2021 NSC Examinations: DBE & Umalusi briefing; with Minister
25 January 2022
Chairperson: Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC)
The Portfolio Committee met on a virtual platform to receive a briefing on the 2020 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations outcomes by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi).
DBE noted the components of the schooling system, the unique educational context of learning under COVID-19 conditions, the improvements observed in the quality of school-based assessments, the performance rates in the November 2021 examination, a comparison of subject pass rates for full-time and part-time learners in 2020 and 2021, and the NSC pass rates by age, gender and qualification type. DBE emphasised the importance of technical subjects in contributing to producing people with skills needed by the economy. The brief also outlined the general improvement in the areas of access, redress, equity, efficiency, inclusivity and quality. DBE highlighted the intervention strategies to mitigate the concerns raised about compliance by the Umalusi directives on the quality of the 2021 NSC exams.
Umalusi’s presentation included the scope of the 2021 quality assurance assessment, areas where DBE needed to improve, and the tracking of directives for compliance from 2019 to 2021. The brief also addressed the definition of standardisation, the standardisation and resulting processes used in the 2021 NSC exams, and challenges such as the continued poor performance in NSC South African Sign Language (SASL) Home Language and the negative or positive impact of the structural changes in some subjects.
Umalusi EXCO had approved the results but where irregularities were identified, DBE was requested to block the results of candidates implicated in irregularities including the candidates involved in group copying pending the outcomes of further DBE investigations and Umalusi verification. In the cases where candidates had unauthorised access to question papers, the results of these candidates should be blocked pending further investigation and verification.
The Committee appreciated the work of DBE and Umalusi to ensure the completion of the 2021 NSC exams, despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Members' questions to Umalusi included the relatively poor performance of learners in English Home Language, its process of adjusting marks upwards or downwards, what it had done to ensure good quality education within the NSC qualification, the implementation of the National Senior Certificate for Adults, and both the learner performance in SASL and the moderation of the subject’s exams.
Members asked DBE about the dropout rate and emphasised DBE track, trace and retention strategies for learners to avoid dropping out between Grade 1 and 12. Many emphasised that DBE should put more focus on vocational streams. There were questions on reaching the youth in correctional centres, on the quality of education for learners with special education needs, its intervention strategy for Limpopo province, on the number of schools with a 0% pass rate, on whether the learner pregnancy rate was affecting girl learners, the need to measure the number of learners who passed matric against the general population, resolving vacancies of examination staff and improving subject performance in subjects critical for the economy.
Chairperson’s Opening Remarks
The Chairperson congratulated the Department of Basic Education and Umalusi on the sterling work that both had done in producing the results that would be presented. She also thanked the two for continually quality assuring the results of the examinations. DBE managed to register approximately 733 000 learners for the past year. It had managed to deliver, and make sure that about 704 000 learners had written the NSC examinations together with the part-time learners. About 50% of part-time learners did not write, even though they were registered. She congratulated the Free State, Western Cape and Gauteng on continually performing as the best provinces in South Africa. There was a 1% decrease in Gauteng in the matric results. Generally, those three provinces were doing well. There was a need to pass those congratulatory remarks to the Members of Executive Council (MECs) in all provinces for managing the sector, which was a very large sector. About 55% of candidates who wrote the exams were female. She expressed gratitude that many female learners had passed. Mr E Siwela (ANC) had shown the Chairperson the results of his daughter, who had “done very well” in Mpumalanga; she offered her congratulations.
The Chairperson wanted to highlight that learners with special needs had achieved good results, particularly the bachelors passes. Quintile 1 to 3 schools had performed very well in achieving bachelor's passes.
Most of the districts had performed from 60% upwards. Only two districts were in the 50% to 59% bracket. Even the ANC Lekgotla congratulated DBE for performing very well. It showed that when one had consistent leadership that was “holding the fort” and working very hard, the results paid off. Learners showed serious resilience. Through COVID-19, learners had fought, and they had proven to the country that they are the future of the country.
It was noted that the Minister and Deputy Minister would need to leave earlier to attend a Cabinet meeting.
National Senior Certificate Examinations: Results of the Class of 2021
Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga, gave brief remarks. The Department was proud and encouraged that the system could hold its own under very difficult conditions. The Department thanked all of its teachers and parents. There was also “massive support” from the private sector with the “Woza Matric” programme, coordinated through the National Consumer Tribunal (NCT); business also came to the party. This showed that the public was paying attention, and was committed to assisting the children of SA. She expressed appreciation for the opportunity for the Department to report to the Portfolio Committee.
Mr Mathanzima Mweli, DBE Director-General, presented. This might be the last presentation that Prof John Volmink, Chairperson of Umalusi Council, would be part of. It was important to acknowledge the leadership and contribution that Prof Volmink had made to the basic education sector. He acknowledged the Umalusi CEO and team, and DBE senior management.
Mr Mweli wanted to acknowledge the oversight role that the Committee had played throughout to “keep [the Department] on its toes”.
The Department had managed to overcome adversity through resilience. Learners had demonstrated their resilience. The Department called this class “the phoenix” – a mythical bird that burns but has the ability to rise from ashes. It used that image to motivate the class of 2021.
Indicators of Performance
(a) The National Senior Certificate examination results are one of the most important barometers to evaluate the success of the sector.
(b) Progress in the sector has also been confirmed in the international and regional assessment programmes.
(c) The establishment of the Systemic Evaluation Programme will provide DBE with performance trends in Grades 3, 6 and 9.
(d) The establishment of the General Education Certificate will provide a standardised assessment at the end of Grade 9.
(e) Measuring performance against social justice principles of access, redress, equity, quality, efficiency, inclusivity. These principles were part of UNESCO Sustainable Development Goal 4.
Profile of the Class of 2021
a) The Class of 2021 is the largest class to date to sit for the NSC examinations.
b) This group was tremendously disadvantaged by the 2020 lockdown during their Grade 11 year.
c) The last two years of their schooling have not been normal by any measure.
d) As much as the lost time was recovered through measures such as the shortening of the June vacation in 2020 the cancelling of the June examination in 2020 and 2021 and the extension of Term 4 in 2020 these learners had to endure major psychological, social and academic hurdles.
e) Assessment in Grade 11:
• Weighting of school-based assessment (SBA) increased to 60% (from 25%)
• Weighting of Exams decreased to 40% (from 75%).
2021 Unique Educational Context
This included: Rotational attendance in 2020; inadequate exam exposure; trimmed curriculum; at-home learning; need for psychosocial support; amended Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) Section 4; and learning under COVID-19 conditions.
Comparison of Grade 12 Education Management Information System (EMIS) Data Vs Exam Data
The percentage of Grade 12 learners who wrote in 2021 was 96.02% - it was the highest number of those who wrote compared to previous cohorts (see the presentation for the full details).
Scope and Size of the 2021 NSC Examinations
The number of full-time candidates for the NSC was 733 198, and the number of part-time candidates was 163 965.
Candidates Enrolled/Wrote (Part Time) 2018-2021
Over 90% of part-time learners did not turn out to write the matric examinations.
Enrolment in Terms of Gender
There were 327 974 male candidates (44.7%) and 405 224 (55.3%) female candidates.
NSC Subject Enrolment (2017-2021)
There was an increase in Mathematics and Physical Sciences enrollment in 2021.
NSC Home Language Subject Enrolment (2017-2021)
There was also an increase in enrollment in 2021 compared to 2020.
NSC Technical Subject Enrolment (2018-2021) was detailed, as was the enrollment of special needs learners (with a slight reduction in the Free State), and a reduction in the enrollment of correctional services learners in 2021. The numbers of social grant recipients were also given.
Northern Cape had the highest improvement in the pass rate (an increase of 5.4%), followed by the Eastern Cape, North West, then the other provinces. Limpopo dropped by 1.5%, followed by Gauteng (-1.0%), KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) (-0.8%), and Mpumalanga (-0.1%).
NSC Passes by Type of Qualification, 2021
256 031 (36.4%) of learners achieved a Bachelor pass; 177 572 (25.2%) achieved a Diploma pass; 103 859 (14.8%) achieved a Higher Certificate pass; and 103 (0.0%) achieved an NSC pass.
Type of Passes Per Quintile
There was an increase in the number of Bachelor passes in quintile 1 to 3 schools in 2021 (61.8%) compared to 2020 (58.0%). There was a decrease in Bachelor passes in quintile 4 to 5 schools in 2021 (38.2%) compared to 2020 (42.0%). The poorest schools were among the quintile 1 schools. This increase in Bachelor passes was a “major shift in history”.
NSC Passes By Gender 2021
Both male and female learners had an overall pass of 76.4% nationally.
Age Analysis By Gender
Boy learners were staying in the school system longer (more male learners aged 20 than female learners aged 20).
Candidates’ Performance in Selected Subjects, 2017-2021 (at 30% Level)
In 2021, performance increased in Agricultural Sciences, Business Studies, History, Life Orientation, Life Sciences, Mathematics and Physical Sciences.
