Report of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on attending the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on attending the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi) and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) Standardisation of the 2016 National Senior Certificate (NSC) Examination Marks Meeting, dated 14 March 2017.
The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, having attended the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi) and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) Standardisation of 2016 NSC Examination Marks meeting on 23 December 2016 at the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice, Pretoria, reports as follows:
- The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education received an invitation from Umalusi and the Department of Basic Education to send a multi-party delegation to attend its annual Standardisation of the National Senior Certificate (NSC) Examination Marks meeting at the Protea Hotel Fire and Ice, Pretoria, on 23 December 2016.
- Umalusi is mandated by the General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance (GENFETQA) Act of 2001(as amended in 2008), to conduct quality assurance of assessment practices for all registered and accredited assessment bodies, including the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and its Provincial Departments of Education, at exit points in general and further education (National Qualification Framework 1-4). The Act also mandates Umalusi to adjust the raw marks when necessary.
- The Standardisation meeting formed one of the last steps of Umalusi’s intensive processes of quality assurance of the 2016 NSC examination results administered by the Department of Basic Education.
- Observers at the Standardisation meeting included the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), Higher Education South Africa (HESA), the South African Council of Educators (SACE) and representatives of the teacher unions. In addition, representatives from Examination Councils from Zambia and Botswana were also in attendance as observers.
- The delegation of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education comprised the following members of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education: Hon N Gina MP (ANC), Hon T Khoza MP (ANC), Hon H D Khosa MP (ANC), Hon D Mnguni MP (ANC), Hon G Davis MP (DA) and Hon H S Boshoff MP (DA).
- Members of staff who formed part of the delegation included Mr D Bandi (Content Advisor), Mr L Brown (Committee Secretary) and Mr M Kekana (Parliamentary Researcher).
2. Background and Principles
The meeting proceeded with an initial welcome and opening remarks by Prof J Volmink (Chairperson: Umalusi) who spoke of the purpose of the meeting. He mentioned that the NSC examination was a high stakes assessment which had far reaching consequences with the necessary checks and balance to provide confidence in the education sector. It was important that all learners received the necessary recognition in line with standards set. In preparing the system, teachers and markers needed to be brought up to speed in respect of the various challenges. Prof Volmink also acknowledged the efforts of the Department of Basic Education in supplying all relevant information in preparation for the standardisation processes. He further acknowledged the good work of the Standardisation Committee and the roles played by the statisticians who were willing to share their combined experience during the Standardisation processes.
Dr Rakometsi (Chief Executive Officer: Umalusi), in his opening remarks, welcomed all present and introduced all the members on the Umalusi Committee of Council present in the meeting. He noted that Umalusi had invited colleagues from the Examination Councils from Zambia and Botswana to observe the Standardisation processes in South Africa. One of the important functions of Umalusi was to ensure a conducive environment for quality assurance which was guided by specific legislation. He further appreciated the support provided by the DBE and Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) in ensuring the examinations were well organised and administered. Umalusi was pleased that the standard of question papers have been improving year-on-year. He further commended the Department for the stringent measures put in place to ensure that group copying did not recur.
Dr Rakometsi raised serious concern over the management and conduct of School Based Assessment (SBA) across the country, where marks obtained were seen to be unreliable. Dr Rakometsi urged the Department to develop a strategy to improve the conduct and management of the SBA to improve the standard of teaching and learning. A further concern for Umalusi was the quality of marking in some provinces. The leakages of question papers experienced in Limpopo was also a worrying factor for the Council and Umalusi again commended the Department for the swift manner in dealing with these leaks. Dr Rakometsi also indicated that incidents of poor marking continued to plague the system, and appreciated efforts by the Department in ensuring re-marking were necessary. Another concern raised by Umalusi was the inadequate security of papers in some provinces. Umalusi had requested that the Department provided a full report on the matter to the Council.
Mr Mweli, in his opening remarks referred to the Department’s visits to marking centres across the country where the Department was able to evaluate the extent to which DBE was managing the national examinations. Mr Mweli touched on the benchmarking of question papers through the University of South Africa who reflected positively on the standard of the question papers. He further spoke of the past year which was dominated by events such as the “Fees Must Fall” campaign and calls for the decolonising of the education system. Stakeholders in education were called to a critical analysis of the education sector. He noted that the NSC was a gateway certificate for learners which put them at a crossroads of life – this has been an area of immense debate. Mr Mweli mentioned that many of the concerns raised by Umalusi were dealt with and the Department was satisfied with progress made. He also indicated that the notion of progressed learners had been challenging for the Department and remained an area of interest.
The meeting received a breakdown of the key standardisation guidelines and principles which applied to the standardisation of the examination marks as follows:
- In general, no adjustment should exceed 10 percent of the Historic Average;
- Adjustments in excess of 10 percent could be considered at the upper end to increase the number of distinctions in a subject;
- In the case of the individual candidate, the adjustment effected should not exceed 50 percent of the mark obtained by the candidate;
- If the distribution of the raw marks was below the Historic Average, the marks may be adjusted upwards, subject to the limitations;
- If the distribution of the raw marks was above the Historic Average, the marks may be adjusted downwards, subject to the limitations;
- The computer adjusted mark was calculated based on the above principles;
- For those subjects with a practical component of 50 percent, raw marks could be accepted; and
- Umalusi, however, retained the right to amend these principles where and when deemed necessary based on sound educational principles.
The main objective of standardisation was to ensure that learners were not unduly advantaged or disadvantaged by extraneous factors other than their knowledge of the subject, abilities and their aptitude. It further helped to achieve comparability and consistency on an annual basis.
3. Presentation of Results for Standardisation
A total of 58 subjects were presented for standardisation. During the standardisation, performance in each subject was analysed statistically and qualitatively by a team of experts. Due to the nature of the meeting, and by request of Umalusi, details of the proceedings were held in a closed session. None of the discussions, deliberations and decisions were open for reporting in any way.
After closing remarks by Mr Mweli, Dr Rakometsi and a final word from Prof Volmink, the meeting was adjourned.
Report to be noted.
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