Thursday, 10 October 2019

Pretoria: The Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training, Umalusi, has given assessment bodies the greenlight to administer the 2019 matric exams.

The 2019 matric exams will begin on 23 October and wrap up on 28 November 2019.

Briefing media on Thursday, the Council said it conducted a thorough assessment of the readiness of the basic education system to manage and conduct the 2019 national examinations.

“To this end, the Council is generally satisfied that all assessment bodies are ready to undertake this massive task,” said CEO Mafu Rakometsi.

In the build up to the final examination, Rakometsi said public and independent assessment bodies have worked hard to ensure that their examination systems comply with Umalusi’s policy and directives regarding the administration, management and conduct of examinations.

As a Quality Council, Umalusi monitors and verifies the work of public assessment bodies such as the Basic Education Department (DBE) and Higher Education and Training Department (DHET) – and private assessment bodies – Independent Examinations Board (IEB), the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI) and Benchmark Assessment Agency (BAA).

In terms of the National Senior Certificate (NSC), there are a total of approximately 751 668 candidates – this is a decrease of more than 40 000 candidates compared to 2018.

Approximately 629 197 full-time learners and 122 471 part-time candidates will sit for the 2019 exams.

These exams will take place at more than 6 900 centres across the provinces.

IEB exams

On the other hand, the IEB has 11 839 full-time candidates across the country and 840 part-time candidates at 215 full-time examination centres including one (1) in Mozambique, seven (7) in Namibia and six (6) in Eswatini.

The South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI) has registered 2 073 part-time candidates and 570 repeat candidates with a total of 2 643 candidates at 77 examination centres.

Challenges ahead of exams

Conducting its oversight role ahead of the exams, Umalusi focused on eight areas as part of its quality assurance of assessment regime.

These focused on management, registration of candidates and examination centres, school-based assessment, printing, packaging and distribution of question papers, conduct of examinations, marker selection and appointment of marking personnel, systems for the capturing of marks and management of examination irregularities.

In its assessment, Umalusi highlighted with great concern evidence of shortage of markers in key subjects with high enrolments at the time of the audit.

These were found in the Northern Cape (Agricultural Sciences Afrikaans markers), Western Cape (History Paper 2), and Eastern Cape (English First Additional Language, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences and Afrikaans markers).

While contingency plans have been put in place to address these shortages in the interim period, Umalusi called on all affected provincial departments to urgently address these.

Furthermore, the quality assurance body noted high levels of vacancies in critical areas within examinations directorates in Limpopo, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, North West and the Eastern Cape.

“Nevertheless, Provincial Education Departments have put measures in place such as allowing available staff to work overtime to mitigate the shortage of staff,” said Rakometsi.

Additionally, Umalusi identified 495 centres as high risk centres.

“These are centres where there may be challenges at those centres including issues of cheating,” said Rakometsi.

As a contingency measure, these high risk centres are assigned resident monitors who are stationed at these centres.

GEC not an exit qualification: Umalusi

The Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training, Umalusi, says the proposed General Education Certificate (GEC) is not an exit qualification as widely reported but rather a transitional qualification.

“In principle, Umalusi supports the idea of a GEC – provided it is properly understood as a transitional qualification rather than an exit qualification.

“One of the advantages of the GEC is that it could provide valuable national data to gauge the performance of our education system. However, Umalusi will firstly evaluate the GEC qualification and then issue a formal statement on the outcome of that process,” said Umalusi CEO Mafu Rakometsi.

Rakometsi’s comments follow a misinterpretation of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga comments made at the SADTU National Congress on the GEC.

Motshekga earlier clarified that the GEC plan proposes to send more learners into technical education and introduce new subjects which could be referred to as applied mathematics and applied science.

Rakometsi, gave Umalusi’s position on the GEC, adding that his body would advocate for learners to continue with schooling after the GEC.

“The General Education Certificate (GEC) is not an exit qualification. It is there to help us understand how the system is doing. What we are going to be doing and what we will encourage the department to do is encourage learners not to leave the schooling system after GEC.

“You and I know that at the end of GEC a learner will not be able to make a lot of mileage in terms of their career opportunities with the GEC.” said Rakometsi.