Candidates’ Performance in Selected Subjects, 2017-2021 (at 40% Level)
In 2021, performance increased in Agricultural Sciences, Business Studies, Life Sciences, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. However, 2021 showed a decrease in Accounting, Economics, English First Additional Language, Geography, History and Mathematical Literacy.
Candidates’ Performance in Home Languages at 40% Level
Six languages showed either an increase, or stayed the same in 2021: IsiNdebele, IsiXhosa, IsiZulu, Sesotho, Setswana and Tshivenda. Those that decreased were: Afrikaans, English, Sepedi, SiSwati, SA Sign Language and Xitsonga.
New Subjects Achievement
• In 2021, 127 candidates wrote SASL Home Language, and 91.3% achieved a pass.
• Technical Mathematics: 13 403 wrote, 60.1% achieved a pass.
• Technical Sciences: 14 642 wrote, 87.1% achieved a pass.
• Civil Technology (Construction): 4 474 wrote, 98.5% achieved a pass.
• Civil Technology (Civil Services): 627 wrote, 97.0% achieved a pass.
• Civil Technology (Woodworking): 2 366 wrote, 97.0% achieved a pass.
• Electrical Technology (Digital Systems): 371 wrote, 94.6% achieved a pass.
• Electrical Technology (Electronics): 1 143 wrote, 91.0% achieved a pass.
• Electrical Technology (Power Systems): 5 675 wrote, 94.4% achieved a pass.
• Mechanical Technology (Automotive): 3 330 wrote, 95.2% achieved a pass.
• Mechanical Technology (Fitting & Machining): 1 991 wrote, 97.1% achieved a pass.
• Mechanical Technology (Welding & Metal Work): 2 308 wrote, 90.6% achieved a pass.
This direction in technical subjects was “where we need to go as a country”. There was an improvement compared to those years from 2018 up to 2021. What sat at the “heart” of SA’s “architecture” of education was high enrollment in technical subjects. What was also important was having the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges operating at post-school level, and getting out of NQF level 4, so that learners who got Higher Certificate and National Diploma passes could also go to TVET colleges. But if those learners do that now, “it is a waste of three years”, because TVET colleges operate at NQF level 4. It was a discussion that DBE was having with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). Once a decision was reached, he thought that a “major policy solution” would have been provided to move the architecture of SA’s education and training system to a higher trajectory.
Distinctions Per Province 2020-2021
There were improvements in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KZN, and the Western Cape.
Number and Percentage of Distinctions in the 12 Key Subjects
There was an increase in six out of the 12 key subjects. However, there was a slight decrease in the distinctions achieved in Mathematics and Physical Sciences.
There was a general improvement in the areas of access, redress equity efficiency, quality and inclusivity.
a) A total of 733 198 full-time candidates enrolled to write the NSC examination
b) More learners wrote (704 021) than in 2020 (578 468).
c) 537 687 FT candidates attained a NSC, an increase of 96 985 from 2020.
d) 45 211 more candidates attaining admission to Bachelor Studies compared to 2020.
e) A total of 410 509 (65.52%) of social grant recipient learners attained an NSC.
a) 354 476 candidates from “no fee” schools obtained an NSC compared to 161 691 from “fee paying” schools
b) 72.3% of the “no fee” learners achieved a NSC.
c) 149 648 (30.5%) of the 490 531 “no fee” learners attained admission to Bachelors Studies
d) 273 356 (55.7%) of the 490 231 "no fee" learners have access to a Higher Education study
e) 149 648 of the admission to Bachelor studies come from “no fee” schools, compared to 92 646 from “fee paying” schools
f) 3 440 (6.1%) progressed learners, up from 2020 (4.6%), obtained admission to Bachelor Studies
• 405 224 girls compared to 327 974 boys entered the NSC examination (77 250 more girls than boys)
• 297 152 girls, compared 240 535 boys, passed the 2020 NSC examinations
• 146 156 girls attained admission to Bachelor Studies compared to 109 875 boys
• 65.7% of distinctions attained by girl candidates, including distinctions in critical subjects such as Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Mathematics, and Physical Science.
a) Improvement in Agricultural Sciences from 72.7% to 75.4%, Business Studies 77.9% to 80.5%, History 75.3% to 89.5 %, Mathematics 53.8% to 57.6 % and Physical Sciences 65.8% to 69.0.
b) Increase in subject performance at the 40% level: Agricultural Sciences from 45.9% to 48.7%, Business Studies 57% to 60.4%%; Life Sciences 47.9% to 51.3%; Mathematics 35.6% to 44.8% and Physical Sciences 42.4% to 44.8%.
c) 256 031 learners achieved admission to Bachelor studies, which is equivalent to 36.4%
d) 433 603 candidates (61.5%) who achieved admission to Bachelor and Diploma studies, are eligible to register for studies at higher education institutions.
e) Only 2 of the 75 districts performed below 60%.
f) 26 of the 75 districts performed above 80%.
a) Only 3.98% (29 177) of registered candidates did not pitch to write the examination. A significant reduction from previous years.
b) 21 499 (37.8%) of the progressed learners that wrote all seven subjects obtained the NSC.
c) 80.8% of learners with special education needs, who wrote 2021 NSC examinations, passed.
a) Offered fourth examination in SASL to 127 learners, 116 (91.3%) of whom achieved a NSC.
b) A total of 2 397 learners with special needs wrote the NSC examination and 1937 (80.8%) learners attained the NSC.
c) 879 learners with special needs attained admission to Bachelor Studies, 636 achieved admission to Diploma Studies and 314 achieved admission to Higher Certificate Studies.
a) DBE has developed an improvement plan to address the directives for compliance and
improvement issued by Umalusi at the Approval Meeting on 14 January 2022.
b) The directives are in the main administrative, and professional as it relates to question paper development and School Based Assessment.
c) An improvement strategy which is five-pronged in its approach will be implemented:
• Intensive collaborative review of all national and provincial examination and assessment processes
• Review of question papers that presented challenges
• Standard setting and planning meetings at national and provincial levels
• Training sessions for examiners, subject advisors, SBA moderators, markers and other professionals involved in examinations and assessment
• Intensive monitoring of the entire examination cycle
a) Despite the challenges, the system has demonstrated its resilience to overcome the odds. The performance of learners in this examination is a confirmation of the system resilience.
b) It is also an indication that the schooling system is maturing and is developing a capability to deal with unexpected challenges and enhance outputs as we move forward.
c) The system has shown significant improvements:
• More learners attained the NSC (96 985 more)
• More learners attained admission to Bachelor Studies (45 211 more)
• More distinctions (34 290 more).
Umalusi briefing on November 2021 National Senior Certificate Examination
Prof John Volmink, Chairperson of Umalusi Council, introduced the Umalusi delegation: Dr Mafu Rakometsi, CEO; Ms Cindy Thomas, Acting Executive Manager: Quality Assurance and Monitoring; Mr Andy Thulo, Acting Senior Manager: Quality Assurance of Assessment in School Qualifications; and Dr Lucky Ditaunyane, Senior Manager: Public Relations and Communications.
When Umalusi focused on its quality assurance of assessments and its mandate, it felt accountable to the Minister and the Committee.
Unlike the class of 2020, the class of 2021 faced the daunting challenge of learning under COVID-19 conditions for two consecutive years. Therefore, Prof Volmink wished to acknowledge learners’ resilience, and the arduous work done by teachers, parents, guardians and educational officials in terms of supporting these learners to achieve their goals of writing the matric examinations.
The presentation would focus on the Umalusi processes followed to quality ensure the entire value chain of the 2021 national assessment processes including the standardisation of the November NSC. Council was satisfied that Umalusi had delivered on its quality assurance mandate through the oversight role of one of its committees, the Assessment Standards Committee. As a Committee of Council, the Assessment Standards Committee worked hard at the beginning of January this year to standardize the 2021 examinations. Council announced its approval of 2021 results on 18 Jan 2022. After satisfying itself that based on the evidence presented to it by the Department, the conduct of the 2021 examinations was fair and was credible. Despite a few irregularities reported, the Executive Committee of Council determined that based on the evidence presented, there were no systemic irregularities that could have compromised the overall quality and integrity of the examinations. For that reason, Umalusi wanted to make a special commendation to the DBE, which dealt with so much complexity and so many challenges. Umalusi wanted to commend the Department for successfully administering, conducting and managing the 2021 NSC examinations in the way that it did.
Dr Mafu Rakometsi, CEO, started the presentation which covered the mandate and regulatory framework of Umalusi; the framework for quality assurance of assessment; the quality assurance processes and scope undertaken in 2021; areas where DBE needed to improve; tracking of directives for compliance from 2019-2021; the standardisation and resulting process and recommendations.
National Senior Certificate
The National Senior Certificate examinations are administered by three Assessment bodies (Department of Basic Education, Independent Examinations Board (IEB) and South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI). All three assessment bodies are quality assured and certificated by Umalusi. In 2021, DBE had 896 710 candidates (full-time and part-time); IEB had 13 825 candidates (full-time and part-time); and SACAI had 4 181 candidates (full-time and part-time).
