2022 NSC Examination: DBE & Umalusi briefing, with Minister

Basic Education

24 January 2023
Chairperson: Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Committee met with officials from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and Umalusi to receive a report on the results of the Class of 2022 in the November 2022 examinations. Members congratulated the Department on the 81.3% pass rate, representing a 3% increase from the previous year. This achievement indicated that the public education system was moving in the right direction and that learners were safe in the DBE’s hands.

Despite her optimism towards the future of public education in the country, the DBE Minister remained concerned by the various challenges still plaguing the system, more especially the poor uptake of mathematics and science by learners. To bring about a further improvement in the outcomes for mathematics, the Department and other stakeholders would need to prioritise early childhood development (ECD), and the foundation, intermediate and senior phases.

During its presentation, Umalusi said that while it was generally pleased with the entire examinations' process, there were recurrent issues that still need to be addressed by DBE, such as:

  • The low quality of questions asked;
  • The storage points which did not have the required security norms;
  • A lack of adherence by provincial education departments (PEDs) to the stipulated ratio of 1:5 senior markers to markers ratio;
  • A lack of innovative methods implemented to minimise examination irregularities; and
  • Inconsistent marking and internal moderation.

Referring to these findings, the Committee asked the DBE how far the investigations into the allegations that invigilators unduly assisted learners in 26 schools during the writing of their exam papers had gone. The DBE responded that the PEDs were currently investigating the allegations, and did not yet have a time frame as to when they would be concluded.

One area of contention between Members and the Department was the debate on whether learners required only an aggregate of 30% to pass Matric, with Members of the African National Congress (ANC) insisting that the claims were false and had been used for political gains by opposition parties. Officials from the Department clarified that no learner could pass Matric with an aggregate of 30%, but they could pass whilst attaining 30% for a subject, so long as the other requirements were met. The officials admitted that more needed to be done by the DBE to clarify this point to the broader public.

Members expressed concern regarding the high drop-out rate of learners in the system, with just over 400 000 learners leaving the system -- from 1 177 089 in grade 1, to 775 630 in grade 12. The Department admitted that this was an area for concern, but it was currently putting measures in place to resolve the issue. However, due to the multitude of factors involved, the Minister called for the rest of society to work with the DBE to find solutions to the problem.

While she was pleased overall with the presentations made by Umalusi and DBE, the Chairperson asked that the Department return to brief the Committee on the challenges associated with the low uptake in mathematics – and the poor results – and the solutions it had in place.

Meeting report

The Chairperson began by welcoming Ms Angie Motshekga, the Minister of Basic Education (DBE), and officials from the Department and from Umalusi. She then congratulated the Matric Class of 2022 for achieving an 81% pass rate, representing a 3% increase from the previous year. Noting the improvement in the number of girl learners and those residing in rural areas, she called on the Department to address the need for more schools to be built.

Despite her positive observations, she expressed concern regarding the poor mathematics results. To better understand the reasons for the results, and how to improve the performance, she requested that the Department prepare a separate presentation for the Committee. 

Opening remarks by Minister

Minister Motshekga indicated that despite the increase in performance, the education system faced several challenges, such as the lower uptake in mathematics, economics and accounting. All other challenges would be elaborated on during the presentation.

She stressed that to bring about further improvement in the outcomes of mathematics, the Department and other stakeholders would need to prioritise early childhood development (ECD), and the foundation, intermediate and senior phases. The Department was available to present, as requested by the Chairperson, on the challenges faced regarding mathematics.

Nevertheless, the Department was encouraged by the stabilisation of the system, which it believed would act as the basis for further development and improvement in the sector. While she was pleased by the work done by officials in the Department to bring about the 81.3% pass rate, she underlined the important role played by teachers.

Through the work done with the provincial departments, the DBE noted improved outcomes in provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). She thanked the teachers, district coordinators and provincial Members of the Executive Councils (MECs) for the results across the country.

Prof Yunus Ballim, Chairperson, Umalusi Council, introduced all the officials representing the DBE, and said the Department’s presentation would focus on the quality assurance process conducted by Umalusi in relation to the November 2022 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations. 

Before handing over to the presenters, he said he wanted to comment on two matters:

  • Parents, learners, employers, higher education and industry leaders relied on Umalusi to apply consistent and defensible standardisation principles to its quality assurance process, in order to ascertain the validity of the Matric results.
  • While irregularities were identified during the marking of the examinations, they were not to the extent that the overall credibility and integrity of the 2022 NSC results were compromised. As such, the Executive Committee of the Umalusi Council was comfortable in approving the release of the results.

