2022 Examinations-Readiness: DBE & Umalusi briefing; with Deputy Minister

Basic Education

25 October 2022
Chairperson: Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


Budget Review & Recommendations Reports BRRR

Reporting to the Committee on the readiness for the 2022 Matric exams, the Department of Basic Education said that the Class of 2022 is the largest cohort to date. It is the class that has been most severely negatively affected by learning deficiencies and events such as the national lockdown regulations disrupting the schooling programme. The class bore the brunt of covid-19, as the learners were in Grade 10 at the beginning of the pandemic. Therefore, the Department has had to double its efforts in preparation for this examination.

A total of 753 964 full-time and 167 915 part-time candidates are registered for the upcoming matric examinations. A total of 6 307 public schools and 578 independent centres will double as exam centres from 25 until 06 December 2022. This year also marks the fifth cohort that will sit for South African Sign Language Home Language examinations in November 2022. For the first time, all nine provinces have candidates for the examination.

A total of 162 question papers have been set by panels of subject experts appointed and managed by the Department of Basic Education. The Department of Education has audited all sites where question papers are printed, packed, and stored. All Provincial Education Departments were found to be fully prepared for printing.

The Umalusi Council reported that candidate registrations were finalised, and subject entry information was uploaded on the national mainframe. The proof of registered candidates is being generated and examination admission letters for the November 2022 NSC examination will be issued during the pledge ceremony planned to take place before the writing of the examination. Umalusi has evaluated the state of readiness of the three Assessment bodies – the Department of Basic Education, the Independent Examinations Board, and the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute. The Council was able to engage with the reports presented by the assessment bodies. Acceptable levels of readiness and related measures, which are in place to ensure the conduct of credible examinations by all three assessment bodies, were noted.

 Members raised concerns about load shedding and suspension in electricity supply, especially for technical subjects like Computer Applications Technology and Information Technology, because candidates need to use computers to sit for practical examinations. The Department responded and assured the Committee that it had established a close working relationship with Eskom to minimise load shedding during the exam period.

On the leakages of examination papers, Members said that a statement must be made that there is zero tolerance for such conduct. Anyone in the ecosystem of matric examinations must be sent a strong warning about the leaking of question papers. How has the Department tightened security at all points of the value chain?

What programmes does the Department have to monitor the effectiveness of the upskilling received by teachers from the Department? What is the percentage of upskilled teachers in each grade?

Does the Department use the performance of its learners to monitor their progress?

Meeting report

The Chairperson opened the meeting, welcoming everyone in attendance. She then went over the meeting agenda.

Ms N Adoons (ANC) moved for the adoption of the agenda, and was seconded by Mr E Siwela (ANC).

Political Overview by the Deputy Minister of Education
Dr Reginah Mhaule said that exam readiness is about the preparation of the child. The child is prepared. This year was different, as there were no interruptions with the schooling calendar – as seen in previous years. Even though there may have been small circles of challenges, they were not significant enough to stop the schooling agenda. In this light, the Deputy Minister said that the Grade 12 learners are ready for the upcoming final exams.

Briefing by the Department of Basic Education (DBE): 2022 Examinations-Readiness
Dr Rufus Poliah, Chief Director: National Assessment and Public Examinations, DBE, indicated that the examinations started on 25 October 2022, with an exam in Computer Applications Technology. A total of 47 112 candidates are registered for the examination, and 4 604 candidates will be writing Information Technology on 26 October 2022. Notably, the examinations are starting amid troubling environmental issues where the Department just learned of the killing of an educator.

The load shedding (currently on stage three) is going to pose a challenge to the writing centres. However, the heads of examinations are given clear guidelines on handling examination centres in the event of load shedding. The Department is monitoring the issue of load shedding closely.

Ms Cheryl Weston, Director: Curriculum implementation and Monitoring, DBE, said that the last three years have been unprecedented, and this called for extraordinary measures to be implemented to ensure teaching, learning, and assessment were maintained. The Class of 2022 bore the brunt of COVID-19 in that they were confronted with a disrupted academic year in Grade 10 and Grade 11. This class was subjected to a trimmed curriculum in Grade 10 and Grade 11, and an amended assessment programme in these two years. Hence, the support programme for the Class of 2022 had to be enhanced to address the extensive disadvantage suffered by this class, yet the class of 2022 is the largest cohort thus far.

The learners and teachers were provided with support that broadcasted lessons through various mediums, including radio lessons, self-study resources, and online/virtual school. Teachers were also catered to by providing support packages such as lesson plans, for sharing in WhatsApp groups, virtual classes, and other e-platforms. 