Quality Assurance Process Undertaken in 2021
Mr Andy Thulo, Acting Senior Manager: Quality Assurance of Assessment in School Qualifications, Umalusi, continued the presentation..
Overview of the Quality Assurance of Assessment and Examination Processes
Umalusi moderated and approved 162 NSC question papers for this examination. 159 question papers were moderated and approved for the November 2021 examinations in the current moderation cycle while the other 3 question papers were sourced from the bank as they were approved for previous examinations but not utilised.
• Umalusi sampled 22 subjects for School Based Assessment (SBA) moderation and 9 subjects for Practical Assessment Tasks (PAT) moderation across the nine Provincial Education Department (PED); as well as oral assessment moderation for 4 languages in 5 PEDs. The sample was inclusive of schools located outside the borders of South Africa (Eswatini).
• DBE’s state of readiness to conduct the November 2021 NSC examinations was reported on in October 2021.
• Umalusi monitored a sample of 442 examination centres and 40 marking centres across the nine PEDs.
• Umalusi participated in the marking guideline standardisation meetings of 67 subjects comprising 145 question papers for the November 2021 examinations. Umalusi approved and signed-off marking guidelines of all these question papers.
• Thirty-seven subjects (including Life Orientation Common Assessment Task and Marine Sciences) were sampled for the verification of marking across the nine PEDs.
• DBE presented a total of 67 subjects for the standardisation of the November 2021 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations.
• All irregularities identified were managed in accordance with the Regulations Pertaining to the Conduct, Administration and Management of the National Senior Certificate Examinations by the Provincial Examination Irregularities Committees (PEIC). Challenges experienced were captured per PED.
• A detailed report, covering all the quality assurance of assessment processes, was shared with the Department of Basic Education.
Moderation of Question Papers
Mr Thulo said Members would have noticed with the Department’s presentation, the directives on compliance issued by Umalusi after undertaking its oversight role in adjudicating. It was pleased to commend DBE for ensuring that the directives were taken seriously. DBE demonstrated in its presentation that it ensured that there was improvement that cut across provinces on the directives Umalusi had issued. This attested to the areas of improvement that he would report on.
Areas of Improvement – DBE is commended for:
a. The significant improvement shown by most question papers and their marking guidelines complying fully with eight of ten criteria in the first external moderation of the November 2021 NSC question papers.
b. The decreased number of question papers that were rejected (not approved) at first moderation.
DBE had been directed to ensure that the examiners and internal moderators are capacitated on the following aspects: technical details (TD), quality of questions (QQ), quality of marking guidelines (MG). Although the percentage of questions that complied with the criteria on technical details, text selection, types and quality of questions; and accuracy and reliability of marking guidelines has increased by at least 3% in 2021, it is worrying that less than 60% of question papers complied fully with these criteria for at least three consecutive years.
The directive to ensure that examiners and internal moderators improve on set higher order questions and balance distribution of cognitive skills showed that the percentage of question papers complying fully with this criterion was fluctuating between 59% and 70%. There was therefore a need to ensure there is clear understanding of classifying questions into different levels of cognition. With the directive to ensure more capacity building workshops/training are conducted placing more emphasis on the internal moderation criterion, internal moderation was 84% compliant in November 2021. The increase of 3% in 2020 and 4% in 2021 noted in the internal moderation criterion, indicated that internal moderators paid attention to detail and their inputs were well received by the examiners.
Moderation of SBA, PAT and Oral Assessment
Areas of Improvement – There were no areas of improvement noted. The directives of 2020 have still not been addressed by PED in certain subjects.
DBE was partially compliant in ensuring that the quality assurance of assessment in subjects with a practical component for both the Practical Assessment Task (PAT) and the practical examinations is attended to, as well as ensuring that the use of recycled tasks and shadow marking (where a moderator was ticking over another tick) in SBA is discouraged through effective internal moderation processes. With the latter, Mr Thulo noted that in 2021, the quality of the assessment tasks and internal moderation has improved in many of the subjects sampled for the external moderation. Internal moderation was able to pick up marking errors in most instances.
DBE was partially compliant in ensuring that internal moderation is conducted efficiently and effectively at all levels of the system. In 2021, there was evidence of moderation across all levels, however there was no evidence of internal moderation in the teachers’ oral assessment files for IsiXhosa Home Language in all the sampled schools. It was also partially compliant in ensuring that sufficient focused support was given to SASL Home Language SBA and the moderation thereof. Although the quality of SASL HL assessment tasks had improved in 2021, there was still poor/lack of moderation of SASL HL tasks at various levels of internal moderation.
DBE was partially compliant on the directive to capacitate teachers on item development to improve the quality of assessment tasks, and the directive to ensure adherence to CAPS with regard to conduct and administration of SBA, Orals and Practical Assessment Tasks (PAT). In 2021, DBE administered a very short reading text not cognitively suitable for Grade 12 in Afrikaans First Additional Language (Gauteng); and there was non-adherence to oral assessment requirements for the prepared speech regarding time allocation for the assessment in IsiZulu Home Language (KwaZulu-Natal).It was also partially compliant on the directive to capacitate teachers on the development and use of marking guidelines/rubrics for marking. Mr Thulo highlighted that there was the incorrect use of rubrics and/or assessment criteria in Engineering Graphics and Design PAT (Western Cape); marking of essay questions in Life Sciences (KwaZulu-Natal) and Business Studies. (Gauteng) is still a challenge.
It was compliant on the directives to develop policy to pronounce on the adjustment/addition of marks during oral moderation, and rubrics had been developed for the marking of oral assessment tasks in 2021. With the directive to ensure that teachers use the CAPS for teaching and assessment purposes in Visual Arts, Visual Arts was not sampled for moderation in 2021.
State of Readiness
Umalusi had conducted online meetings with PEDs to assess the state of readiness of DBE directives.
Monitoring of State of Readiness
Areas of improvement
a. Fewer challenges found in the registration of immigrant candidates and approval of concessions/accommodations.
b. There was improvement in security at storage facilities, due to strict compliance to the prescribed major criteria of the outlined norms and standards.
On the Umalusi directives issued, Mr Thulo said that it was important to note that there was evidence of compliance on the following: The directive to effectively implement the policy on the registration of immigrant candidates; to ensure that all districts conduct an audit of examination centres to verify their readiness to administer examinations; to ensure that the North West and Free State PEDs strengthen or improve printing facilities to avoid manual handling of question papers; to ensure proper surveillance systems are installed at all printing facilities; and to ensure that contingency plans are put in place to address the shortage of markers (reserve list for all subjects).
DBE was partially compliant in the following directive: To ensure that security features at districts/nodal points are evaluated and improved and storage facilities should have features such as double locking systems, alarms in working condition, and surveillance cameras. It was also partially complaint on the directive to ensure that the procurement of reliable and roadworthy vehicles for distribution of question papers and collection of answer scripts. Securing of reliable and secured vehicles used in the transportation of question papers still pose a risk in North West.
It was not compliant in the directive to ensure that staff shortage at various levels of the system is addressed as a matter of urgency for effective administration of the NSC examinations. In 2021, there was evidence of recurrence as there is no improvement. It was not compliant on the directive about the high vacancy rate of examination related staff across PEDs; there is a need for intervention to address the situation, since the directive is recurrent over three consecutive years. Lastly, it was not compliant on the directive on marker shortages in subjects likely to attract high enrolments; a sustainable solution is required nationally to avoid recurrence, although limited to three PEDs in 2021.
Audit of appointed markers
Areas of Improvement: As compared to 2020, Umalusi noted that the PED made an effort to address previous challenges and were innovative in improving appointment requirements of markers at all levels. The following areas of improvement were noted:
a. The thorough verification of applications at school, district and provincial levels to ensure compliance with the requirements for appointment at all levels (Limpopo), before the recommendations for appointments were made to the PED.
b. Although the online application system used by the Western Cape was also used in previous years, it allowed for applicants to update their information and to track progress with appointments.
DBE was compliant in the following directives: To ensure that marker selection panels consider recommendations made by principals and/or district officials in the appointment of markers; and to ensure that PEDs adhere to the PAM criteria when appointing marking personnel at all levels.
It was partially compliant in ensuring PEDs avail the required qualification transcripts and statistical information of applicants, which are necessary for an effective audit. A recurrent non-compliance was observed wherein PEDs still failed to avail applicants’ transcripts as requested by Umalusi. Non-indication of the level of subject specialisation (Limpopo) was noted. It was also partially compliant in ensuring that PEDs submit the necessary data and provide access to online administration system for auditing purposes. Incomplete data is supplied for auditing in some quarters (Limpopo).
Mr Thulo added that Umalusi was using a blended approach. It could do face-to-face, but most of the time, through the prevalence of the pandemic, online was the way to go. It still wanted to see a “drastic shift” in some of the provinces via ensuring that their systems allowed for data to be uploaded, and allow Umalusi to conduct its verification of the appointed markers through an online platform, and external [unclear 1:52:51.5] face-to-face.