Briefing by Umalusi on 2022 NSC examinations

Dr Mafu Rakometsi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Umalusi, and Ms Mary-Louise Madalane, Senior Manager: Evaluation and Accreditation, Umalusi, briefed the Committee on the November 2022 NSC examinations.

Dr Rakometsi said that Umalusi was expected to conduct quality assurance of assessments leading to awarding certificates in schools, adult education centres, and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges. This was done to ensure that the certificates issued by the body were credible.

The NSC examinations were administered by three assessment bodies -- the DBE, the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) and the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI). All three assessment bodies were quality assured and certified by Umalusi. For the 2022 year, a total of 920 900 learners writing under the DBE sat for their November examinations.

As part of its quality assurance process, Umalusi monitored a sample of 400 examination centres and ten marking centres; participated in the guideline standardisation meetings of 59 subjects compromising 139 papers for the November 2022 examinations; and verified the marking of 37 subjects across the nine provincial education departments (PEDs).

Ms Madalane said that while Umalusi was generally pleased with the entire examinations process, there were recurrent issues that still needed to be addressed by DBE, such as the low quality of questions asked; the storage points which did not have the required security norms; a lack of adherence by PED’s to the stipulated ratio of 1:5 senior marker to markers ratio; a lack of innovative methods implemented to minimise examination irregularities; and inconsistent marking and internal moderation.

To address these issues, Umalusi recommended that the DBE build capacity in internal moderators; monitor compliance to policy prescripts as provided for to ensure effective implementation of internal assessment; improve security at storage points; and charge invigilators found to be involved in unduly advantaging learners during their examinations.

Despite the historical challenges faced in the process, Umalusi noted areas of improvement, such as the timeous arrival of scripts and the marking guidelines, and the preparedness of the marking centres.

Mr Hubert Mweli, Director-General (DG), DBE, assured the Committee that the DBE was willing and ready to take it through a prepared presentation on the challenges associated with poor outcomes in mathematics.

Currently, the Department has placed greater emphasis on data collection, which it believed had improved its monitoring and evaluation capabilities. Through the tracking of data, the DBE was better able to track the number of learners that had entered the system and dropped out from it.

One of the weaknesses noted by the Department was that it did not currently account for the number of learners that had left school in grade 9 to attend TVET colleges (in grade 9, learners had the option to continue with their schooling or enrol at a TVET college).

He informed Members that the Department took issue with two matters. The first related to the allegations that the aggregate matric pass mark was 30%. This allegation undermined the efforts made by the DBE. Also, it highlighted the need for it to make greater efforts in explaining to the public the multipurpose nature of the National Senior Certificate (NSC).

The second matter concerned the throughput and pass rates. Mr Mweli explained that throughput described the number of learners who had entered the system from grade R (or 1) and managed to advance to grade 12. The percentage for the Class of 2022 was 58%, although if the number of learners who went to TVET colleges was accounted for, this figure would be better.

Briefing on the results of the Class of 2022

Dr Rufus Poliah, Chief Director: National Assessment and Public Examinations, DBE, took the Committee through the briefing on the results of the Class of 2022.

He said that just over 400 000 learners had dropped out of the system from 2011 to 2022 -- from 1 177 089 learners in grade 1, to 775 630 in grade 12. There had been a drastic drop in the number of learners after 2020 -- from 1 104 452 to 775 630 two years later -- primarily due to the hard lockdowns enacted after the onset of Covid-19.

The largest cohort of learners hailed from KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), with just over 200 000 pupils, while the Northern Cape (NC) had the smallest number, standing at 15 700. Of concern to the Department was the significant disparity in the ratio of males enrolled for grade 12, which stood at 43.8%, with females making up 56.2%. This figure showed that more support needed to be provided to boy learners compared to their girl counterparts.

Despite these worrying statistics, the DBE was pleased that the bachelor pass rate had improved by 2%, from 36.4% to 38.4%, of the total number that had passed, with Gauteng achieving the highest percentage at 43.4%, and the Free State coming at second with 43%.

Focusing on the individual provinces, he highlighted key figures, some of which would be touched on. Limpopo had achieved the lowest pass rate, at 72.1%, yet it had achieved the second highest throughput rate (the number of learners who had progressed from grade 1 to grade 12), which stood at 71.2%. This was in stark contrast to the Free State, which had achieved the highest pass rate, at 88.5%, but had a significantly lower throughput (58.5%) compared to Limpopo.

