the case of an individual candidate, the adjustment effected should not exceed half of the raw mark obtained by the candidate. Qualitative and quantitative reports would be considered, after which a position would be formulated on each subject. This, he said, was a very important step. It was critical to note that the institution did not standardise only the results of the Department of Education, but did so for the Department of Higher Education and Training for those qualifications which were listed: National Certificate, Vocational, GTC, N2 to N3, Basic Education, National Certificate and Amended Senior Certificate. For the Independent Examinations Board qualifications were standardised. This also applied to the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI) and benchmark assessment agencies.
He spoke to a slide that showed the offerings standardised from 2016 to 2020. What had been designated as raw marks after standardisation would now be adjusted either upwards or downwards. It was good policy to retain the raw marks, which for 2020 had been done for 48 subjects, constituting 74% of subjects submitted to UMALUSI. About 14% of subjects had been adjusted upwards, and 12% adjusted downwards. There had been a few challenges related to the examinations, some of which had already been alluded to. He referred to the leakage of question papers in Mathematics and Physical Sciences. The Business Studies and Life Sciences papers had been withdrawn by the Department as a precautionary measure, to ensure their replacement in case of them having been leaked. He signalled the administration of incorrect papers in Limpopo and the North West, the writing of the wrong papers at different levels, and group copying in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.
With regard to South African Sign Language, the following needed attention: the need for qualification and standardisation of South African languages because there are several dialects, a fact which poses challenges for interpretation. There was also a need for teachers of the subject to be appropriately qualified, while early exposure of children to the subject was very important.
Security around question papers needed to be tightened, with regard to printing, distribution and storage and the writing of the papers. He spoke of the need to train teachers in the development of good quality assessment tasks and marking guidelines. There should be training of teachers in marking and captation of learners, such as to set common tasks. The Department needed to ensure effective remediation for teachers and learners, so that they could receive feedback on their work. He recommended the use of assessment and data to improve day teaching and learning, the intensification of training of invigilators and the monitoring of writing, to ensure increased vigilance during contract administration management of examinations.
The Executive Council had issued a statement approving the results. Amongst the highlights of the statement, he said that the Executive Committee (EXCO) had studied departmental reports and had noted isolated irregularities, reported during the writing of the examination. This included group copying reported in four provinces and involving 193 candidates. Concerns about the Mathematics and Physical Science papers had been noted in the Approval Statement of Council. However, the Council was satisfied that there were no systemic irregularities, which might have compromised the overall credibility and integrity of the examination. The results had therefore been approved. In respect of areas where there had been irregularities, the results of the implicated candidates had been blocked. Once again, the tightening of security arrangements at all levels had been emphasised. Regarding the leakage of the Mathematics and Physical Science papers, where there had been unauthorised access to the question papers, or evidence beyond being a passive recipient, the result of the candidates had been blocked pending further investigation. In all other areas, the results of the candidates were to be released. UMALUSI had issued certain directives to the Department for compliance, and these were to be pursued and followed up, and the necessary remedial measures implemented. It was requested that an improvement plan in this regard be submitted to UMALUSI by 26 March 2021. Finally, he commended the Department for conducting a successful examination, despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 epidemic and the leakage of questions through social media. He also thanked the Portfolio and Select Committees for their support and extended thanks to the Minister and Deputy Minister for their support to UMALUSI.
The Chairperson thanked Prof Volmink and the Council for its quality assurance work in general, and thanked the Department of Education and Training for a job well done. He called on the Select Committee Members to engage with the two presentations.
Ms M Gillion (ANC, Western Cape) thanked the Department of Education, UMALUSI and the Minister and Deputy Minister for a job well done in 2020. She also congratulated the class of 2020, the teachers, parents and SGB, and offered condolences to those who had lost loved ones due to the pandemic, during the 2020 school year. She said that in the course of the pandemic inequalities had come to the fore. She noted the 13.9% Mathematics pass rate reduction in the Western Cape. There had been a 14% gap in terms of the results of fee-paying and non-fee-paying schools, suggesting a need for urgent intervention. She gave the example of certain schools that had not had mathematics teachers, obliging the learners to take other subjects. This was counter to the Bill of Rights. She was concerned that not enough was being done to improve conditions for poorer sections of the community. In the Western Cape, 5 000 learners had not been placed in schools. She said that there should be more oversight in the provinces, aimed at overcoming this disadvantageous situation. She congratulated UMALUSI for its handling of the Covid-19 crisis, and said that the Department of Education should do more to further learners’ interests.
