ATC131029: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on an oversight visit to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), dated 29 October 2013

Basic Education

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on an oversight visit to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), dated 29 October 2013

The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, having undertaken an oversight visit to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) on 20 September 2013, reports as follows:

1. Introduction

1.1        A delegation of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education conducted an oversight visit to                    the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) on 20 September 2013.

1.2        The purpose of the oversight visit was to assess the state of readiness of the Province for          the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination for 2013. This included assessing the state of security systems for the printing, distribution and             storage of examination question papers as        well as procedures in place to conduct the examinations. The Committee also aimed to       provide support to departmental teams and to ensure the delivery of successful and credible             examinations, with no or minimal irregularities. In pursuit of the oversight programme             objectives, the delegation conducted briefing sessions with the Office of the Head of     Department, District and Senior Curriculum and Examinations Officials as well as       organised labour. The delegation also undertook a site tour of the printing, packaging,        distribution and storage facilities for the examination question papers in order to obtain first       hand knowledge of the state of security at these facilities.

1.3        This report provides a summary of the key issues that emerged from the interaction with officials of the Provincial Education Department and organised labour, and the Portfolio Committee’s deliberations, observations and recommendations.

2. Delegations

2.1 National Portfolio Committee on Basic Education: Hon H H Malgas MP (ANC) (Chairperson), Hon N Gina MP (ANC) (Whip), Hon Z S Makhubele MP (ANC), Hon D Smiles MP (DA), Mr D Bandi (Content Advisor), Mr J Ngcobo (Researcher), Mr L A Brown (Committee Secretary), Ms R Azzakani (Parliament Communications) and Ms S Ntabeni (Committee Assistant).

2.2 National Department of Basic Education (DBE): Dr R Poliah – Chief Director.

2.3 Western Cape Education Department (WCED): MEC D Grant – MEC for Education in the Western Cape, Mr B Schreuder – Deputy Director-General, Ms T Singh – Chief Director, Ms Z Modimakwane – Director and Mr A Clausen – Director.

2.4 South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU): Ms S Kwazi and Ms F Solomons.

2.5 National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA): Mr D Marshall                     and Ms H Sieborge.

3. An Overview of the national examination system

The national examination system in South Africa is managed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) supported by the nine Provincial Education Departments (PEDs). National examinations are conducted in accordance with the Regulations Pertaining to the Conduct, Management and Administration of the National Senior Certificate . The DBE monitors the implementation of the regulations, while the heads of examinations in the provinces are responsible for their implementation. The DBE sets examination question papers for the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations. Printing, packaging and distribution of the question papers to examination centres is the responsibility of the Provincial Education Departments (PEDs). The PEDs have further operational responsibilities which include the supervision of the writing of the examinations and the capturing of marks on the Integrated Examination Computer System (IECS).

4. Input by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED)

4.1 Issues from the WCED’s report to the DBE on Preparations of the NSC examinations

Mr B Schreuder, Deputy Director-General, referred the Committee to the report prepared for the DBE highlighting the Province’s preparations of the NSC examination in respect of planning, quality assurance of School Based Assessment (SBA) tasks, support  for underperforming schools, interventions and moderation,

In terms of planning, the Curriculum Planners and Curriculum Advisers met twice a year (in the first and fourth terms) to reflect on and plan for learner and teacher support. Planning started at the end of the fourth term of the previous year to reflect on the moderation process, share best practice and good School Based Assessment (SBA) exemplars. The meeting at the beginning of the first term was to analyse and discuss the NSC results of the previous year and to plan for support to underperforming schools and schools at risk. Curriculum Advisers then met with teachers in cluster groups in their district during the first term to discuss the planning for the year and to set, mark and moderate SBA tasks. Exemplars of best practice were shared with teachers.

In respect of the quality assurance of the SBA tasks, the Curriculum Advisors (CAs) trained teachers to set, assess and moderate tasks - with exemplar tasks set for underperforming schools to assist teachers in developing their own SBA tasks. The CAs drew a sample of schools to moderate the SBA tasks before they were given to learners. The moderation of SBA tasks occurred throughout the year. For underperforming schools, the districts developed plans to support these schools throughout the year through school visits, teacher development workshops, winter/spring schools and extra classes. All schools that achieved below 60 percent and those at risk with marks between 60 percent and 70 percent were closely monitored with regular interventions and special programmes. Some of the interventions included the following:

·         Beaming of Telematics lessons to 146 schools in the seven large enrolment subjects: Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Geography, Accounting, English Home Language (HL) and Afrikaans HL.

·         Lesson segments in Geography, Mathematics and Physical Sciences were also available on the social network YOUTUBE.

