Marking quality concerns

2007-12-08 00:00

Speaking on condition that their anonymity is respected in view of alleged high levels of intimidation, several educators have expressed their concern over the manner in which markers were selected for this year’s examinations, and the possible effects this process may have had on the quality of the outcome in KwaZulu-Natal.

One of the most flagrant examples of the topsy-turvy nature of these appointments relates to History, they said.

Midway through this year, The Witness carried an article about the appalling grade 11 History paper that was circulated to schools in the province as part of the common testing programme. One expert described the paper as a reversion to “Bantu education”, and the head of the Education portfolio committee, Senzo Mchunu admitted the concerns were legitimate.

“One would imagine that anyone involved in setting this travesty of a paper would have been sanctioned in some way — at the very least retired from History assessment until he or she had shown greater competence. Instead, one of the two individuals involved was appointed as chief marker of one of the four history papers. This is the highest rank in the marking committee and this individual bears the ultimate responsibility for the quality of the marking,” said one of the sources.

They said that in complete contrast to this, several individuals of proven competence found themselves demoted to junior positions for no apparent reason.

They added that in many cases, highly competent teachers with exceptional results were overlooked in favour of teachers with much more dubious records.

“Teachers who had minimal experience of teaching and examining at the Higher Grade sometimes found themselves appointed as senior markers at this grade. Equally, teachers with years of Higher Grade experience found themselves marking Standard Grade, for which they had very little experience.”

The teachers said that the effect of “all this tinkering” appears to have been dire. “There seems to be no realisation on the part of the department that marking is not an empowerment exercise for supposedly marginalised teachers. The client is the learner not the teacher and only the appointment of the most qualified and competent, regardless of demographic factors, will ensure that the learner can rest assured that his or her paper has been competently and fairly assessed.”

Despite these serious allegations, the Education Department alleges that there is “nothing to investigate”.

Education spokeswoman Christi Naudé said that the selection of markers was based on the general need to build capacity among serving educators in order to attain equity. “The appointment of persons to senior positions should be based on experience in both teaching and marking.”

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