A new directive for 2022 was issued: To ensure that there is compliance with the required ratio of 1:5 deputy chief markers to senior markers in Western Cape for Accounting Paper 1.
Monitoring the Writing of the Examinations
Umalusi was able to monitor 442 examination sites in total in 2021.
Areas of Improvement – There was minimal improvement on the directives issued in 2020 in relation to invigilation, however:
a. There was notable compliance with DBE health and safety protocols across the examination centres under COVID-19 conditions.
Mr Thulo noted invigilation aspects which Umalusi still struggled to improve upon. Although DBE was making strides in trying to have training for chief invigilators to ensure the roles and responsibilities of invigilators are implemented in every examination room, it still found some pockets of non-compliance when it came to invigilation. Hence, in every examination it saw a number of administrative errors and omissions committed in the presence of invigilators. In the DG’s improvement plan he presented, he highlighted training and more training to invigilators and chief invigilators. Mr Thulo wanted to indicate that Umalusi took DBE training very seriously. It had been able to observe, and sit in on some of the trainings as it was conducting its audit. The kind of training that DBE did was of quality standard training.
It was for that reason that in its directives, Umalusi wanted to point out the following in terms of compliance: DBE was compliant in ensuring that the examination centres verify the candidates at the entry point for relevant documentation to avoid impersonation, and ensuring that the chief invigilators prepare daily situational reports and file copies of the dispatch form in the examination file for reference. It was also compliant in: Ensuring that the key to the facility that stores examination material is kept by the chief invigilator before the start of the examination session; ensuring that all examination sessions have a seating plan drawn and available for verification; ensuring that principals are appointed as chief invigilators as per regulation, and letter of delegation must be issued in cases where they are not able to administer the sessions; and ensuring that the PEDs conduct pre-writing audits of all examination centres and provide feedback reports to the examination centres.
DBE was not compliant in ensuring that Life Orientation Common Assessment Tasks are administered in line with DBE examination guidelines and monitored by the PEDs. The findings suggest that there was minimal monitoring during the writing of Life Orientation CAT by the district, and this gap allowed for irregularities to take place in two PEDs. Mr Thulo added that this was something that Umalusi would discuss in bilateral meetings, and see what DBE planned to do differently when it came to the administration of Life Orientation nationally. It was not compliant in ensuring that systems are in place for monitoring and evaluation of invigilator performance. There was no improvement in this regard, although trainings were conducted.
In 2021, DBE was partially compliant in ensuring that all examination centres administering computer-based examinations have a backup plan for electricity supply in case of power outages. Necessary arrangements prior to the writing of subjects with PAT, which is dependent on supply of electricity during its writing, were made however ESKOM disruptions were evident in some areas in 2021.
A new directive would be tracked in 2022: Ensuring that controls are in place to enforce compliance to the health and safety protocols issued for the conduct, administration, and management of the examinations. DBE was partially compliant in 2021.
Marking Guidelines Standardisation
Umalusi attended and participated in 142 marking guideline standardisation meetings, largely via Microsoft Teams. Only two subjects (Marine Sciences and South African Sign Language Home Language) were attended on site.
Areas of Improvement – The following area of improvement was noted:
a. Six provinces increased their percentage compliance with the 20-script pre-marking requirement in 2021, compared to 2019 and 2020. This led to a total of 58% of the question papers complying with the criterion in all respects.
DBE was partially compliant in ensuring that chief markers and internal moderators are provided with the required 20 scripts each for pre-marking in preparation for marking guideline discussion meetings. There was a notable increase in level of compliance with the 20 scripts pre-marking requirement with only two provinces’ compliance level below 50% (Northern Cape; North West).
Mr Thulo highlighted some of the directives. DBE was compliant in ensuring that interpreters are available throughout the SASL HL marking guideline discussion sessions. In 2021, interpreters were available throughout the session. However, DBE was partially compliant in ensuring that PEDs have access to training scripts. All the internal moderators and chief markers had access to training scripts, however, some did not mark the required minimum of 20 scripts in 2021.
Monitoring of the Marking of Examinations
The following areas of improvement were noted:
a. High levels of compliance with DBE health and safety protocols for managing marking centres under COVID-19 conditions was evident across monitored marking centres;
b. A vast improvement with the uniform application and standards of security;
c. All PED strived to secure marking centres with appropriate facilities, which were well maintained and conducive for marking; and
d. The availability of well-compiled management plans to be followed by management teams.
Mr Thulo noted that DBE was compliant in ensuring that the security at the main entrances into the marking centres is tight, and security guards must be trained by the assessment body for them to be effective and efficient. Umalusi was satisfied with the strengthening of security at marking centres. DBE was partially compliant in ensuring that all training material is delivered on time in order to allow the determined norm time to be achieved without pressure. This was an area for improvement due to inconsistent management in the circulation of marking guideline documents at some marking centres.
Standardisation and Resulting
Dr Rakometsi defined standardisation as “A process used to eliminate the effect of factors other than the learners’ knowledge, abilities and aptitude on their performance”. The standardisation of results was applied to ensure that learners were not advantaged or disadvantaged by factors outside learners’ knowledge, abilities and aptitude, and also ensured that results were consistent and could be compared from one year to the next. He outlined the principles used in standardising results and the results that were currently being standardised by Umalusi. A comparison of the results standardised from 2019 to 2021 showed that the number of instructional offerings standardised had been 67 in both 2019 and 2021, but had been 65 in 2020.
a) The continued poor performance in NSC SASL Home Language is worrisome; and
b) The extraordinary negative or positive impact of the structural changes in some subjects needs to be attended to.
• DBE must strengthen security measures around collection and storage of question papers at all levels prior to the administration of the examination to prevent early unauthorised access to question papers.
• DBE must intensify the training of teachers in the development of good quality assessment tasks and marking guidelines more especially the development and application of rubrics.
• Ensure that effective feedback that seeks to enhance learner performance and quality of assessment tasks is provided to the learners and the teachers respectively.
• Use of assessment and examination data to improve teaching and learning.
• Close monitoring of the training of invigilators by the districts is required.
Dr Rakometsi noted that Prof Volmink summarised the Executive Committee (EXCO) Approval Statement in his opening remarks. The statement read as follows:
• Having studied all the evidence presented, the Executive Committee (EXCO) of Umalusi Council noted that, apart from some examination irregularities identified during the writing and marking of the examinations, there were no systemic irregularities reported that might have compromised the credibility and integrity of the November 2021 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations administered by the Department of Basic Education (DBE).
• The Executive Committee of Council approves the release of DBE November 2021 NSC examination results based on available evidence that the examinations were administered largely in accordance with the examination policies and regulations.
In respect of identified irregularities, DBE is required to block the results of candidates implicated in irregularities including the candidates involved in group copying pending the outcomes of further DBE investigations and Umalusi verification.
In the cases where candidates had unauthorised access to question papers, the results of the implicated candidates should be blocked pending further DBE investigations and Umalusi verification.
Umalusi wanted to commend the Department for running a good examination system despite challenges. Umalusi acknowledged that the system is huge, and under the circumstances, which included challenges presented by COVID-19, the Department acquitted itself “exceptionally well”. Additionally, Umalusi was celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2022.
Ms N Mashabela (EFF) said that Umalusi indicated that there were areas of concern on a few examination centres that provided exam papers before the exam started, which was a contravention of examination guidelines. Was Umalusi in a position to share more information on the matter? What measures would be taken to ensure proper controls? She asked if she was correct in saying that out of the 1.1 million learners that started school in 2010, only 733 000 learners sat for the NSC. If so, did the Department have a tracking system to know what happened to the other learners? Could the Department account for those missing learners?
Ms D van der Walt (DA) said that she was very happy with the blind learner from Setotolwane that achieved top results this year. The DG spoke of "highest quality, improved learner outcomes". Besides the committee oversight, she and a colleague had been doing their own oversight. No matter the reason, but of concern, was that SA was not yet at "highest quality" when it came to special needs learners in the provinces. She had posted some questions on the funding to special needs schools. She was concerned about provinces where the matric examinations did not go well. The North West was “a shocker” last week when the Committee went on an oversight visit. She was very shocked about Limpopo. If the Department says that the President said that “we should go camping in Limpopo”, she could think of a lot more serious things to do than camping out in Limpopo. It was shocking to see that Limpopo was last, and that it had dropped the most. She could recall in 2010 already, previous MECs “saw the lights flickering” and did not take it seriously enough. It could not be that a province could do this badly and just decline every year. There should be a drastic solution. The Committee would like the Limpopo MEC and department head to give it their plan of action. What was Limpopo’s turnaround strategy? She was afraid to say that she did not think there was any turnaround strategy.