·         Learners were provided with study guides.

·         All schools were provided with a CD containing exemplar questions and answers.

·         Every learner in Grade 12 was provided with a printed tabloid format of Questions & Answers in both English and Afrikaans covering the following subjects: Mathematics, Mathematical Literacy, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Accounting and English First Additional Language (FAL).

·         Extra classes were conducted during the June and July holidays in all districts.

·         “Tips for Success” booklets were developed and given to each Grade 12 learner.

·         A Matric Support Day was conducted in two sessions (one rural and one urban).  Fourteen schools were invited and 1700 learners, in total, attended. The following subjects were offered; Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Geography, Accounting, English HL, Afrikaans HL and Business Studies.

·         Advice for learners on how to approach the examinations in subject context was broadcast on community radio stations.

·         Learners were taken on subject revision camps over weekends and school vacations.

·         Learning support material was uploaded on the Curriculum Development website as well as on the social media platform of YouTube.

·         Learners attended live stage performances of set-works in the three predominant languages of the province.

The WCED supplied a broad overview of the progress in respect of the implementation of the Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) Pillars:

  • Pillar 1 – Learner participation and success rate
  • Pillar 2 – Teacher demand, supply, utilisation, development and support
  • Pillar 3 – Partnerships
  • Pillar 4 – Provision of resources.

4.2        National Senior Certificate (NSC) Examination Readiness for 2013

The WCED’s presentation to the Committee on the National Senior Certificate (NSC) Examination Readiness for 2013 was as follows:

4.2.1 Registration: The Western Cape had a total of 59 594 candidates (48 768 full-time and 10 826 part-time) who would sit for the 2013 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations. This was an increase of more than 3 200 full-time candidates from the previous year. The WCED had two preliminary schedules submitted to schools to check the correctness of enrollments. They had a total of 434 examination centres registered – with 370 public schools and 64 independent schools. The Province saw an increase in the figures for Mathematics (17 066) and Physical Sciences (11 692).

4.2.2 Receipt of Question Papers from the DBE: Two senior officials from the WCED collected Question Papers from the Department of Basic Education (DBE). The policy of the DBE was that provinces needed to check papers and report any errors. A delay by the DBE in making question papers available had impacted on the provincial printing plan.

4.2.3 The Printing of NSC Examination Question Papers: At least 106 National Question Papers were administered by the WCED with 23 million images to be printed. Currently, 13 million images had already been printed. The printing and sealing would be concluded by 2 November 2013.

4.2.4 Packing and Distribution of Question Papers: The WCED packed examination question papers per examination session per day per school. The papers were sealed in boxes that were clearly marked per session per school and per subject. There was a checklist for each consignment generated for checking purposes by schools and districts. A total of six (6) weekly consignments were delivered to schools.

4.2.5 Storage of Question Papers at Schools: The WCED was working to ensure a much shorter storage time of question papers at schools than in previous years which totaled five days. All bags remained sealed until the day of the examination – with constant monitoring by Districts and Head Office. During the examination period, only the principal of the school managed the safe. School principals were aware of the consequences in terms of any breaches. All school principals and invigilators were trained annually on security aspects to be observed.

4.2.6 Delivery of Question Papers (Pilot): The WCED investigated a new and more secure packaging system through the use of special containers with a programmable lock to be approved for future use. The special containers would only be opened one hour before the start of an examination. Only one unique code for an examination session would be used. The code would be provided to the principal, district directors and examination coordinators via a Short-Message-System (SMS) on a daily basis. A pilot would be run with one or two subjects to be written in November 2013.

4.2.7 Use of Dedicated Courier Services: The WCED made use of a dedicated delivery service to 343 examination centres by seasoned dedicated drivers. All couriers were fitted with a tracking system. The WCED would monitor all deliveries via a computerised system. The courier service provided a personalised service to schools with electronic daily communication with examination officials. The Head Office monitored the premises while district officials monitored the delivery for each consignment.

4.2.8 Appointment of Markers: Marking would commence on 4 December 2013. The WCED introduced the competency based assessment for teachers who wished to mark (10 subjects). The competency test had shown that marking had improved and that there was a reduction in the number of remark applications.

4.2.9 Marking: The WCED would have one central marking centre for the marking of the 2013 NSC examinations. The marking period was 4 – 13 December 2013 with special arrangements for subjects with a shortage of markers. The number of appointed marking official were as follows:

Number of Marking Officials

Chief Marker


Internal Moderators


Deputy Chief Markers


Senior Markers



2 735


3 324

4.2.10 Invigilation: The WCED made use of a system of 50 percent educators and 50 percent members of the community. The Chief Invigilator was  School Management Team (SMT) member of the school and was assisted by a senior invigilator appointed by the community. The senior invigilator took charge of the Supplementary examination (February/March) and Senior Certificate Examination (May/June). Principals were appointed as Chief Examination Officers and took full responsibility for the management of the examinations.

