Umalusi briefing

Basic Education

07 September 2004
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


7 September 2004

Professor S Mayatula (ANC)

Documents handed out:
UMALUSI presentation
UMALUSI Annual Report (offsite link)

UMALUSI (Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training) briefed the Committee on its establishment how it had taken over the role of the South African Certification Council (SAFCERT). Its responsibility had expanded to include quality assurance of the Senior Certificate examination; promotion of vocational and adult education; improving the quality assurance system of other examinations, and establishing a new certification environment for the coming Further Education and Training Certificate. Some challenges had included the overlap in legislation, the roles of UMALUSI and the Department in quality assurance of provincial education, and also the difficulty in controlling norms, the curriculum and assessment because of the multiplicity of quality assurances, especially in Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET). Members went on to query whether UMALUSI had intervened in continuous assessment, whether matric standards compared to international standards, why the focus had been on urban areas, about the findings on compensatory marking, and how to assess the quality of education.

In other business, it was proposed that the discussion of the Committee's Report be rescheduled for 19 October, and a delegation of three persons (two from the ANC and one from the opposition) be sent to the Pan South African Language Board conference on 29 October.

The Chairperson said the Committee Report would not be ready for discussion before Members departed for their constituencies. He proposed that the Committee devote time to oversight in the constituencies when it resumed work on 4 October. Members should think ahead to issues to be dealt with. The tabling of the Report was rescheduled for 19 October.

He reported an invitation to attend the Pan South African Language Board Conference (PANSALB) at the CSIR on 29 September. The Committee had to decide on the number of delegates to the conference. Mr R van den Heever (ANC) proposed three people, and since the conference took place during the constituency period, the Committee should check the availability of Members. The Chair seconded this, and said the delegation should be made up of two ANC Members, and one opposition Member.

UMALUSI briefing
Dr P Lolwana, outgoing CEO, and Mr B Schreuder, a Member of the Council, made a presentation on quality assurance in general education, and further education and training. Dr Lolwana said the staff and governing body had changed recently. Dr R Lubisi, who had joined the Department, was the new CEO. The Minister of Education had appointed Mr J Pampallis as the new Chairperson.

The General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Act 58 of 2001 established the Council, which first met in June 2002. It took over from the South African Certification Council (SAFCERT), with the responsibility of quality assuring the Senior Certificate, Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) assessment, and Technical College examinations. The work of UMALUSI has expanded to include improving and streamlining these processes where necessary.

On issues facing the Council, the Act requires UMALUSI to oversee the quality of registered institutions. However most private providers requiring accreditation were not well endowed. They are small, scattered all over, and offer only short programmes. The role of UMALUSI overlaps with that of the Department of Education of quality assurance of Provincial Education. The emergence of new private providers since 1998 for accessing the Skills Fund has had an adverse impact on the NGO-based adult education sector. Most NGO's in the private sector have disappeared. The construction of norms and standards of the curriculum and assessment had been tenuous and unmanageable. It was still grappling with the multiplicity of quality assurance programmes especially in adult education and training. With assessment beyond matric, the roles of the Department of Education, and that of UMALUSI had not been well defined.

UMALUSI absorbed the role of SAFCERT in quality assuring the senior certificate and technical certificate examination, and issuing certificates. It had not been visible issuing certificates. For example, adults with no prior schooling used to have a standard five certificate, but things changed with the introduction of outcomes-based education. Currently adults did not have any qualification to aspire to. Up until the end of 2003, the General Education and Training Certificate examinations, which were equivalent to grade 9, were issued for adults. The provincial accreditation for adult education had been an unmanageable terrain. The focus of UMALUSI was in quality assurance and promotion of vocational and adult based education, improving the quality assurance system for examinations, and establishing a new certification environment for the coming Further Education and Training Certificate.

UMALUSI had a presence in all the provinces. Its role in the Senior Certificate examinations had been to train moderators to monitor exams, marking, verifying continuous assessment, standardisation of results, and certifying the results. This new activity was prompted by irregularities in Mpumalanga in 1998. The Department of Education and UMALUSI had worked together to reduce irregularities. UMALUSI had three examination bodies that selected different portfolios according to their weaknesses. All examination bodies could verify results but not standards. To develop a consistent standard, norms of exams and a range of results had to be established. There was a need for some comparison, and where necessary marks were adjusted where there were variations that could not be explained.

UMALUSI was funded from four different sources. These included monies charged from certification and other activities. For instance companies were charged for certification. Twenty-five percent of its budget came from the Department of Education and 25% from donor grants from the United States, which would be cut off by January 2005. The budget for UMALUSI was a little over R18 million per annum.