What are the 0% pass rate schools, and which provinces were the schools in? She specifically asked for the names of these schools. On the dropout rate: The boy learners were staying longer in school. Would the learner pregnancy rate affect girls leaving school earlier? Was there a study done on that yet? To Umalusi, she said that SA was doing well on languages, and it seemed as if the pass rate was going up everywhere. But it seemed that SA was battling with English HL. She congratulated Umalusi on the improvements it had had.
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) said that she was aware that the last two years were extremely difficult. The Committee needed to congratulate the learners and the Department for pressing through (under very difficult circumstances) so that children finished their schooling. The DG mentioned that the President said that he needs ten days to analyse the report. As the Committee, it also needed the same. The President had a whole department to assist him in analysis. If the Committee could be afforded the same, it would be helpful. The DG mentioned the large number of students writing and passing. The Committee did not really know what informed the numbers. Some of her questions could best be understood in writing, so she would follow up with those questions. None of the numbers that had been given were compared to the overall population levels. South Africa had more children in the general population than it would have writing. “Matric tells us little about the system itself”. The same applied to the male and female gender split. What was the sex balance in the total age cohort? The Committee needed to see the numbers compared to that, and not just to those in the schools. It needed to see the numbers in comparison with the general population.
On the tracking figures for the class of 2021: It did not help to know that the figures showed that learners joined the public system from the independent system. Otherwise, how does one actually count for there being more learners in grade 7, 8, 9 and 10? She was interested to know the numbers. Especially because in the public hearings, what the Committee had heard was that in the different provinces, a certain number of undocumented learners came into the system, and how it was difficult for schools to accommodate those learners. When one looks at the numbers, those different aspects would be very interesting in knowing what informs the high number now. The Committee had the data, but it did not have the research. It would be helpful if the Department could provide answers on what informs that data. Why does SA have a much higher percentage of grade 12s writing and passing than in the past? If one looked at the last two years that had been impacted by COVID-19, there were between 10 to 15% more learners in grade 12 writing. More grade 12s as a percentage were choosing to write at the end of the year. What happened in the previous years? One would expect a lower percentage of learners writing due to the difficulties of COVID-19. Did it mean that prior to COVID-19, learners who could have passed were discouraged from writing by schools to protect the pass rate, for instance? If one researched the data, it would provide one with a much better map.
On the performance of learners in correctional services: What informed the higher number in some facilities versus others. What programmes did Mpumalanga have, for instance, that would have more learners within that system completing their matric? It would be interesting for the Committee to know that. She was from the Western Cape. In her constituency, she had so many young people between the ages of 16 and 19 that went into the correctional services system. Could the Department develop a targeted approach to enrol those learners that go into Pollsmoor Prison? Many of those learners were waiting there for months for hearing dates. She knew that there were programmes within the Department of Correctional Services (DCS). She was asking that from a DBE perspective. Most of the young people that were in gangs were in the correctional services system; they were the dropouts. Those were the children who had given up on school, who struggled with attention deficit disorder (ADD), and the children that DBE could not reach through intervention programmes because it did not have the resources. Could there be a targeted approach between the three departments – DBE, DCS and Department of Social Development (DSD) – to reach those young people? Many of those young people were first-time offenders and capable of rehabilitation. The Department could try to reach those children. She knew there were programs to get children out of the correctional services system into other protection programmes.
To Umalusi: Could the Committee get an update on the NSC for adults? Could it have a firm commitment on the roll-out date? The Committee acknowledged the importance of the TVET college learners in the system. Should SA’s overall matric pass rate not include these learners, and should such learners not receive the same attention as the top academic learners in a joint ceremony at “release of results” events? Otherwise, it creates the impression that these qualifications are not equal, and that one qualification is better than others.
Mr B Nodada (DA) said that it was important the Committee congratulate this cohort of learners, who were the first cohort to be affected by COVID-19 in grade 11 and matric, for persevering and getting through the year with all the challenges such as the rotational system. He also congratulated the teachers, who made sacrifices and made sure that this cohort of learners saw the end of the matric examinations. When the Committee looked at matric exam outcomes, its interest was to congratulate, and make sure to preserve the pockets of excellence. The places that do well must be commended, and the Committee must commend them for doing well. Part of the Committee’s oversight responsibility is to say that where the education system is not doing well, what can the Committee do to ensure those learners do not get left behind?
He asked about tracking, tracing and retention strategies put in place in each province to track learners from a school level, to a circuit level, to a district level, up to provincial level and then to a national level. Is there a specific plan in place for tracking, tracing and retention? If there is a plan, could the Committee get provincial reports on the different learners that had dropped out the previous year? He gave an example: The Free State had been doing very well. The Committee did an oversight visit there, and there was very impressive teacher quality that learners would get out of the classroom. One would find that the Free State performs very well, even in the matric results. But there are 25 000 learners missing in the system between grade 10 and grade 12. Could the Committee get guidance as to what retention, tracking and tracing strategies are being used provincially, down to a school level? Could a report on those strategies by province be provided to the Committee, to ensure these learners do not get left behind? There is a need to collaborate with DSD and other stakeholders, to ensure that the Department keeps these learners in the system, so that they have a chance at writing the matric exam at the end of the system.
Mr Nodada noted that there were over 29 000 learners that did not pitch for the matric examinations. Did the Department do a study or track and trace to see why those learners did not pitch for the matric examinations? What retention strategies has DBE put in place to ensure that learners at least get the opportunity to write the examinations at the end of the year?
He was glad that the DG mentioned the importance of a high-quality pass mark. Members knew what learners needed to get for a Bachelor pass, National Diploma pass, Higher Certificate pass. Perhaps it was time that DBE reviewed the pass mark for the different throughputs that DBE had in those spaces. It was important that DBE did not give false hope to learners at the exit level of matric, where learners say that they have passed, they have their Higher Certificate, National Diploma or Bachelor’s pass, and this is how they got this. But in terms of progressing to an institution of higher learning, the work environment, skills training, it then becomes a challenge because the standard that had been set for a learner to progress from matric might not have necessarily been set at a standard that was high. “What exactly are we testing on, and what mechanisms and percentages do we put in place to ascertain that somebody is actually ready to exit the matric space into an institution of higher learning, skills training, the job market, innovation, industry and so on?”
There was an indication in the presentation on 33 specialised subjects – what plans does DBE have in place to increase enrolment in specialised subjects? On top of those specialised subjects, and some technical subjects that had been introduced in past few years, such as Technical Maths and Technical Science, Technical Science seemed to be doing a bit better. Technical Maths had been a major challenge. Are there support mechanisms DBE provides provinces to support those learners? The Committee had been to Rhodesfield in Gauteng, a school in the North West, and schools in the Free State; schools were struggling with Technical Maths and the support thereof, to ensure that the learners at least get the concepts, and that ultimately when one looked at the throughput, it showed some sense of success. These were the types of specialised subjects that SA needed to respond to the needs of the economy. There was also a need to encourage more learners to take up these subjects, so that they would have a particular skill they could use to get into the economy, or to study further to participate in the economy. Was there a plan in place to increase the enrollment there? On underperformance in subject outcomes, what mechanisms were in place for teachers to be accountable for underperformance in teacher quality? Are there mechanisms in place to ensure that DBE curbs underperformance in the teaching of a particular subject. If not, then what support is given to ensure there is performance? Was there a provincial report that gave an indication of what mechanisms or consequences are put in place for the underperformance of teachers?
According to the Umalusi presentation, there was no quality assurance assessment done on practical subjects such as CAT PAT (where DBE was partially compliant), and Music, and Engineering Graphics and Design (where DBE was non-compliant). Engineering Graphics and Design are key subjects that are needed in SA’s economy. What were the reasons DBE was non-compliant in monitoring the quality of these subjects? What was DBE doing to ensure the full capacitation of teachers on item development to improve the quality of the assessment tasks? Umalusi reported that the setting of assessment tasks did not comply with policy requirements requiring the spread of cognitive demands. Could Umalusi give an indication of what was happening there?
How many staff vacancies were there at various levels of the process of administering the NSC examinations? Umalusi mentioned that only 60% of what was assessed complied fully with its criteria such as ramifications for question papers that do not comply with technical details, quality of questions and quality of marking guidelines. What recommendations could Umalusi put forward to improve the compliance of these particular papers in future? How did that affect its standardisation process? When comparing question papers to previous years before COVID-19, has there been a decrease in difficulty of questions in key subject areas to compensate for lost learning time? What mechanisms were used before that? Which provinces had the highest and lowest compliance on the 20 script pre-marking requirement for 2021? What could be the possible reasons for that? If Umalusi did not have the report on hand, it could send it to the Committee.
