Friday, 30 October 2020

Pretoria: Education Quality Assurance Council, Umalusi, has given assessment bodies the greenlight to administer the 2020 matric exams.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the matric exams will have a late start, beginning on 5 November with English First Additional Language Paper 1 and wrap up on 15 December 2020 with the Visual Arts and Agricultural Management Practices papers.

Briefing the media on Friday, Umalusi said despite the circumstances imposed by COVID-19, assessment bodies have worked very hard to prepare their systems for the management, administration and conduct of the 2020 NSC examinations.

“I can report to the South African public that, by and large, our system is ready to administer the 2020 final examinations, but Umalusi will be monitoring the conduct of the examinations to ensure full compliance with our regulations,” said Umalusi CEO Dr Mafu Rakometsi.

Umalusi commended the Basic Education Department, Independent Examinations Board and South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute for continuously improving their systems by introducing innovative ideas.

With just five days to go until matriculants sit for their final exams, Rakometsi said much like other industries, the education sector has not been spared the wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a result, the academic year in South Africa has been severely affected by the national lockdown regulations associated with the pandemic.

“For example, assessment bodies had to reschedule their mid-year examinations because of national lockdown regulations,” said Rakometsi.

This means that this year, a combined cohort of candidates, who were supposed to write June examinations and those who were registered for November examinations, will form part of the same cohort for end-of-year examinations.

Therefore, the COVID-19 pandemic makes the class of 2020 a unique cohort and by far the largest cohort in the sector’s recent history.

“This has undoubtedly put a strain on our systems, including Umalusi’s capacity to conduct quality assurance of assessment. However, with proper planning, we believe that the challenges presented by COVID-19 are not insurmountable,” said Rakometsi.

While much of the academic year was lost due to the pandemic, Umalusi said it is not in support of lowering the standard of the exams.

“Earlier this year, we issued a statement to the South African public that while we are all concerned about the difficulties caused by COVID-19, Umalusi does not advocate for the downgrading or trimming down of the quality of examinations. In particular, tinkering with the content of question papers – we do not support that line of thinking.

“Instead, Umalusi is in continuous discussions with various assessment bodies regarding the measures that can be put in place to support learners in the period before and during the writing of examinations,” said Rakometsi.

COVID-19 regulations during the matric exams

In line with the COVID-19 regulations, all examination centres across assessment bodies are required to comply with State of Disaster Regulations as announced by the President of the Republic of South Africa.

Umalusi officials will be deployed to monitor the conduct of examinations and marking of scripts to ensure strict adherence to health and safety protocols for COVID-19.

On 25 September, the Basic Education Department’s issued a protocol on the writing of the exams in compliance with the COVID-19 requirements.

According to the protocol, candidates who miss the writing of certain papers due to testing positive for COVID-19, should automatically be registered for the subjects that they have missed, to write during the May/June 2021 examinations.

Candidates who tested positive for COVID-19, and have recovered as confirmed by a COVID-19 test report, may continue with the writing of the remaining subjects on the timetable.

However, candidates who decide not to continue with the writing of the remaining subjects should be accommodated in the May/June 2021 examinations.