Matric results riddle

2011-01-08 17:32

Concerns over the validity of the matric results continue to mount amid quality assurance body Umalusi’s ­refusal to explain how marks were ­adjusted.

In a major public rebuke, respected academic and Umalusi standardisation committee member Professor John Aitchison told City Press it was “appalling” that the body was ­secretive about the ­subjects that were ­adjusted.

The dramatic improvement in the matric pass rate (7.2 percentage points) has come as a surprise to many.

Despite desperate attempts by the basic education department to quell fears, the following key questions ­remain unanswered:

» What caused the steep decrease in the number of full-time candidates, coupled with a significant increase in that of part-time matrics? and;

» Why was there a sudden big ­improvement in pass rates of popular subjects? (see sidebar)

Umalusi has refused to make public the 19 subjects that had marks adjusted upwards or downwards and the 39 whose raw marks were ­accepted – a decision Aitchison called “appalling”.

He added: “All useful information about the matric exams should be in the public domain because we need it to make correct evaluations of the exam system.

And this information will in no way compromise the exam results.”Yesterday, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said: “It is of critical ­importance to preserve the credibility of the matric certificate. If there are questions, they should be asked, ­investigated fully and answered.”

On Friday, Umalusi issued a statement saying the standardisation process was confidential – without ­referring to the relevant legislation.

Umalusi chief executive Dr Mafu Rakometsi said that withholding the ­information was in the “best interest of ­individual learners and the entire ­education system”.

Rakometsi said on Friday the adjustment process happened behind closed doors because it was “highly complex, technical and qualitative”.However, according to an Umalusi insider, the real reasons for the non-disclosure were:

» Universities might scoff at the learners’ marks (symbols) as not ­being a true reflection of their actual academic abilities;

» Learners could lose bursaries;

» It could negatively affect those ­intending to study abroad; and

» Adjustments were not done across the board and best-performing ­learners whose marks were ­untouched could be prejudiced.

According to City Press’s source, Umalusi is considering calling a council meeting this week to deal with the “unprecedented” situation.

Questions sent to Umalusi on Friday were not answered.

Full-time candidates

The number of full-time candidates last year was much lower than in 2009 – something for which the basic education department has no ­explanation at this stage.

Last year 537 543 matrics wrote the ­prescribed seven subjects, 14 530 fewer than 2009’s 552 073 full-time candidates.

In contrast, the national number of part-time candidates more than doubled – from 39 255 in 2009 to 82 835 last year.

These figures have led to claims that schools were weeding out weaker learners, forcing them to become part-timers to ensure a good pass rate.

Department spokesperson Granville Whittle said the dramatic increase in the number of part-timers should be viewed against the effect of a backlog caused by a curriculum change in 2008, which caused a sharp drop in part-timers to 1 116.

He said it was difficult to explain why there were fewer full-time candidates last year.

Behind the numbers

A steep improvement in the pass rate for physical science was recorded last year.

Some 47.8% of the more than 205 000 learners who took this ­subject passed with a mark of 30% or higher.

In 2009, the pass rate for the subject was 36.8%.

In the case of another popular ­subject, life sciences, just short of 75% of learners passed – a jump of 9.1 ­percentage points.

In maths literacy, 86% passed – an increase of 11.3 percentage points.

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