4.2.11 Training of Invigilators: Invigilators were trained annually by the WCED during the third term. In 2013, 19 training sessions were set-up throughout the province across the eight districts. All principals, chief and senior invigilators were trained with training of invigilators being cascaded to assistant invigilators by principals and SMT members of the school. Support was provided by district officials and provincial officials where necessary.

4.2.12 Monitoring of the Writing: The monitoring of the conduct of the examinations was conducted by the WCED and Districts. Daily monitoring reports were submitted to the DBE. An analysis of the irregularities database was conducted to identify centres at risk – these centres were monitored regularly. The WCED paid special attention to independent schools that wrote the Grade 12 examination for the first time.

4.2.13 Moderation of School-Based Assessment (SBA): The moderation of SBA was dealt with via the curriculum but managed and co-ordinated by the Directorate: Assessment Management. The Department focussed on schools with poor quality SBA tasks in terms of DBE and Umalusi reports. The SBA of independent schools was moderated by Senior Curriculum planners. Curriculum advisors worked directly with schools and SBA was moderated on an ongoing basis.

The provincial moderation of SBA for Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Accounting, Life Sciences, Economics, Geography and Life Orientation was conducted by Senior Curriculum Planners and Curriculum Advisers on 17 and 18 September 2013. The provincial moderation for the Life Orientation CAT would be held between 25 and 27 September 2013.

The DBE would conduct moderation for Accounting, Life Orientation, History, Mathematics and Physical Sciences from 26 to 30 September 2013.

Umalusi had informed the WCED that they would be verifying the moderation of the DBE in the following subjects: Accounting, History, Physical Sciences and Life Orientation. They would also moderate an independent sample of learner evidence             from two schools in each district in Business Studies on 01 and 02 October 2013.

4.2.14 Common Assessment Task (CAT) for Life Orientation: The CAT for Life Orientation was written on 04 September 2013. The CAT was a nationally set assessment which replaced Task 4 in the Grade 12 Life Orientation programme of assessment. The question papers were printed, packed and distributed to the schools by the WCED. All schools wrote the assessment on 04 September 2013 and no irregularities or shortages of question papers were reported. National marking guideline discussions were conducted on 09 and 10 September 2013. The provincial marking guideline discussion with the Senior Curriculum Planner and district curriculum advisers were conducted on 11 September 2013. Schools were provided with the final marking guidelines on 13 September 2013.

4.2.15 Safety and Security: The WCED had ongoing engagements with Eskom and Municipal providers of electricity for the examination period. The Department also had direct emergency contact with the Department of Community Safety in the Province. Engagements with SAPS encompassed the following:

·     Direct link to OPS Centre and Disaster management

·     Fraud Unit

·     Detectives Unit

·     Visible policing

·     Riot control

·     Defence Force

The WCED also had its own Safe Schools Programme

4.2.16 Results and Certification: The target date for the release of the results is 7 January 2014. All promotion schedules would be verified and signed off by all districts. The Department would conduct special checking in December before the release of results by schools. All promotion data was captured on the Centralised Educational Management Information System (CEMIS). Recording and reporting programmes had been developed for the Foundation Phase and Senior Phase in line with CAPS with the Grade 9 electronic tool for recording and reporting as well as Grade 10 and 11 mark sheets developed in line with CAPS.

4.2.17 Important Dates were highlighted as follows:

·     04 December 2013    -           Commencement of marking

·     13 December 2013    -           Conclusion of marking

·     16 December            -           Final data capturing and uploading of marks

·     19 December            -           NEIC meeting

·     21-23 December        -           Standardisation meeting

·     31 December            -           Umalusi approval meeting

·     07 January 2014        -           Release of NSC results

·     14 January 2014        -           WCED NSC Awards Ceremony

·     21 January  2014       -           Closing date for applications for remarking, rechecks and                                               supplementary examination

·     17 February – 25 March 2014-NSC Supplementary examination (to be confirmed)

5. Input by the National Department of Basic Education (DBE)

Dr R Poliah, Chief Director of Examinations, welcomed the engagements with the Western Cape Education Department on examination readiness. He reiterated that the National Department of Basic Education had a close working relationship with the Western Cape Education Department. This was maintained through the National Examination and Assessment Committee. This forum allowed for discussion of all issues of mutual interest. For the DBE to produce error-free question papers, various levels of editing and quality control were introduced. However, this still resulted in papers with minor errors. For this reason, the DBE was employing additional professionals to quality check papers. This had resulted in a delay in making papers available to provinces. The Department was aware of the pilot in respect of the delivery of papers by the WCED. The DBE would monitor this process and look at the best practice for the delivery of papers across the country. Dr Poliah reiterated that the WCED was one of the leaders in maintaining a good system through the analysis and availability of data to schools. The WCED was very responsive to any suggestions by the DBE.