While the Western  Cape (WC) had achieved the highest pass rate for mathematics (67.9%), it also achieved the lowest mathematics participation rate (25.9%). The Department remained concerned with the consistently low mathematics participation rate across the country, which was at 37.2%, and was looking to implement certain measures to improve the issue.


Mr B Nodada (DA) said it was important for both the DBE and Umalusi to hold each to account, to improve the outcomes of all learners.

After referring to an assessment recently done on 17 countries, where it was found that many of the countries had moved to a continuous assessment-based process rather than an examination outcome process, he asked Umalusi whether it had looked into this method as a way to measure to the professional knowledge and development of a child; if not, he asked why. He felt that moving to this system would improve the uptake in critical subjects like mathematics.

Noting that teachers over the past two years had the support of education assistants (EAs) and general school assistants (GSAs), he asked what impact this support had on teaching time, and the slight uptick in end-of-year results, particularly seeing that teachers had fewer administrative duties.

He said two things were missing from the Department’s presentation. Firstly, the DBE did not measure the number of learners that had left school in grade 9 to attend TVET colleges. Secondly, it failed to show the failure rate between grades 10, matric and further education training (FET), as well as the cumulative drop-out rate, both of which obscured the state of the system. Raising such issues was not politically motivated, but rather served as constructive criticism towards the Department, to ensure that no child was left behind.

To provide a clearer picture of the state of education in the country, he advised the Department to include the throughput figures and the quality of the bachelor and diploma passes as part of its Matric examination results announcement. In addition, he proposed that the DBE track where grade 9 and 12 school-leavers ended up, the development of teachers, and achievable goals to be set.

He asked when the assessment irregularities would be investigated and concluded, particularly in Mpumalanga. He also requested that the subsequent reports, showing what consequence management had been implemented against the officials responsible, be tabled to the Committee, as some children had been unable to write exams due to the delays.

He proposed that the Department brief the Committee on pilot studies, such as the one done by certain schools where learners wrote Life Sciences and other subjects in IsiXhosa – as well as those on entrepreneurship, robotics, the school of skills certification – and what the learners were expected to do.

He posed a series of questions to Umalusi. He asked which examination panels were consistent in receiving approval during the first exam moderation, which of them continually struggled to gain approval, and the reasons for that. How many centres had failed to adhere to the 1:5 senior marker/marker ratio, which province each was located in, and whether they had been monitored or audited? Moreover, he asked if centres were impacted by not having the required senior markers.

He asked what the security risks cited by Umalusi at the storage points were, and if it had made a report available to the DBE so that these could be dealt with.

He asked the DBE what the reasons for the delay in implementing the systemic evaluation programme – which was targeted to be implemented in 2019 – were, and when the Department foresaw administering the evaluation this year. Moreover, had the Department identified which schools would be participating in the programme, and if so, what was that number? How many learners would be involved from each school, and how long after the completion of the evaluation would the report be made available?  

He asked if the Department had recorded the number of learners absent for their exams, and when they were expected to write them. Were the children from schools in Butterworth who were unable to write their life orientation (LO) exams included in that list?

Did the DBE have a strategy, which included targets, to improve the uptake in mathematics and learner’s results in the final matric papers?

Referring to the decline in the number of schools with a pass rate of 40%, he asked what lessons and measures had been implemented to assist and monitor schools that had achieved less than 40% during 2022.

Mr E Siwela (ANC) congratulated the Department on the 80.1% pass rate achieved by the Class of 2022, which showed that public education was moving in the right direction under its custodianship.

He took issue with the method used by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to calculate the drop-out rate, as he believed it suggested that the Department was achieving poor outcomes. As such, he asked if the DBE also believed that the DA sought to discredit it through its calculation method.

Following those remarks, he posed several questions to the DBE:

How did it intend to address the poor learner/teacher ratio, and if technology could assist in closing the gap?

What were the key drivers for many of the districts in the Free State achieving good performances?

What was the relationship between the throughput and outcomes in provinces such as Limpopo, KZN and the Eastern Cape? Attached to this, how could provinces with lower throughput but good results do to correct the issue?

What lessons had Umalusi and the Department learnt during 2022 that they could use to strengthen the system going forward?

Why had the Western Cape had the lowest participation for mathematics in the country, what impact had this had on the province’s overall performance outcome, and why was there a high variation in participation in mathematics across the country?

How many of its invigilators were found to have irregularly advantaged learners during tests and exams in 2022 and when would the investigations into the matter be finalised, to allow learners not implicated to receive their results?