Ms S Luthuli (EFF, KwaZulu-Natal) took the floor and greeted the Deputy Minister and all the guests. She then conveyed her condolences to the families of those who succumbed to COVID-19, especially learners and teachers.
She asked what support the Department was offering to provinces that had higher learner enrolment, such as Eastern Cape, KZN and Limpopo. What support has the Department offered to the schools that have begun hosting study camps? She had recently done oversight visitations to some schools and found that while the camps were worthwhile, they all needed financial support for critical things like food for the learners.
What monitoring mechanisms are in place to address the teachers who produced poor student results at the end of the year?
Mr M Bara (DA, Gauteng) said that he had appreciated the presentations and said that Covid-19 still posed challenges. He wanted to know what was being done by the Department to ensure that the results of learners were improved, and what measures could be taken to ensure their safety during the pandemic. He congratulated learners for their achievements in the past year.
The Chairperson asked UMALUSI about the vetting and training of members of security companies used by the Department during the examinations. In addition, he said that if time constraints did not allow for answering questions, the Department of Education would respond in writing.
DBE Director-General, Mr Hubert Mathanzima Mweli, speaking from King Cetshwayo District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, responded to the questions put by Ms Luthuli and Mr Bara. He said that every province had a learner support programme entitled “Learner Attainment Strategy”, driven by the curriculum line function. The learners received support in the form of study guides and other materials, while resources such as accommodation and catering were provided at provincial level for every class in every year. He and officials from the Curriculum Department were responsible for visiting the provinces to verify whether these programmes were in place, and whether learners were adequately supported. However, he said that annual budget cuts had begun to negatively impact this support, and had affected learners from disadvantaged communities in particular. All provinces had provided support, with Gauteng Province having been able to provide more in terms of learner resources. KwaZulu-Natal had begun to do more to invest in activities for learners. In preparation for a possible third wave of the Covid-19 epidemic, schools had begun Saturday teaching programmes and have prepared for autumn support camps. This had required commitment and hard work from teachers and officials at national and school levels, and it was crucial to provide good leadership to the system. In spite of a drop in the overall pass rate, the class of 2020 had been the best ever in terms of resilience and performance. The Department had been meeting with provincial officials to reflect on performance and to discuss focus areas. UMALUSI had made a similar presentation at a previous meeting, and the Department had been attending to all the issues raised by UMALUSI.
To the question from the Chairperson, he responded that the services of security companies were procured at provincial level, although it might be necessary to centralise the administration of this process, a matter that could be presented to the Council of Education Ministers in future. He said that the official dropout rate had been between 12% and 15% as reported by the National Dynamics Study, which had provided the only empirical evidence available. The problem within the system had not so been much the dropout rate, as the failure and repetition rates. The Council of Ministers had decided that in the foundation phase, learners should not be retained.
The Deputy Minister responded to the question raised by Ms Gillion saying that issues relating to school placement had similarly affected Gauteng Province. It was an issue affecting all cities and towns. She raised the problem of waiting lists, where African children had been negatively affected compared to other population groups; there had been differential support to progressed learners, and in the Western Cape previously disadvantaged groups needed to be better supported. Education was one of the basic rights of children and is enshrined in the Constitution. It was therefore the responsibility of the Department of Education, the Department of Basic Education and provincial Departments of Education to ensure the absorption of all learners. Both Gauteng and Western Cape provinces had experienced this problem, but it had manifested as worse in the latter. The fact that these were large urban hubs, drawing rural populations, meant that they should be better capacitated in terms of the provision of education facilities.
The class of 2020, teachers and parents had done exceptionally well. Grade 12 represented the culmination of 12 years of schooling, and the 2020 results had reflected the hard work that had been put in. The final challenging year had not thrown the system off balance, because of consistent hard work. The DBE thus had to be commended.
Taking up Ms Gillion’s question, the Deputy Minister said that the national Department of Basic Education would engage more closely with the Western Cape.
The Chairperson thanked the Members for their time and engagement with the inputs, and thanked the Deputy Minister for her support. Similarly, UMALUSI had always engaged positively.
The Minister expressed appreciation for the support that had always been received from the Select Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
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