6. Engagements with Organised Labour (SADTU and NAPTOSA)

In general, both SADTU and NAPTOSA were in agreement with most of the issues raised by the WCED. The unions enjoyed a good working relationship and collaboration with the Department in the Province. There were very few challenges faced during the 2012 NSC examinations as there was regular interaction with the WCED through the examination board that was in existence. Unions generally trusted the WCED to administer the examinations in a diligent and effective manner. However, in 2013 the examination board was disbanded, which left unions uninformed as to developments in respect of examination readiness. Unions were uncertain of the reasons for the disbanding of the examination board. To date, unions had no reports on the state of readiness of the WCED for the 2013 NSC examinations. The unions requested that the following be addressed as a matter of urgency:

  • The establishment of a multi-lateral discussion forum while the WCED worked on an alternative to the redundant examinations board.
  • The improvement of safety and security at schools, especially where gangsterism was prevalent.
  • Clarity on the issues around the pilot being run for the delivery of question papers. What was the rationale for changing from the use of couriers? Whether this was a safer option.
  • Clear and unambiguous policy directives in respect of irregularities relating to the use of cell phones
  • SADTU still had challenges in respect of the competency test for markers, - though they participated in the nominations for the marking processes.

Both unions were of the view that, apart from a few obstacles, the province was fully prepared for the NSC examinations for 2013.

7. Site tour of the storage facilities

Apart from the engagements with the WCED and organised labour, the Portfolio Committee also undertook in-loco site visits to the storage, packaging and distribution facilities of the Department. The Portfolio Committee was very impressed with the high standards and the heightened security at these facilities. Members of the Committee were able to tour the storage facilities, loading/off-loading garages and the CCTV camera room. The delegation was shown the different storage facilities which housed the question papers and answer sheets and security measures in place. The operations room which housed the surveillance monitor (CCTV) captured all footage from the surveillance cameras stationed around the facility. All question papers were distributed from this central point to all schools.

The delegation was also taken on a tour of the printing works where question papers were printed for distribution to the main storage facility. Members of the Portfolio Committee gained first-hand experience of how the questions papers were printed, packaged and made ready for distribution. Members were able to tour the factory floor, control room and loading bays at the printing facility.

8. Committee Observations

The Committee noted the following key issues and concerns regarding the state of examination readiness in the Western Cape:

  • The Committee commended the Western Cape Education Department for the sound working relationship and collaboration with the National Department of Basic Education.
  • The Committee was interested to know how the WCED managed the papers for both public and independent schools since most independent schools opted to write the NSC examinations.
  • There was concern around the arrangements where there was a shortage of markers for certain subjects.
  • The Committee was assured that the training for principals and invigilators was sufficient.
  • The Committee was interested to know how the merging and closing of schools in the province had affected learners – and whether these learners received any additional support from the Department in respect of examination readiness. The WCED highlighted that the majority of schools involved in the mergers were primary schools, which were not participating in the NSC examinations
  • Of equal concern was the impact of gangsterism on schools in the affected areas and how the Department was able to deal with the situation. It was highlighted that broader programmes and interventions were introduced to deal with gangsterism which included improved policing to ensure safe access in and out of the affected areas.

It was important that the WCED consider the union’s request for the re-instatement of the examination board, and in the interim, the establishment of a multi-lateral discussion forum between the unions, the WCED and other relevant stakeholders, that will consider issues related to examinations.

9. Conclusion

The oversight visit to the Western Cape Education Department provided the Portfolio Committee with an opportunity to assess the state of readiness of the province in respect of the National Senior Certificate (NSC) Examination readiness for 2013. The Portfolio Committee was satisfied with the preparations made by the WCED in respect of the 2013 NSC examinations. It was further noted that the Province has developed mechanisms to deal with challenges that may arise during the examination period.

10. Recommendations

The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, having conducted an oversight visit to the Western Cape Education Department, and considered the issues that were raised, requests that the Minister of Basic Education ensures that the following recommendation is considered:

That the Western Cape Education Department consider looking into the re-establishment of the Examination Board, or a multi-lateral discussion forum for Unions, the WCED and other relevant stakeholders which consider issues of examinations.

Report to be considered for adoption.


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