Mr Nodada remarked that the aim of measuring the end of schooling at matric and getting some sense of quality education, and having the throughout that DBE measures, is that it must ensure that learners are ready for institutions of higher learning, and to be absorbed into the job market, and be ready for economic participation and skills training. “It is important for us to start looking at collaboration schools, specialised subjects, and high enrollment in subjects that are responsive to the economy”. The Department would then start measuring that. It was concerning that when one compared the last five years on the 30% pass percentage in selected subjects, Mathematics was not doing well; it was an underperformer. It was something that DBE needed to look at, because it was trying to develop skills needed for the economy. Some learners would not reach institutions of higher learning and end up living a lifetime of poverty. When the Committee raised those issues, it raised them with the intent of trying to ensure that none of these learners were left behind. The Committee needed guidance on what mechanisms were put in place, and how it could support those, it must be able to do that, so that it had a generation that was not going to be dependent on grants and live a lifetime of poverty. Instead, this generation would be able to get quality education measured correctly, and live with a skill from the DBE.
Mr R Moroatshehla (ANC) was reluctant to speak given the performance of his province, Limpopo. He congratulated DBE and Umalusi for the work done in the recent examinations, given the following circumstances: The increased number of full-time enrollments in 2021; the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the past two years, all of which ended up negatively impacting on the number of school days that learners attended. Given the overriding ethos of improvement, from DBE as corroborated by Umalusi, the increased number of Bachelor passes which for the first time highlighted that such improvement came from the quintile 1, 2, and 3 schools which was historic. The idea of “camping in Limpopo”, as corroborated by both the President and the Minister, was most welcome, so that the province could perhaps be assisted to identify a turnaround strategy under the circumstances. A message to DBE was that the sector plan was very clear. One can say that DBE, given the increase in the number of Grade 12s eligible for Bachelor programmes, and the number of Grade 12 learners passing both Mathematics and Physical Sciences, one can honestly say it is on course. He asked DBE how to sustain this move going forward. Of importance given deterrent factors such as budget cuts, and many other factors the DG noted, how best will DBE sustain this going toward 2030? The Committtee had a duty to give credit where credit is due. Given the circumstances, things were “on course”. What was needed was to press on until goals were achieved.
Ms N Adoons (ANC) commended the work of the Committee and DBE. She wondered how DBE could have performed if it was not disrupted by COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, taking into consideration the 2019 results of more than 80%, that had happened for the first time since 1994. She wondered if DBE could have done more, and if it would have been talking about a 90% pass rate. She had a belief that DBE was going in the right direction in making sure that SA improved in education, especially basic education. Learners are a priority to all – the community, the teachers, the districts, provinces and national Department. Education had been a priority for all. Limpopo did not do well. It was a province that the Committee had visited in January 2020. It had made recommendations that she thought the Committee must revisit to ensure that it assists the province to do better. She thought that there was a lot of potential in Limpopo, but there were challenges that the Committee saw, and it made recommendations based on its oversight visit. The Committee really needed to revisit the recommendations and those not implemented – it must check if there was any improvement made. One of the challenges was infrastructure, where schools were not in good condition for learners to use. Some of those schools did not have libraries or laboratories. It was a worrying factor for all Members. She did not know how far the implementation of the recommendations was.
Mr E Siwela (ANC) said that of concern was the performance of Limpopo year in and year out. The Committee had noticed that things were not going well in that province. What was DBE doing to assist that province, so there was improvement in its performance? Other large provinces were improving, but not in that province. The Department should focus on that province, and check what it was that the other provinces were doing, which was not done in Limpopo. Even in those provinces that did well, there was room for improvement. The others should not be left unattended, because the results “could be dire in the long run”. There was much talk about the dropout rate, and strong emphasis on DBE to track the learners who drop out. The Committee also had a role to play in assisting DBE in tracking down these learners, and providing information to DBE so that it could intervene and assist these learners. The country was very big, and DBE could not be everywhere all the time. As Members, communities, and parents, all had a role to assist DBE.
Each time Umalusi had done its evaluation and standardisation, the Committee heard the media talking about how marks were probably adjusted upwards or downwards, and that that was probably done to show that the results were like this or that. It was Umalusi’s responsibility to ensure that the results were standardised, and were therefore genuine. It would be important for Members to communicate a positive message about the performance of the education sector. It would not help if the media reported on the bad things alone; it should also report on the good work DBE is doing so society would have a better picture of the education system as a sector.
Ms Adoons said that other provinces could learn a lot from the systems that had been put in place in the Free State at the school level. The level of performance that had been shown by the Free State showed that it did not only happen at a district or province level; it also happened at a classroom level. She believed there should be one standardised way of teaching and learning, as seen in the Free State, especially in provinces that were not functioning well. One could see that where everybody was involved, such as the school governing body (SGB) with strong leadership from the school management team and the leadership of the principal, it told a lot about the performance of that school. The Committee saw this when it visited the Free State.
When one compared the past three years of numbers of learners who did not write exams, it had significantly dropped from 15% to 3%. That showed that there was something DBE was doing. She asked if DBE could share what it had put in place to continually reduce such numbers. The Committee was also interested in what makes learners register for the writing of exams, and then not pitch up to write the exam. The Department needed to look into and try to deal with this. How were the teachers in the school that were not performing well being assisted? Is there any support such teachers received after they have not shown an improvement in their results?
On Umalusi: It was one of the structures supporting basic education that was consistently showing improvement in performance. It had clean audits consistently. When Umalusi was doing its monitoring in both the examination and marking centres, what were some of the challenges it thought really needed to be improved on? There had not been any challenges of leaked papers as compared to previous years (especially 2020). The only disruption was load-shedding. There were no cases of teachers or markers that passed on due to COVID-19 compared to 2020. What were challenges that Umalusi thought DBE must improve on, other than those it already mentioned? She was sure that by 2030, SA would have a 100% quality education.
The Chairperson raised learners carrying guns in schools. There were incidents in Gauteng since the schools opened in 2022. It was very concerning. DBE needed to push harder to make schools a place of safety. In the first incident, a shooting happened inside the school premises. It was happening continually, and it was not right.
There were three thirteen-year-olds that passed 100%. Could DBE share their story with the Committee? How did one get thirteen-year-olds doing Grade 12?
The Chairperson said that it was time for DBE to put more focus on vocational streams. She raised that because only 50% of part-time learners wrote who were registered for the 2021 examinations. People want to obtain a certificate, people wanted to work but they see there are no jobs. There should rather be schools of skills with the focus on getting people skilled and be able to work on their own. She thought that there was a need to focus on the vocational stream.
The Chairperson read from a Times Live article on one of the youngest school principals in South Africa: “Growing up in a village of Mount Frere, Eastern Cape, Abonga Mdze, who is one of the youngest school principals in the country, knew that education was his only way out of poverty. This is the same reason the 29-year-old principal at Ngqwala Senior Secondary School pushed his pupils to achieve a matric pass rate of 88.6%, a huge improvement from the 28% the school achieved in 2018”.
The Department was doing very well. Of course, there would be disagreements in terms of percentages. But taking into consideration that the Committee was talking about learners who were not in school for five months in 2020, the learners had fought, been resilient, and had produced good results. As the Committee, there was a need to give credit where it was due. Both DBE and Umalusi as the quality assurance body were doing well. Were there systems to ensure the legacy at Umalusi (considering that Prof Volmink might retire at some point) will not vanish?
Dr Rakometsi replied about examination centres opening the question papers before the designated time. In Umalusi’s media briefing, it said that it did not want to give a lot of detail on this matter, as the investigation was continuing. According to examination guidelines, examination papers can only be opened in the examination room 30 minutes before the commencement of the exam to allow time for the distribution of questions papers. This also allows reading time for the candidates, and allows candidates to make their choice about which question choices to answer. On the remedial measures that have to be taken, Umalusi would wait for the final investigation report from DBE. From that report, DBE and Umalusi must formulate a strategy on how to deal with that matter once and for all. There should not be a future recurrence of this challenge.
He replied about performance of learners in English Home Language. There were some students who took this subject when English was not their home language. Such learners could come from families that are Sotho, Setswana, Xhosa or Xitsonga-speaking, but because these learners find themselves at former Model C Schools, they then have to do English HL, therefore, they did not fare as well. What compounded the problem was the fact that English HL, like other home languages, is a failing subject (that is, it is compulsory to pass one’s home language). A lot of effort is needed to ensure that those learners who do English HL when they are second language speakers are assisted. Umalusi had observed the pattern of poor performance as well.
On the National Senior Certificate for Adults (NASCA): According to the timetable discussed with DBE, the NASCA has to be piloted in 2023. Umalusi Council has written to Minister Nzimande to delay the implementation of the NASCA. The Department has still not introduced relevant policies for the proper implementation of the qualification, such as assessment guidelines. Those policies were not ready yet, so it would be “disastrous” to pilot something with policies that were not ready. To that end, the Council, through Prof Volmink, had arranged a meeting with Minister Nzimande to discuss NASCA. Umalusi believed that the meeting would take place soon.
On the release of the TVET college results: Umlausi did not know the release date of those results. There was no excitement similar to that of the NSC. That excitement around the NSC was “very much motivating” to all learners knowing that the whole country would be focusing on their results on that qualification. The same was not happening with the TVET; it was for the Committee, or the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training to make a call to Minister Nzimande to say that it would want to have something similar to what DBE does.