Woza Matrics is one of the programmes designed to help matriculants catch up with their studies, and to assist Grade 12 learners nationwide with learning materials and study tools via classes, broadcast on TV channels, online platforms, and radio.
To date, there have been 2 683 daily broadcasts of revision, examination guides, and preparation through the Department of Basic Education TV programme, alongside 93 radio lesson broadcasts that include weekly lessons on 12 SABC Public Broadcasting Radio Stations. In September 2022, the top three watched subjects and topics were: (1) History – Civil Rights Movement, (2) Mathematics - Similar Triangles, and (3) Mathematics Literacy – Data Handling.

There has also been a mobile application called Matric Live, where learners register for different subjects, access interactive lessons, and take simulated examinations based on past National Senior Certificate papers. All the new study guides are used on Matric Live. Currently, Woza Matrics is supporting 100 006 Matric learners on the platform.

One of the biggest interventions in the system is learner support in terms of extra tuition classes. In 2021, during the Autumn season, only three provinces would offer Autumn classes. In 2022, this increased to seven provinces (Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng Province, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Western Cape) managing to conduct enrichment classes. During the 2022 winter, all nine Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) conducted enrichment classes (188 schools visited). These moved from classes that would take place within a period of about five to seven days, to seven to ten days.

The purpose of enrichment classes was to provide revision, catch-up, and curriculum coverage support for underperforming learners and support for top-performing learners. This shows an increase in support for all kinds of learners. The most commonly offered subjects are Accounting, Business Studies, Economics, Mathematics, Mathematical Literacy, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Geography, and History. There was a notable increase in centres offering subjects such as Tourism and Agricultural Sciences, which are also part of the high enrolment subjects. It was also encouraging to the increase in the offering of smaller subjects such as Music, Dance, Design Studies, Visual Arts, Agricultural Management, Technical Maths, Technical Sciences, EGD, and Civil Technology received attention.
Ms Priscilla Ogunbanjo, Director: National Assessment and Public Examination, DBE, presented on Examination System Readiness.

In the last couple of years, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has managed and adapted to disruptive environmental changes. Exam credibility has been retained and continues to be improved, irrespective of the challenges.

The DBE currently manages two equal examination opportunities – one in May/June and the second in October/November. The Department has further engaged in building a national examination system that will be administered to the same standard in May/June and October/November.

Enrolment for national full-time learners has increased, and the 2022 enrolment rates are the highest in the past six years. Then part-time enrolments have also increased since 2020, up to 117 808 candidates. Currently, there are 167 915 candidates, although this is not the highest enrolment rate in the past five years, as there were 176 110 in 2018 and 170 963 in 2019.

The subject’s enrolment rates have also experienced an increase, except a particular decline in Accounting, Business Studies, and Economics. The technology subjects have experienced a negligible decline, which is not considered as significant.

Across the provinces, all provinces are above 70%of their enrolment throughput, except for Free State and North West – being above 60%. Nationally, there is 79.5% of learners to have reached Grade 12 in three years.

Exam preparation includes:
- Registration: Accurate registration of candidates is at the heart of ensuring that candidates are timeously and accurately resulted.
- Question Papers: All question papers have been moderated and approved by Umalusi for the November 2022 Examinations and are ready for administration. Question papers were adapted for braille, audio, deaf and large print for candidates who encounter barriers to learning.

This year marks the fifth cohort that will sit for South African Sign Language Home Language examinations in November 2022. For the first time, all nine provinces have candidates for the examination. All Provincial Education Departments have completed the marker selection process, and markers have been selected in line with the PAM criteria. The marker applications were verified at school and district levels before submission to Provincial Education Departments, to ensure that only eligible markers were considered. An additional number of novice and reserve markers have been selected.

Quality assurance of marking will be conducted by DBE (Onsite Moderators) deployed to all provinces. The Training and Authorisation process replicated by the PED will be monitored by DBE Onsite Moderators. The quality assurance measures adopted at the marking centres include:
-Moderation by senior markers/deputy chief marker/chief marker and internal moderator
-Five to seven markers supervised by a senior marker
-Application of the Tolerance Range.

All Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) have audited their storage points, including the WCED schools that are regarded as storage points. Most storage points across the nine Provincial Education Departments have been approved or partially approved. The DBE audited a sample of storage points from 05 to 30 September 2022. PEDs will not be allowed to use any of the storage points that have not been approved for the storage of question papers. DBE part-time monitors have also audited the distribution chain of question papers that will be utilised during the writing of the examination. PEDs will be monitored closely for strict adherence to norm times during the distribution of question papers and collection of scripts.

