Matric mark adjustments ‘were generous’

2011-02-26 17:52

The adjustments made by examinations watchdog Umalusi to the 2010 matriculants’ marks “generously benefited the candidates”.

This is according to Dr Fred ­Calitz, the previous head of the South African Certification Council (Safsert), which was the forerunner to Umalusi.

On Wednesday the quality assurance body made public, for the first time since 1918, which subjects’ marks had been adjusted, by how much and why.

Umalusi was forced to take the unprecedented step of revealing standardisation details, due to mounting pressure that included a Promotion of Access to Information request lodged by Media24.

It announced that the biggest ­upward adjustment (7%) was made for accounting and mathematics, especially around the 30% fail mark.

The adjustments were within the council’s maximum of 10%.The biggest downward adjustment was for civil technology, where up to 15 marks were deducted – but only about 9 110 pupils out of an estimated 537 500 wrote the subject.

Calitz said that according to the information made public, most subjects’ averages were ­higher than those of previous years, even after the adjustments.

He said one could split hairs over whether the mathematics marks should have been adjusted by so much, but in general there was no problem with the adjustments.

He stood by his opinion published recently in City Press, however, that certain marks were not adjusted far enough downwards.

He was referring specifically to scientific literacy, agricultural ­sciences and life sciences.

Calitz calculated earlier this month that in terms of final matric marks, the general pass rate would have been closer to 62% than 67.8% if these three subjects had been adjusted downward.

Final marks also included the ongoing assessments of pupils and a 5% advantage granted to those who did not receive schooling in their mother tongue.

Umalusi’s public statement on its standardisation decisions regarding exam marks (which account for 75% of the final year mark) showed that the marks for mathematical literacy were accepted as they were.

This was even though the average of 43.73% was higher than the average of 39.59% in 2009 and the adjusted average of 41.87% in 2008 (originally 45.2%).

Umalusi said the improvement in marks could be attributed to the fact that more learners chose this subject than mathematics.

It was also a new subject that could not be compared to the previous “standard grade” and it had to be given time to “stabilise”.

Calitz noted that English as an additional first language, which was taken by 447 631 learners, received a blanket upward adjustment of 1%. The average was raised from 44.68% to 46.68%, compared to 45.21% in 2008 and 46.33% in 2009.

Adjustments to subjects taken by a large number of pupils definitely affected the general pass rates, Calitz said. Umalusi said it adjusted the marks because experts had said that the question paper contained mostly medium to highly difficult questions. 

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