Ms N Mashabela (EFF) asked how the Department would ensure a sufficient number of educators to meet the teacher/learner ratio. Which provinces and regions were still struggling with this?

What steps had the DBE taken to eliminate the problem of appointing underqualified teachers in public schools?

What was the rationale behind admitting students who had a pass mark of 30% for one language and one other subject, as most of them would not be accepted by universities with such results?

Ms H Adoons (ANC) congratulated the Department for achieving an 81.3% pass rate, especially considering the difficult circumstances faced by teachers, learners, school governing bodies (SGBs) and other stakeholders in recent years.

She asked for clarification on whether the pass mark required for Matric was 30% or not, as this had been used as a campaigning tool by political parties to undermine the quality of education in the country. In answering the question, she asked that they include comparisons with schools in other countries.

What were the common factors that contributed to the decline in results for the science, technology, economics and mathematics (STEM) fields compared to previous years?

What progress has been made by the Class of 2022 regarding curriculum coverage, considering the devastating impact of Covid-19 on schools?

How would the Department ensure that part-time learners were supported, as there had been a decline in performance?

How many students in the Class of 2022 had dropped out in previous years, as the number of learners who sat for the exams was significantly lower? Related to this, she requested that the Department update the Committee on what monitoring mechanisms had been put in place to ensure that all learners lost over the years were brought back into the system.

Had there been progress in programmes such as sign language, which had been instituted to assist learners with disabilities, as the number of these learners had declined in 2022 in the face of allegations that the Department had struggled to recruit teachers with the relevant expertise to assist such learners?

Finally, she asked if the DSB compared the performance of learners residing in boarding houses and day-school children. If so, she asked what it had found. Provinces such as the North West (NW) had tried to assist learners residing in the rural areas by creating mega schools, and she asked what the performance of children in such schools had been thus far.

Ms M Sukers (ACDP) congratulated the DSB, learners and educators for their achievements in the 2022 exams.

She said slide nine of the presentation had mentioned unregistered independent schools, and had added the comment ‘illegal’. As such, she asked how many such schools there were and what research the DSB had done on them this matter so far.

Referring to a newspaper article which stated that the Chief State Law Advisor had provided a legal opinion at the request of DBE, stating that schools which did not offer Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS), such as Accelerated Christian Education, Cambridge, Montessori and Waldorf, were defrauding parents. As the qualifications these schools offered were not aligned with the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), they were deemed illegal. She believed this was wrong, as they had existed since 1994. What had Umalusi and the DBE done in the last four years, during which meetings have occurred between them and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), as well as the schools, to address the issue of these schools’ qualifications not being registered? 

What steps have been taken since 2017 to engage with micro-schools, as the Department, after releasing the policy on home education for public comment, had recognised these schools as illegal?

In recent years, many distance-learning institutions and home-school providers that had transitioned online had requested both the DBE and Umalusi to address their status. Following these calls, the Department had indicated that it would release the framework on online education in October of last year, yet this had not occurred. When did the DBE plan to release it, as the delay indicated research and policy failure at both Umalusi and the DBE? She requested firm commitments as to when all these issues would be addressed, and for them to report back to the Committee thereafter. 

Attached to this, she asked when the DBE would release a report on the success of non-CAPS matric learners.

Referring to slide 17 of the DBE’s presentation, she commented that it stated that of the nearly two million learners who joined grade 1 in 2011, only 924 000 had reached grade 7 in 2017, yet the number of learners between grades 7 and 8 had increased to 995 000. This number had increased once more by 90 000 learners between grades 9 and 10. She asked how it was possible for the numbers to increase during those years. Was the DBE willing to work with other stakeholders, to ensure that there was confidence in its research design? She added that this proposal had been raised for the past two years.

She asked why the DBE did not have a consolidated school leaving pass rate that included TVET colleges. There should be consideration of combining the DBE and DHET, as they were seemingly not working together.

She wondered why the NSC and the awards ceremony did not include TVET students and non-CAP students if the Department considered all learners as a national asset.

During debates in Parliament last year, the issue of providing a National Certificate for adults had been raised, and she asked when a firm commitment would be given by both the DBE and DHET to address the matter.

Afterwards, she asked about the backlogs in the registration of learners for the Senior Certificate.

In her final question, she asked what thought had been given to the idea of transitioning from the NSC. She suggested that policy development at Umalusi and DBE appeared to be in crisis and did not bode well for the future, particularly as the educational sector was rapidly changing.

The Chairperson asked how the Department conducted the classifications of quantiles at correctional centres.