Dr Rakometsi replied that it was for DBE to say how it will address the concerns and the directives raised by Umalusi. He appreciated those commendations Members gave Umalusi and DBE because there was a lot of work that went into what had been done. It was not easy; there were a lot of sleepless nights by both DBE and Umalusi, and they appreciated those commendations.
Dr Rakometsi agreed that Limpopo had a lot of potential. He had done his own profiling, and the people from Limpopo loved education. There were a lot of highly qualified people from Limpopo. He estimated that 60 to 70% of his staff at Umalusi, who were highly qualified people, came from Limpopo. Umalusi found that the people from Limpopo did well in interviews in terms of qualifications and so on.
He agreed with Mr Siwela that Umalusi was not influencing the results in any way. He emphasised the point that as Umalusi did its quality assurance processes, it had no interest in the final pass percentage. Whether it was high or low, Umalusi was not committed to that. Umalusi was committed to the idea that whatever the outcome was, it should be good-quality education. To that end, it had done benchmarking at an international level on a continual basis. It would be launching a report during 2022 to state how the NSC compared with other qualifications. He listed some international assessment bodies that Umalusi was benchmarking with: The International Baccalaureate, the Kenyan Certificate of Secondary Education, the Australian New South Wales High School Certificate, the Zimbabwe Advanced Levels, and the Cambridge Assessment International AS and A-levels. Umalusi wanted quality education, and qualifications that had currency, where South African students could compete with other students globally.
On improvements, Dr Rakometsi noted that Umalusi had covered the full scope in its presentation. The Department “was doing exceptionally well” considering the size of the system, and considering the improvements that it had introduced over the years. 2021 was better than 2020 in terms of COVID-19. The Omicron variant was “light”, and he hoped this was a sign that COVID-19 was “bidding [South Africa] farewell” because there were not a lot of disruptions.
On marking: There was a storm that blew the roof off a marking centre at Albert Moroka High School in Thaba Nchu, Free State. He commended DBE and the Free State Department of Education for the leadership they provided there. Within a short space of time, marking continued in the Free State at another centre about 60 km away in Bloemfontein. When Umalusi visited the marking centres, it saw an improvement in the quality of food and accommodation.
Dr Rakometsi replied to the Chairperson’s question that he had been at Umalusi for a long time, and he was still going to be there for some years, “God willing”. The people at Umalusi were highly qualified. With the people that deputised him, the people at senior management level and those at management level, even if he left Umalusi tomorrow, there would be someone there who could take over, either from the staff or from the pool of highly qualified people in the country. There were times when he took leave for a month, then came back to find that the organisation was run well. There was nothing that he worried about, even when he had taken leave.
Prof Volmink said that Dr Rakometsi had covered all of the questions. Commenting on SASL as a home language, he thought that teachers were not sufficiently trained and supported for the subject teaching and assessment. Markers were not adequately prepared and supported. The learners, who were already vulnerable, were being let down by the system. This subject needed to be made more exam-ready.
On the equivalence of TVET Level 4 with the NSC, Prof Volmink wanted to ask if equivalence also meant equal. TVET Level 4 and National Certificate (Vocational) (NCV) Level 4 and NSC were at level four; it did not mean that they were exactly equal. To pool all of those may or may not be the correct thing to do.
On whether the NSC was preparing people sufficiently for further learning, Prof Volmink replied that this was a good question, but there was also a need to recognise that it was not just further learning. The purpose of the NSC was not just for further learning. It was also for personal and social development as well as utility. It was a school-leaving certificate rather than a university entrance certificate. It did not mean that it was not university entrance, but there was a difference.
Director-General Mweli noted that DBE benchmarked the NSC with the Cambridge International Examinations, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, and the Board of Studies of New South Wales in Australia. DBE was looking forward to the benchmark that Umalusi was currently busy with.
Ms Mashabela had asked where the 367 000 learners were who started in 2010 but did not sit the 2021 NSC examination [1.1m less 733 000]. When learners finished grade 9, they were not obliged to proceed with high school. Such learners could go to TVET colleges, and many of them did go to TVET colleges. The only problem was that DBE did not track these learners. It did not have a system that said which learners were in a particular college or campus of the 55 campuses SA had. He thought that going forward, DBE needed to have that system. Some learners would be repeating a grade.
Why the increase? The increase was attributable to two main reasons. 1. The implementation of the policy on progression that learners should not be retained for more than four years in a phase. 2. DBE changed the assessment policy, increasing school-based assessment to 60%, and reducing exams from 75% to 40%. That had an effect organically; it positively allowed learners an upward mobility to the subsequent grade.
Mr Mweli congratulated the learner from Setotolwane. He knew that Ms van der Walt had been fighting for Setotolwane. DBE celebrated the achievement of the top learner from Setotolwane.
On "high quality" in schools with learners who have special education needs: The Department needed to get more learners sitting for the NSC. There was an increase in Bachelor and National Diploma passes, but it needed to get an increase in the number of learners who wrote, and succeeded, and also got placement at university level.
On the North West and Limpopo: North West had improved by 2%, and had been competing fairly well. At some point, it contested seriously for the position of three and two; it was currently at position four. At some point, it outperformed the Western Cape and moved to position three. In Limpopo, it had been a “seesaw”. Some years it was up, and some years down, but in the main, it remained in the bottom three. A lot had to be done there, and the instructions of the Minister and the President would be carried out. The Department would work with colleagues in Limpopo. There were many good schools in Limpopo – attesting to what Dr Rakometsi had said. The province might not be doing well. But there were a few top learners from Limpopo, specifically from Vhembe district, Capricorn South district and Waterberg district. Those districts were doing well, but DBE needed to look at the six districts that were bringing the province down. The Department had diagnosed the problem, and would dig a little deeper to confirm the information that it had. Limpopo had been part of the DBE strategy which the Minister had announced DBE was focusing on the three provinces of Eastern Cape, KZN, and Limpopo because they accounted for more than 50% of the total number of learners. Such learners were rural which had “the potential to bring the system down”. With the Eastern Cape, DBE found traction there, and in KZN it found traction. With Limpopo, DBE’s remedy did not seem to be getting traction. However, it would go back, and Mr Mweli was sure that DBE would be telling a different story next time.
On the number of schools with a 0% pass rate: He did not have that data on hand. DBE would make available the names of the schools and the provinces where the schools were.
On learner pregnancy: There was no indication that this was affecting girls. On the contrary, he had showed data which said that girl learners were finishing school within the required time.
Mr Mweli did not say that the President said he needed two weeks to go over the analysis. He reported that the President said it would require a week to thoroughly do justice to the analysis. That was the view the President expressed after DBE made a presentation. It could be that the Committee needed a week or possibly more for the analysis. The Department had just scratched the surface. Researchers and academics would be mining that data even further. Analysing the data would require more time.
Numbers were not compared to the general population. It was possible that DBE could do that, for instance, the number of learners who had attained grade 12, which was a system used by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA). The Department used the numbers that it had in the schooling system. There were other systems that could be used to check how many young people in the population had attained grade 12 through schooling or an equivalent of that. The Department did put out that data through Stats SA and other means. With the total gender balance, that statistic would be done within the population that one was dealing with, and not the general population, because it was going to skew the numbers. The pass rate is worked out from the number of those who wrote. DBE had argued about that many times. One cannot assess people on what they have not been subjected to. On the number of undocumented learners in the system: The Department could provide that information. It had the data on learners who were foreign nationals. On the high numbers of grade 12 learners generally: That was explained by the policy on progression and changes in the assessment policy.
Mr Mweli did not know what informed the percentage of grade 12 learners who wrote as opposed to those who did not write. But as a teacher by profession, he knew that learners were comfortable and excited if they were well-taught and confident. Then learners looked forward to the outcomes, and they would go and write if they were confident that they would do well. That was what he got from talking to the class of 2021. He knew that learners would turn out in numbers, but the numbers also surprised him. It was only confidence that could drive one to go and write.
On correctional centres: DBE would find out what factors informed higher numbers than others. There would be those who were enrolled and willing to write; DBE could establish that in its engagement with the DCS. DBE would work on a targeted approach in collaboration with DCS and DSD targeting young people. It would work with the Commissioner of Correctional Services.
TVET colleges and NSC are both on NQF Level 4. These qualifications are different in kind and probably in content and shape as well, but were on the same NQF level.
On tracking figures for the class of 2021, DBE had tried to do that. He thanked Prof Jonathan Jansen because of the criticism that he used to mount against DBE every year. DBE then went out and looked for the data, plotted the data on the table, and it was now able to share it. DBE had a better picture of how learners were moving in the system. Credit went to DBE’s critics.
On a system for tracking, tracing and retaining: The EMIS was what DBE had. It could get EMIS to present to the Committee if there was a need to do so. Provinces could also come to explain where there was a need to do so. EMIS could generate a report and bring that data so that it was shared with the Committee.
On 29 000 learners registered to write who did not write: The Department still needed to find out why those learners did not write. It was about 3.9% of the cohort, but DBE would find out what happened.