Irregularities have plagued the system. There is improvement in most provinces, on the management of irregularities. The process of detection, investigation, and hosting of hearings has improved. Most provinces use dedicated officials to manage irregularities detected during marking. Plans are in place to resolve all administrative errors and omissions (AEOs) and behavioural Offences and Acts of dishonesty (BOADS) before the release of results in Jan 2023. The person responsible for the leakage of the two question papers in 2020 has appeared in court a few times already, and the trial date has been set for 05 December 2022.

The results will be announced by the Minister of Basic Education on 19 January 2023, followed by the provincial release of results the following day. Concerning the Protection of Private Information Act, consent must be obtained from the learners and the parents, concerning the publication of their NSC results in newspapers and other media platforms. DBE has distributed consent forms to all learners early in the year. These have been signed, and the responses are in the process of being captured on the Integrated Examination Computer System (IECS).

Load shedding is one of the generic risks posed for the examination period. The DBE has established close working relations with Eskom to minimise load shedding during the exam period. Schools have also been advised to have a backup power supply. Alternatively, the students can utilise the rewrites for candidates.

It is recommended that the Portfolio Committee take note of the intensive Learner Support Programme implemented across all PEDs and the Readiness of the Exam System to administer the examination.

Briefing by Umalusi: 2022 Examinations-Readiness
Ms Mary-Louise Madalane, Senior Manager: Evaluation and Accreditation, Umalusi, said after consultation with the relevant assessment body or education institution, Umalusi has to approve the publication of the results of learners if the Council is satisfied that the assessment body or education institution has:  
- conducted the assessment free from any irregularity that may jeopardise the integrity of the assessment or its outcomes;
- complied with the requirements prescribed by the Council for conducting assessments;
- applied the standards prescribed by the Council, which a learner is required to comply with to obtain a certificate; and
- complied with every other condition determined by the Council.

Dr Mafu Rakometsi, Chief Executive Officer, Umalusi Council, presented the findings on the level of readiness to conduct, administer and manage examinations.

The candidates' registrations were finalised, and subject entry information was uploaded on the national mainframe. The proof of registered candidates is being generated and examination admission letters for the November 2022 NSC examination will be issued during the pledge ceremony planned to take place before the writing of the examination. The November 2022 NSC question papers have been moderated and approved timeously, and the despatch of printing consignments was also managed successfully by the DBE. The marker selection and their appointment are being finalised across PED, and verification of appointed markers by Umalusi is currently at its advanced stage. It will be completed before the start of the writing phase on 31 October 2022.

The DBE conducted audits on the examination centres in the nine Provincial Education Departments, including the one examination centre in Eswatini. Umalusi verified the readiness of the examination centres to administer the South African Sign Language Home Language and found the DBE requirements outlined in Examination Instruction No. 29 of 2022 adhered to. Of concern, remain the rewriting centres, which bypass the accreditation process and operate as examination centres. This practice was reported in Gauteng Provincial Education Departments.

The Independent Education Board (IEB) status on key examination findings: The registration of candidates has been finalised, and subject entries have been confirmed and captured on the resulting system. All candidate's examination admission letters will be issued on a date scheduled by the IEB. The question papers were submitted per the Umalusi timelines for external moderation. All question papers were approved and printed, ready for distribution to delivery points. The appointment of marking personnel is finalised, and Umalusi marker audits are taking place. The findings of the audits will be reported on in the November 2022 QAA report to be published post the approval for the release of the NSC results.

The South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI) status on key examination findings: SACAI is now a fully accredited assessment body. The candidates' registrations were finalised, and subject structures were submitted per Umalusi requirements. All subject entries were uploaded to the resulting system. The examination admission letters were finalised and shared with all registered candidates. The November 2022 NSC question papers were externally moderated and approved, and the printed question papers have been packaged; they are waiting to be distributed in line with the management plan to delivery points. SACAI-appointed markers, as per its management plan and audits of marker credentials, are currently taking place and will be completed before the start of the writing phase on 31 October 2022. The findings will be published in the November 2022 QAA report post the approval to release the results.

Umalusi has evaluated the state of readiness of the three assessment bodies. The Council was able to engage with the reports presented by the assessment bodies. Acceptable levels of readiness and related measures, which are in place to ensure the conduct of credible examinations by all three assessment bodies, were noted. This is appreciated based on the Council’s observation and the reports on the state of readiness. Umalusi is satisfied that the DBE, IEB and SACAI are ready to conduct the November 2022 NSC examinations.

Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) asked what assurance can be given to the public, regarding the safekeeping of examination papers, that leakages will be avoided.

The DBE, in their presentation, indicated that apart from trying to get cooperation from Eskom to get the load shedding minimised, as proponents of Education, they are looking for means and ways to ensure that learners can prepare for their examinations without any disruptions. When the Department says that it has encouraged teachers to develop make-shift arrangements in the form of generators, how many schools might still be struggling to acquire generators?

Mr T Letsie (ANC) said that whatever plans Basic Education and Higher Education each have, they should speak to each other. He raised concern over the release dates of matric results being in late January 2023, negatively affecting the planning and processes of higher education institutions. These cause mayhem at the beginning of the academic year. Students will not be accepted on time, and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will not have made adequate funding allocations. He then made two suggestions, in this regard:
- At the beginning of the first term, next year, there should be a joint committee meeting, where DBE would share its plans for the release of exam results whilst Higher Education shares insights on why the late release of results adversely affects Higher Education.
- The departments must have a meeting between themselves so that, when a presentation is made to the joint committee, it will be in line with each department's plans.

On the leakages of examination papers, a statement must be made that there is zero tolerance for such conduct. Anyone in the ecosystem of matric examinations must be sent a strong warning about the leaking of question papers. How has the Department tightened security at all points of the value chain? Has the NSC examination been costed? Who is funding it, and how is the spending accounted for? Are there any risk registers for all exams at marking centres?

The Chairperson expressed concern that enrolment in Business Studies, Mathematics, Life Science, and Physical Science has been experiencing a steady decline. There is hope that this can improve.

Can the Department indicate its confidence in learners writing all subjects in isiXhosa? Will the learners be able to change the status quo of the Eastern Cape as one of the poor-performing provinces in Grade 12 examinations? If, in the Department’s view, it works, will the Department consider this in other provinces? For instance, the Namaqua region in Northern Cape almost always gets a pass rate of 100%, and they write all their exams in Afrikaans. Perhaps this language initiative will boost the performance of the Eastern Cape.

Is there an agreement at the Education Labour Relations Council that responds to the effect and confidence of markers and their competence?

How does the Department ensure there are monitoring systems, including vehicle availability and roadworthiness? How tightened is security at the printing, packing, and storage facilities?

If the marking system of the Western Cape is supposedly the best, why is it not introduced in other provinces?

Mr B Yabo (ANC) stated that if one was to judge the DBE based on the presentation, one would be under the impression that the Department is well on its way to achieving what it had set out to achieve. The reality, however, dictates otherwise. The terrain at which members prosecute for a better pedagogy, and a learner equipped to plug in the post-school system of South Africa, is marred with uneven planes.

Concerning the state of readiness of the Grade 12 learners, what are the key indicators of learner readiness and preparedness that the Department has put in place to serve as a precursor? Although a difficult task, there should be a form of measure based on the presentation made in this meeting. Does the Department have indicators? What could be looked at as an indicator? In areas where there are indicators that learners are not ready, what are the systems and processes put in place to assist such learners? What do the results of the preliminary exam result show as a precursor to the final examinations?

What are the results of the audit made on the high-risk areas that were identified? What qualifies these areas as high-risk?

He noted that the Umalusi Council reported non-compliant audit storage centres. What corrective measures are planned or being employed to mitigate the inherent risk associated with non-compliant storage centres that did not meet the standard? The response given – that there is constant communication between the various actors where storage centres are concerned – is insufficient to allay anxieties that may arise from the risk this poses to the exam process.

Mr B Nodada (DA) stated that it is important for DBE and the Portfolio Committee to consider a meeting to address the behavioural challenges in schools, citing the importance of identifying the areas where these incidents are likely to happen so that the Department can deploy Psychology and Social Work students that are meant to be doing community work. Such collaboration can assist in addressing some of the challenges. Statistically, the countries – Kenya, Germany, and Lithuania – that deployed such a programme had notable successes.

What programmes does the DBE have to monitor the effectiveness of the upskilling received by teachers from the DBE? Does the Department use the performance of its learners to monitor their progress? In instances where there has been no improvement, despite the upskilling of teachers, what interventions have been made by the Department?

Exams form part of the assessment process. Does the DBE think sitting down and writing an exam is the best way of testing the quality of the certificate at the end? This is because some learners may struggle with sitting down for an exam, yet continuous assessment may be more appropriate. Does the Department think examinations are their only way to knowledge and skills development?