She noted that there had been public outcry regarding the later-than-expected release of Matric results. Following this, she asked whether the DBE had good relations with the DHET, and whether the later release would affect learners who had applied for bursaries to higher education institutions.

Touching on the earlier point about learners with special needs, she proposed that the Committee focuses on the oversight of schools housing these learners, as she felt that the Department had not provided adequate support for them, particularly those requiring sign language. This was concerning, she said, as the number of children enrolling with special needs was increasing year-on-year, yet the pass rate had been declining.

Regarding the 30% pass rate, she asked if the Department could share further information on this, and include details on the number of candidates who had received less than 30%. What did the Department think the reasons were for those who achieved such results?

What was the DBE’s view on the exam preparatory programmes/camps -- whether they had a significant difference in the performance of students, and if they were too expensive to maintain?

On the pilot studies, she requested that the Department provide the papers written by learners in IsiXhosa in the Eastern Cape, particularly the mathematics ones; the history and Afrikaans papers for the WC and Northern Cape (NC); and the mathematics papers written in Limpopo, North West, KZN and Mpumalanga. Furthermore, she asked that the papers be accompanied by the memo scripts as well, for the Committee to note what was expected of learners — and to further improve its oversight — and what the current challenges were.

Finally, she asked how the Department compared the enrolment percentage of KZN and NC, considering the large difference in population numbers.

DBE's response

Minister Motshekga referred to the different assessment systems, and indicated that in the previous year, the Department had hosted a Council of Education Ministers (CEM) where it had received reports from the Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM) regarding the DBE’s assessment tools. One of the silver linings of Covid-19 was that the Department had had to reexamine its assessment tools and entire system, which was guided by international trends. The Department was willing to share all of the discussions it had had on this matter with the Committee.

Touching on the EAs, she mentioned that the Department reported on their progress, which could be shared with Members if requested. Evaluations done through the schools were conducted after every cycle to ascertain the usefulness of EAs and what improvements could be made. Some of the reports, showed that learners found it easier to approach their EAs for psycho-social assistance, which had assisted greatly.

She said that the Department could provide information on the differentiated teaching to the Committee.

Regarding the difference between the throughput and the pass rate, she indicated that DBE was able to monitor the number of learners repeating a grade on an annual basis. This information could also be shared with the Committee when requested. She reminded Members that the number of learners who achieved access to university was not a signal of how well the system was performing, as many learners had gone on to have successful careers without attaining a university education.

Referring to the question on the 30% pass mark, she admitted that the confusion on this matter was caused by the Department’s failure to educate the public on the examinations system, which did not have an aggregate pass -- unlike in the previous regime. A learner could not pass with an aggregate of 30%, but could pass despite receiving a 30% mark for a particular subject if they had met the other requirements.

On the question related to the poor outcomes in mathematics, she said there was an agreement that mathematical skills had to be taught to children from the ECD level. With this agreement in place, she was confident that going forward, the results would improve.

Responding to the question on the drop-out rate, she said that the Department had done a study on this, and Statistics South Africa had conducted one five years ago, where it had cited poverty, a lack of supervision and suicide, as among the varying reasons for the high drop-out rate in the country. Considering the complexity of the matter, she encouraged broader society to assist in decreasing the severity of the problem, instead of laying the blame solely at the DBE’s feet.

She expressed hope that the Department, through the timed basket of performance, would find out which provinces were able to retain more children and support poor learners. For instance, Limpopo had the lowest performance yet it had provided the largest number of African learners that passed mathematics.

She said one of the policy solutions offered by the ANC was that teenage girls who had given birth be encouraged to return back to school.

Regarding the question as to whether children in boarding schools performed better than their day-school peers, she admitted the difficulty in providing an answer, as only a certain number of learners stayed in boarding houses. Instead, she suggested that the question should rather focus on the outcomes of schools where government had invested significant resources versus those it had not. Further, she proposed that Members do oversight over schools such as Bizimali Secondary School in KZN, which rented out accommodation for learners and recommended homes for parents to keep their children within the surrounding community.

Touching on the question as to why DBE did not invite non-CAPS Matrics to the awards ceremony, she indicated that the Department did value all the children in the country and viewed them as assets. She pointed out that the law stated that schools had to register with government, not the other way around. It was incorrect to expect the Minister to seek out schools that should be registered. Nevertheless, she was pleased that there had been progress in the registration of online schools.

Still referring to the same question, she disputed that failing to have non-CAPS students at the awards ceremony indicated that the DBE failed to appreciate them as national assets. If bodies such as the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) wanted to form part of the ceremony, they could make a request.