There had been no clear direction in Further Education and Training and the Council had been unable to plan concretely. In trying to clarify the overlap in legislation, there had been meetings that have not yielded any progress. The bulk of UMALUSI's work was senior certification. Adult education was of great importance. It was pertinent that adults had been left behind in terms of provision. Its objective to assure the public about the quality of education had been difficult, because of the linkage between government and the public. The National Department of Education was becoming an education body. There were nine public education bodies and about four private ones. The role of the National Department of Education was unclear. Out of the ten matric subjects, six were examined by the Department, including Vocational and ABET, yet the Department maintained it was not an examining body.

Ms P Mashangoane (ANC) asked in relation to continuous assessment, whether UMALUSI intervened if a student happened to score high marks during the year, but got a lower mark at the end of the year, to fail the student.

Mr Van der Heever (ANC) asked how our matric standard compared to international standards based on research.

Ms J Ngele (ANC) said improvements in existing quality tend to focus on urbanised areas, and asked what was being done to reach all areas.

Dr P Lolwana said UMALUSI was not involved with continuous assessment, but concentrated more on the Senior Certificate and ABET. Technical colleges were far behind in terms of provision. Technical school educators were generous with marks, however when students were exposed there was not much that could be done. Regarding matric standards, there had been comprehensive research done in 1999, and compared to Scottish standards, the findings suggested that many matric subjects were on par with Scottish education. However Scottish standards were higher in terms of cognitive demand. Students who study English as a second language had not coped well. In the rural areas, most students had not been functional in terms of the medium of instruction. Mr B Schreuder said it should be dealt with at a national level.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) asked how to deal with the present system since it produced young illiterates. He also asked about criticism of compensatory marking, and if UMALUSI could share their thoughts about provincial findings.

Ms D Nhlengethwa (ANC) asked whether UMALUSI had heard of circular number eighty-eight, and a clause that said a student that obtained 35% in mathematics failed, and must repeat the course.

A Member shared his concern about teachers in public schools from the townships who went for training in the new system of assurance and assessment, but did not use it, and reverted to old methods. He asked how to assess quality.

Dr P Lolwana said issues of standard were generational. Changes in curriculum, and reshuffling had been aimed at accommodating everyone. She reported that reshuffling in 2002 moved from a provincial to a national base especially with language.

Mr B Schreuder said the focus was now on a communicative approach, but the problem had been that people "came out" illiterate in other areas. To ensure the appropriate quality, UMALUSI required funding. Compensatory marking meant that an African learner who took English or Afrikaans as a first language received no compensation. Those that took English or Afrikaans as a second language got 5% of their non-language score added to their marks. This would be reviewed from time to time. There had not been any significant improvement in the marks of African language learners. The requirements for progression were complex. If large numbers of a class did not pass, other factors ought to be looked at, for instance, the competency of the educator. Continuous assessment was part of all schooling. Marks had been underpinned by the fact that learners learnt differently. The methodology of teaching should thus be different and so should assessment. There should be variety of assessment. Continuous assessment should be credible. Statistical moderation of continuous assessment was employed by UMALUSI. A revision of the national curriculum arrangement was done yearly from grade 8-9. In particular schools, training in curriculum assessment had not been critically monitored. Implementing departments should have systems in place to ensure it was applied.

Ms L Moloney (ANC) asked, in light of the donor grant coming to an end, whether it would be possible to lobby the Department for more funding.

Mr I Vadi (ANC) said examinations steered the system of education, and asked whether UMALUSI considered playing a steering role.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) asked whether UMALUSI was involved with teachers to ensure a high standard of examination setting and what the criteria for assessment were.

The Chairperson asked, on the challenges facing UMALUSI, what the Committee could do to assist, especially in the area of funding and with the overlapping legislation.

Dr P Lolwana said with inadequate funds their priority had to be the quality assurance of the Senior Certificate, and other areas would be ignored. Regarding other sources of funding, learners would be paying up to R15 per certificate by 2005. The Provincial Government effected payment. Those who could not pay should be dealt with by policies or legislation. The system prescribed standards and adherence to them. The Minister of Education had the power to determine norms, while UMALUSI controlled the norms. Examination controlled the curriculum. The Department of Labour and the SETAs also determined quality.

Mr B Schreuder said UMALUSI had two steering roles; to impact on examinations and the teaching process. It could become proactive in setting assessments, and contribute to international comparability. It was not involved in the appointment of examiners. The examining bodies appointed examiners. UMLUSI appointed moderators to impact on examination papers. It has been a costly activity, and had been scaled down. UMALUSI had been responsible for the control, monitoring, and quality assured education according to set standards.

The meeting was adjourned.


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