Matric marks adjustment sparks row over examinations – The Citizen

If Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has his way, SA may do away with separate matric examinations and institute a single, unified examination for both public and private school pupils.

Lesufi has questioned the logic of having separate examinations for private schools, which are administered by the Independent Examinations Board (IEB), and public schools, administered by the department of basic education (DBE).

He believes an independent national body should be established to draw up examinations, which would allow pupils to “measure ourselves against the best in the world, instead of competing among ourselves”.

Lesufi’s comments came after Umalusi, the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training, yesterday approved the release of the 2018 matric results, due out on January 3.

In a tweet, the MEC said: “I strongly disagree with @UmalusiSA for adjusting upwards [giving free marks] Maths marks for IEB [private schools], while taking raw marks [no increase] for public schools. Is this an admission that public education is starting to perform much better than private education?”

Eight IEB subjects were adjusted upwards, compared with seventeen from the DBE.

Lesufi told The Citizen he questions the assertion that the IEB’s mathematics examination may have been more difficult, since the papers had to have been approved by Umalusi.

“For them to come back later and say it was too difficult makes me question their role,” he said yesterday. “Are they adjusting these marks in the interest of the country, or in order to protect the prestige of private schools and the IEB?”

Lesufi said it made more sense for a unified, standardised body, independent of both the DBE and IEB, to set exams, while monitoring the standards. This would be among the proposed changes to the Schools Act, he said, which would be discussed early next year.

In response to Lesufi’s criticism, spokesperson for Umalusi, Lucky Ditaunyane clarified that decisions regarding adjustments were made by the assessment standards committee’s “qualitative reports, evidence reports, post-exam analysis reports, statistical data and anecdotal data from moderators and monitors”.

On Lesufi’s question on how a mathematics paper that may have been too difficult could have made it through their system, he said: “Question papers are not field-tested, which means we cannot predict how pupils will experience the paper before it is written.

“That said, there are many sources of variability that influence the pupil’s performance in any exam, for example undetected typographic errors, difficulty in question paper, pupils’ interpretation of questions, quality of marking, etc.”

He also questioned the proposed imposition of a single assessment body, as under “section 29(3) of the constitution, independent assessment bodies have a constitutional right to exist”.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance said the announcement that the results had been adjusted raised serious questions.

The party’s shadow minister of basic education, Nomsa Marchesi, said in a statement: “Of the 67 subjects considered for the department of basic education (DBE) matric exams, 17 had their marks adjusted upwards – one more than last year. This means a quarter of all DBE subjects still have their marks adjusted upwards. This continuing trend raises some serious questions.”

“Unfortunately, we have no idea how large these adjustments are. Umalusi hides this information from the public and refuses to allow elected members of parliament to attend the standardisation meeting. Anyone who questions these adjustments is accused of attempting to disrupt the process and attack the school system, simply for asking for clarity,” said Marchesi.

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