She reiterated that private schools irregularly registered needed to be closed down, according to the law.

On the question related to the late release of the Matric results, she pointed out that the DBE had released the results on the 20th for the second consecutive year due to the pandemic. Thus far, this has had no effect on university registration.

On learners with special needs, she said that DBE provided tutors to under-resourced learners for additional support.

Regarding the learner/teacher ratio, she said that certain provinces, such as KZN, did not have the correct learner/teacher ratio, mainly due to space constraints in schools.

Regarding factoring the variation in learner numbers across provinces, she said that the size of the provincial education system did not matter, as a province such as the Free State was able to do better than Gauteng, meaning that the overall efficiency of the system was what mattered, although the funding and support provided to each province was based on the number of learners. She added that the level of district support correlated with the performance of provinces.

Mr Mweli said the reason why four out of five districts in the Free State were in the top ten for performance could be attributed to strong leadership at the district, circuit and school level, as well as the strict requirements for leadership positions like principals, which entrenched meritocracy in the system. A culture of hard work and performance in the townships and rural areas had also been established, with a significant increase in the number of distinctions and bachelor passes. In 2005, quantile 1 and 5 schools had contributed only 20% to bachelor passes, but this had increased to 64.4% for 2022.  

Regarding the use of school-based assessments, he indicated that public schools were beginning to rely on school-based assessments, which the DBE believed would assist in implementing measures that would equip learners to advance through the system.

On the question of the GAs and EAs, he said anecdotal evidence showed that they had helped teachers greatly.

Regarding tracking the number of learners who had left grade nine for TVET colleges, he said that the DBE would be able to include these learners only once it had an agreement in place with the DHET to synchronise their systems, as the DBE had done with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

In response to the question on the drop-out rate, he indicated that he did not have the information on hand but it was available to be shared with the Committee, as the head of research in the Department, Dr Stephen Taylor, had completed a study. Presently the DBE is considering commissioning further research into this area, to strengthen the work done by Dr Taylor and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Referring to the question on investigations into irregularities, he indicated that the Department met with the Head of the Mpumalanga DBE and senior managers, where it had requested that the investigations into the 26 schools that had been barred from releasing the results (due to irregularities detected) be expedited and for action to be taken against the officials responsible, to which the Mpumalanga DBE had agreed.

On the suggestion that DBE updates its targets, he said it would include targets such as throughput when it planned its annual performance and five-year plans.

He clarified that attaining a bachelor's pass did not mean one would automatically be admitted into a university, as each faculty had its own entry criteria.

Regarding the question on the pilot studies, he told Members that the Department had the results for maritime science, and not IsiXhosa, which was written only as part of a pilot study, and not for the NSC. The report could be available to the Committee.

On the senior markers, he said that provinces were struggling to keep the system running because of the budget cuts incurred in recent years. One of the ways to ensure that the quality of marking was maintained, the DBE and Umalusi contracted external markers. 

In response to the question on the skills programmes, he explained that currently, they were at the pilot stage and had not been incorporated into the NSC. The only new subjects added were SA sign language and marine science.

He said the DBE currently had a strategy to improve mathematics and science outcomes. More recently, it has been assisted by its Japanese counterparts to improve mathematics at the basic level. Despite that, the Department was pleased that the enrolment in both subjects had increased overall.

Referring to the reasons for the drop in schools achieving averages less than 40%, he elaborated that since the imposition of the 60% threshold, the DBE had been better able to hold SGBs to account for their performance. The SGBs were monitored throughout the year and attended accountability sessions, while the Minister held regular meetings with all districts, and if they failed to meet the threshold, the SGBs had to provide the DBE with an improvement plan.

Regarding the debate on the 30% pass mark, he said that those who claimed that a learner could pass with an aggregate of 30% did so out of malice, as it was well understood how the throughput and pass rates were calculated. No learner could pass with 30%, as they would have to attain 40% for their home language. The number of learners who passed with 40% for their home language and 30% for the rest of his/her subjects, stood at 170 for 2022.

On the question related to the difference in proportion of learners in each province, he indicated that when comparing the results of provinces, the DBE utilised the percentage, rather than the number of learners that had passed.

Referring to the variation in the performance of provinces, he said that the investment into the poorer-performing provinces took time to translate to improved outcomes. At times, it may take 13 years to see a significant change.