On the review of pass rate: The law was very clear on how one reviewed the curriculum and related policies. There was the National Education Policy Act. The Minister established a ministerial task team in 2015 to review the NSC. It came out with recommendations. DBE was implementing some of them. The pass rate was not one of the recommendations of this team. DBE did not know what would happen at the end of the Sixth Administration, or even if the Minister had an appetite to establish another ministerial task team to review the NSC.
DBE provides basic skills and knowledge. It was not really expected that an education system that provides basic knowledge and skills prepared people for the labour market. It was not the duty of the system to do that. If people landed in the labour market, it was by default. As Members would have seen, the qualification was to prepare learners to pursue Bachelor studies, but also to pursue other studies in post-schooling institutions through diplomas and higher certificates. As Prof Volmink said, the NSC was also for personal development, such as being a good citizen. Success at post-school level had to do with a myriad of factors. It was not only about knowledge and skills and a foundation received at schooling. Ministerial advisory committees were mainly constituted from higher education institutions (HEIs), who knew exactly what was required at university level. Such committees ensured that DBE’s curriculum was in keeping with foregrounding SA’s young people to be able to succeed at university level. As he said earlier, there were a number of factors attributable to one succeeding at post-schooling level. There was a study at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and other institutions determining if the NSC was a very good predictor for success at HEI level. The outcome of that study was that the NSC was indeed a very good predictor for that. DBE would welcome other studies that could check if the NSC prepares learners adequately for post-schooling level, and would appreciate studies based on empirical evidence.
On a system to hold teachers accountable: Accountability sessions had started, right from school level, from the school management team, district level and provincial level. The Department also had its own accountability sessions with individual provinces, and accountability sessions with 75 districts through the Forum of District Directors and the Minister, which convenes every quarter. The South African Schools Act imposed on DBE to account for schools that performed below a particular threshold, and to come up with mechanisms for improvement.
On vacancies for examination staff: He did not have that information readily available.
On Mathematics: The Department was looking at increasing participation in Mathematics. People who had been in education for a long time were saying that DBE was not doing that badly in terms of participation. Mass participation in Mathematics was not expected in any country. But where SA was not doing well was the success rate, and the performance of learners who were taking that subject. Schools in Limpopo were a very good example of how SA could learn to do Mathematics, and learn to do well in it. It was what DBE called the “Limpopo surprise”, where the majority of historically disadvantaged schools produced learners who did exceptionally well, and learners who passed Mathematics with 60% and above.
On how to sustain improvement: That was “the big question”. Mr Mweli had a 16-year-old child in grade ten, and therefore had to stay in the education system for a few more years. He would need to work very hard with everyone to ensure that the education system performed even better in the classroom of 2022. Many schools started on 3 January to get the Class of 2022 ready.
What was attributable to the performance of the Class of 2021? Nothing could replace hard work in Basic Education. Learners know that. In school, DBE supported learners, and they knew that hard work was the only way. Learners were provided with food, and did not have to worry about accommodation, transport, and school fees. Some people might ask, “How does it happen that learners become vulnerable beyond schooling?” Mr Mweli was not sure if learners proceeded with the full support package to post-schooling. He suspected that those factors could be the reason not all learners tended to succeed at tertiary level as they did at school level.
The Free State was a good example; there was best practice overall, and district directors did visit each other to learn from each other. That was why the system was benefitting so much. The increase DBE was seeing was because best practice was transferred and shared across the system.
Mr Mweli’s explained "motivation" was the only response he had at that moment on the decrease in learners who did not write.
On support for teachers who did not do well: The Department would definitely do that.
The Department would work hard with the province of Limpopo to improve performance. Mr Mweli had a conversation with the Limpopo Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) for Education. The two parties exchanged messages. He was also talking to the Head of Department (HOD), and all parties would work very hard to improve the performance of the province.
On the dropout rate: Mr Mweli could only speak from the data that came from EMIS. SA’s dropout rate was “not worth what people are raising out there”. The dropout rate was completely misunderstood. He had tried to demonstrate that SA’s dropout rate was between 13 and 15%. Even so, DBE was working on that issue. It was not 50 or 60%. Nonetheless, people had elected to pursue that argument. He appreciated Mr Siwela saying that it needed to be the responsibility of everyone to ensure that learners not in the basic education system had to be in school. It was the responsibility of schools, parents, public representatives, officials, and so on.
On school safety: The Department was equally worried about school safety. It was extremely concerned that the spillover of violence from communities manifested in schools. Schools were a microcosm of civil society. It was becoming a worrying factor, and Mr Mweli hoped that the Committee would help DBE to address the scourge of violence and criminals moving over onto school premises and disrupting what should be an environment for teaching and learning.
On thirteen-year-olds passing matric: It was not a norm. The anecdotal evidence for that was that it was learners who started schooling early, and who got accelerated, not necessarily in public schools, because DBE policies did not support that. There were many private schools that wrote DBE exams. Schools that wrote IEB did not even constitute half of the number of schools that wrote with DBE as an assessment body. There was only one qualification in SA, namely the NSC, and there were three assessment bodies. People gave the impression that there was more than one qualification. That was not true.
He agreed with focusing on vocational streams going forward. DBE was working with provinces to develop targets per province, which would hopefully cascade down to schools. It would monitor the implementation of those targets. He asked humbly for the Committee to help DBE drive the message that it is “cool” to do the new subjects of technical education, and that doing subjects in technical education did not mean that a learner was not academically gifted but differently gifted. He remarked that one could end up earning more as an artisan than a medical doctor.
The schools of skills had started. The Department was busy working on the NQF Level 1 qualification with Umalusi which would be finalised. A team had been working on that. It would help to bring schools of skill online so that the DBE system catered for different interests and different needs, and would encourage more young people to follow the occupational and vocational streams.
Dr Rufus Poliah, DBE Chief Director: National Assessment and Public Examination, replied that the number of schools with a 0% pass rate were five. Of these five schools, three of them were public schools. The numbers that wrote were extremely small. Of the three public schools, the numbers were seven, six and nine candidates that wrote. With the other two, the one was a repeat centre, and only one candidate wrote the exam. The fifth was a private school which was offering the matric exam for the first time. Eight learners were enrolled in that school. Only one candidate wrote the exam, and did not pass. In total, it was three public schools, one repeat centre, and one private school. The total number of learners that wrote from these five centres was 31. That was a matter that DBE would deal with. In 2020, there were 13 centres that scored 0%, and in 2021 that was reduced to five.
DBE did not have the vacancies figures on hand but would make that available to the Committee.
Ms Adoons assumed the role of Acting Chairperson and thanked the DBE and Umalusi delegations. She confirmed there were no follow-up questions. She congratulated Umalusi on 20 years in existence, and for continuing to do good work.
Committee Report on DBE 2021/22 Quarter 1 and 2 performance
The Acting Chairperson asked if there were any corrections or additions Members wanted to make. There were none and the Committee adopted the report.
Oversight visit to Western Cape and Northern Cape
The Acting Chairperson said that the Committee would be going on an oversight visit to two provinces the following week.
Mr Llewellyn Brown, Committee Secretary, briefed the Members on the upcoming oversight visits to the Western Cape and the Northern Cape. He had received apologies from Members who were not able to join the trip. Members would be flying into Cape Town on 30 January 2022. The Committee would be visiting Agape School. There would also be a meeting with the MEC, HOD and senior officials, and organised labour. The provincial education committee of the Legislature was also invited. The full programme would be made available to Members after the meeting. Members would also be visiting schools in ZF Mcgawu District Municipality, Upington.
Mr Brown explained the logistical needs of the individual Members.
The Acting Chairperson said the logistics could be adjusted when everything had been finalised.
Mr Moroatshehla said that given the perennial and dismal performance by Limpopo as it was always in the bottom three, he “pleaded” that in the Committee’s next formal meeting following the upcoming oversight visit, it should consider having its next oversight visit in Limpopo.
As much as the Department would be “babysitting” Limpopo, the Committee needed to visit. Members knew that since its last visit, things did not go well; maybe it was a contributing factor to that poor performance.
The Acting Chairperson said that it was one of proposals she made that the Committee needed to have received a Limpopo report on the Committee recommendations. She believed that the Committee made very good recommendations after its previous oversight visit to Limpopo. She suggested that the Committee needed to have a formal meeting to look into all three underperforming provinces. It could also perhaps revisit those provinces in different regions and at different schools, especially those that were not performing well. She agreed with Mr Moroatshehla that it was something the Committee needed to do to assist those provinces. It would not be correct that during this Committee did nothing to try and assist such provinces. Every effort would count in making sure that the Committee assisted those schools.
The minutes of 7 December 2021 were adopted and the meeting was adjourned.
Mbinqo-Gigaba, Ms BP
Adoons, Ms NG
Mashabela, Ms N
Mhaule, Dr R
Moroatshehla, Mr PR
Motshekga, Ms MA
Nodada, Mr BB
Siwela, Mr EK
Sukers, Ms ME
Van Der Walt, Ms D
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