How did the Department assist learners who were not able to access the online and digital support it provided for learners, due to a lack of resources, considering the reality of economic means in the country presently? How many such learners could not be assisted due to limited resources?

Looking at the viewership of the Woza Matrics programme, it seems that numbers dropped drastically, from 700 000 in January 2022 to about 400 000 as the months went by. For four months of the year, Northern Cape had no viewers. What is the reason behind this?

On upskilling of teachers, what is the percentage of upskilled teachers in each grade? If this is not readily available, it would be appreciated if the Department shares this information.

On learners that took part in the May/June final examination for rewrites, supplementary examinations and similar circumstances: were these learners also provided support and extra classes as full-time students? If the education system does not bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots, the public is going to sit in this situation of an unequal society marred with crime.

Ms N Adoons (ANC) asked the DBE about the readiness of the learners with profound disabilities, and how the preparations were going for the learners. Has Umalusi picked up any social factors that may negatively impact the examination process?

Mr Hubert Mweli, Director-General,   DBE, said that the Department notes that load shedding compounds challenges and disadvantages that the Grade 12 class of 2022 has been subjected to. As a result, some learners could not write the final Computer Application Technology final examination today.

The Department validates the information collected by engaging with the provincial education structures, followed by departmental officials, going out to the provinces to validate said collected information. 

On school facilities affected by floods, he indicated that the Department had had meetings with all affected provinces, following which indications of readiness for final examinations were made. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is ready to assist in any areas that may pose a risk to the smooth running of the exams. These include, but are not limited to, protest and strike action.

Regarding the exams that can be written in isiXhosa in the Eastern Cape, it is important to note that knowledge, skills and values are not married to any language. Afrikaans is a case in point. The government is guided by evidence-based research and merit-based decision-making. A lot of research has been done in the Eastern Cape provides that teaching in isiXhosa is the way to go. The Department intends to massify this through the system, depending on the readiness of the system.  

The learners who wrote through the Second Chance Programme do provide support to learners. The data may be supplied, if needed.

The drop in viewership of Woza Matric could have dropped because students were busy with other academic-related commitments. There could be a myriad of other reasons.  

Admittedly, not all schools can afford generators as a backup power supply, and the Department cannot afford to assist schools in this regard. Hence, the Department advised schools to shift the times. This, in itself, admittedly poses a risk of learners becoming exposed to the paper.

June exams are a better predictor of the final examinations than the preliminary exam. This is due to the schools setting the paper at a high standard. The Department is willing to share the details of these preliminary exams with the Committee.
The security has been strengthened, but the Department is cautious of exposing themselves to those who have ill intentions in the public. As advised by the National Intelligence, this should not be done.

The cost of the exam is borne by the DBE and provinces. Umalusi Council bares the cost of quality assurance.

If the release of the results on 19 January negatively affects the Higher Education system, then this should have been communicated, as nothing was said at meetings about this during the inter-departmental meetings. 
Dr Poliah responded that the Western Cape examination has limitations, as it depends on electricity and connectivity. It works by sending a code to schools to open at a predetermined time to access the examination paper. The downside is that, even though the code can be set for a certain time, the bag can still be opened or cut. All options are, however, being explored to improve the transmission of paper from the point of origination to the learners.

In assessing the pedagogy, the Department has been focusing on assessment planning over the last three years, rather than an assessment of learning – which is the summit of assessment. The assessment of learning looks at whether the learner is progressing in terms of set outcomes. If not, the Department looks at what remedial plans can be put in place to dress these.  

Annually, the Department reviews the examinations to review the process to ensure that, where gaps are identified, strengthening measures are put in place.

Ms Weston, on the declining viewership in the Woza Matrics programme, said that January includes Grade 10, 11, and 12 content to ensure the correct building blocks are taking place. This is why viewership is high in January. Additionally, during this period, the utilisation of the programme is higher amongst second-chance learners. This is then seen again in October, as learners prepare for the exams.

Ms Ogunbanjo stated that, on training human resources to manage examinations appropriately, chief invigilators have undergone intensified training. This has been done as a standardised and centralised training at the provincial level. The provincial teams have further extended training initiatives with the district offices to ensure the reach of the training spans beyond school principals and include the teaching staff.

On the categorisation of high-risk centres, the Department has a criterion to categorise centres to identify those prone to irregularities. For those categorised as such, the Department has requested a complete takeover by the provinces and districts to manage the centres.

The Chairperson thanked the Department for appearing before the Committee, and reiterated that outstanding answers should be sent to the Committee in writing.

The Chairperson then thanked the Members for attending the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.


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