He explained that the inclusive basket referred to the nine criteria the DBE was trying to popularise within the system. It contained the National Development Plan (NDP) targets on mathematics and science participation. He clarified that it was not only the WC that had low mathematics participation. In the future, the DBE would combine the success rate and the participation rate for mathematics and science. Through its efforts, the DBE hoped to encourage learners to take up mathematics and other STEM subjects.

Regarding the invigilators, he said that the DBE had requested that the provinces involved finalise the matter as soon as possible.

He said the teacher/learner ratio was also predicated on the available financial resources.

In response to the question on learners with special needs, he said that there had been a 1.8% drop in the number of learners with special needs that had registered in grade 1, particularly those who were deaf. Due to their vulnerabilities and disabilities, the DBE struggled to get the learners back to school.

The Department’s data showed that learners living in homes recommended by the DBE recorded positive outcomes.

He said the winter and summer programmes had proved to be beneficial for learners who required additional support.

Regarding the question on unregistered schools, he stressed that the decision to close down an unregistered school was in the public’s interest. However, the schools could be reopened once they were legally registered.

He said that the entire sector was currently dealing with the issue of schools that did not offer registered qualifications. The DBE had engaged organisations representing those schools and made presentations to HEDCOM. A report on the developments could be furnished to the Committee if requested.

On the suggestion that TVET college leavers take part in the awards ceremony, he preferred not to comment on that point, and suggested that it be addressed to his political principals.

Touching on the proposal to offer learners vocational programmes, he indicated that 11 new subjects were introduced in 2018, with the results improving in 2021. 2022 saw a slight decline in the results, but the Department was working towards arresting the decline.

He assured the Committee that Department officials assisted learners experiencing delays in registering for the school certificate.

He said the Department did not classify quintiles in correctional centres, and all learners in the centres were placed on the same level. At present, the Department was looking into how many learners were on social grants and their performance.

He indicated that the DBE would request the EC DBE to share the outcomes of the IsiXhosa pilot study, the exam papers and answer memo. The Department was pleased with the study, as it was a step towards making education fully accessible to all learners in the language of their choice.

Dr Poliah, referring to the question on the investigations into exam irregularities, said that exam irregularities were managed by the National Examination Irregularities Committee (NEIC), which was chaired by an independent chairperson, Adv Gayisa, SC. At the recent NEIC meeting, each of the provinces with outstanding irregularities were given a date by which they needed to submit their reports to the DBE, which would present them to the NEIC.

The dates of the irregularities varied, depending on their nature, with Mpumalanga recording the highest number. A joint investigation between Umalusi, the DBE and the province has since been instituted. Part of the investigation had been completed, with interviews of learners and teachers, amongst others, still remaining. Progress thus far could be passed on to the Committee, if requested. All three parties were working on completing the investigations as speedily as possible. 

He clarified that the pilot study in the EC was conducted by the province, which focused on the preparatory grade 12 examination. In this study, the EC DBE translated the question papers into mathematics and life sciences into IsiXhosa and Sesotho. Learners were presented with an English version of the paper and one in either IsiXhosa or SeSotho, but they had to answer in English. As a result of the study, the DBE was currently putting together a national pilot, which was part of research into mother-tongue-based bilingual education. The Department would present a report on the study to Umalusi the following week, which could also be shared with the Committee.

Touching on the systemic evaluation and why it was not implemented in 2020, he explained that due to the onset of Covid-19, the Department had been unable to implement a baseline study. It was then agreed that 2022 would be a more appropriate year to collect the data. The data had since been collected. At present, the DBE is processing the learner, school and district data, after which a preliminary report should be made available before the end of June on the sample of schools selected, using techniques acceptable for studies of this nature. The DBE was confident that the sample would indicate what was occurring in the entire learner population.

Referring to the question on the 26 000 learners absent for their examinations, he indicated that those who had valid reasons for their absence could write their exam(s) in June. A special concession had been approved by Umalusi, where a learner that had missed one paper but had a valid reason, the DBE would apply to Umalusi to have him or her 'resulted' on the paper, conditional to their writing the June paper. This policy was necessitated after the DBE had noted several cases where learners had done exceptionally well in all subjects, but had missed one paper. Resulting a learner allowed for him or her to continue with their higher education studies. 

On the curriculum coverage, he indicated that the trimming of the curriculum looked to accommodate the limited school time the Class of 2022 would have had in grades 10 and 11. In cases where the learners were disadvantaged because the trimmed curriculum could not be covered in grades 10 and 11, an extraordinary support programme was provided, which ensured that by the end of grade 12, learners would cover their matric curriculum, together with those aspects of grades 10 and 11 that were examinable in their final year. Therefore no learner would have been disadvantaged because of curriculum coverage not completed for the Class of 2022.

In response to the question related to learners struggling to register for the NSC, he said there was an online system for them to register. Learners were supported through the second chance programe and could either register online or report to the nearest district or school. The closing date was 8 February.

Regarding the increase in the number of learners from grades 7 to 8, and then again from 9 to 10, he confirmed that there was an increase in numbers in those years and this was due to the high failure rate amongst learners moving into grade 8, requiring them to repeat the year. This also occurred in grade 10.

Mr Nodada asked that the Committee be sent the reports on the drop-out rate and the mother tongue case study.

Umalusi's response

Prof Ballim stressed the Minister’s earlier point that more time should be set aside for the Committee to engage further with the Department on these matters.

Referring to the Minister’s stated belief that greater emphasis should be placed on improving the teaching of mathematics at the ECD stage, he said that a study was recently released in the United States which showed that parents and teachers could contribute to learners’ anxiety towards mathematics. His view was twofold -- that further discussions on the matter should take place, and that parents should not assist their children with mathematics homework.

He agreed with the suggestion that the Department consider a different assessment approach, and highlighted that the predictive ability of LO as an assessment instrument was quite high, and should be focused on. Another area to look into was the relaxation of the time constraints to writing tests and examination papers, as the aim was to assess students’ intellectual ability, depth and quality of learning, not how quickly they could complete an assessment.

He said the further education and training (FET) sector was undermined by the public’s preoccupation with higher education being the only option after school.

He said that the debate around the 30% pass rate created more distraction from finding solutions to some of the challenges faced by the sector. It was also misguided, as certain universities in the Top 100 contained a pass mark of 40% for engineering, which did not mean that they offered lower levels of education. To provide greater clarity, he called for an advocacy campaign to be done.

Referring to the question on the pilot study of skills such as coding, he said that writing a computer code was a skill and not a competence. As such, he cautioned against overloading the school curriculum with more skills.

He called for society to discuss the phenomena of adults protesting and preventing children from attending school. For instance, in the previous year, parents had prevented exam papers from arriving at exam centres.

Mr Rakometsi assured the Committee that the basic education system contained individuals equipped with professional ethics and good morals. He confirmed that Umalusi and the DBE shared a good and functional relationship that benefited all learners in the system. The DBE respected Umalusi’s independence and implemented the body’s directives.

He said that because some of the investigations were complex and depended on the cooperation of the alleged perpetrators, they could not be tied to a particular time frame. 

On what steps had been taken to reinforce the gains noted in the Class of 2022, he said that the DBE should receive all the credit for the results achieved, not Umalusi, as it was only a quality assurance.

Commenting on the debate on the 30% pass rate, he said it was important for the public to understand that not all children were destined for university education. He asserted that the pass mark of 30%, and even lower, dated back to the 1800s. The question should rather be on the difficulty of questions in the papers.

Regarding the operation of illegal schools, he said that the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) had allowed legacy qualifications to continue in the system after 1994, but was unwilling to regularise them in terms of the national qualifications framework (NQF). Students enrolled in the Waldorf schools would do the curriculum until grade 9, and from 10 onwards, they would transition to CAPS, so they were quality assured by Umalusi. Such schools were operating in the country, but discussions were in place for regularisation.

Ms Madalane explained that Umalusi quality assured the entire process associated with Matric examinations, after which it released a final report.

Regarding the audit of appointed markers, she said this occurred before the marking phase. Umalusi’s role in this instance was to verify whether applicants placed on the list of prospective markers met the requirements, according to the policy. Thereafter it informed the DBE of its findings, with the expectation that it would rectify any irregularities picked up prior to the marking period. In its audit of the marking of papers, Umalusi found that assessment bodies did not comply with the ratio of 1:5 in six subjects.

During the marking phase, Umalusi was expected to monitor markers in all the centres, and reports prepared after the audit of the process were used to verify whether the information shared with the assessment bodies had been attended to. Only three centres had failed to meet the 1:5 ratio, but constraints prevented them from doing so.

On the number of centres that did not meet the security requirements, she indicated that out of the sample of 400 centres monitored by Umalusi, only 22 did not meet the requirements. However, this had not compromised the examination process, so the results were approved by the body.

The Chairperson thanked all the officials from the Department and Umalusi for the outstanding work done, and applauded their commitment to ensuring that every child was awarded a certificate that would equip them to gain meaningful employment.

She then informed Members that the Committee would not be sitting next week, as it had scheduled an oversight visit to KZN.

The meeting was adjourned.


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