Standardisation is too complex for email response – Umalusi on MP’s open letter

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 Gavin Davis. Picture: Lerato Maduna
Gavin Davis. Picture: Lerato Maduna

This is a brief response to Honourable Gavin Davis’ open letter published in City Press on December 30 – “We need to ensure that matric standards are maintained.”

Umalusi would like to make it abundantly clear that Honourable Davis is being dishonest and duplicitous in his letter by not providing the real reasons why Dr Mafu Rakometsi, the chief executive of Umalusi, “declined to answer his questions” as he curtly puts it.

In a series of emails between Mr Davis and Dr Rakometsi, which started on December 27, several reasons were given to him why it was not prudent to engage in an email discussion on a matter as complex and technical as standardisation. Umalusi has therefore decided to divulge the chain of emails between Rakometsi and Davis so that the South African public can make its own informed judgment on the issue. 

Suffice to say that it is Umalusi’s considered view that issues raised by Davis in his letter, genuine as they may be, also expose his lack of understanding of the intricate process of standardisation. Davis only had a two-hour exposure to a 10-day process that culminated in the meeting that he attended on December 23 in Pretoria. He attended the meeting as part of a delegation of the portfolio committee on basic education, which enjoys observer status in the meeting.

While the final stages of the standardisation process may seem highly statistical, this process of adjustment is the culmination of a long process of receiving and reflecting on qualitative and quantitative inputs. It starts with the setting of papers, then moderation, writing of exams, marking of exams, verification and only then – finally – adjustment of mark distributions.

Given the complex nature of the stages and processes followed, it can lead to misinterpretations especially if one observes any one of the stages in isolation or just the final one. The whole process of standardisation is the basis for Umalusi to declare exams fair, valid and credible.

So, Umalusi still maintains the point made in Rakometsi’s email response to Davis that council is prepared to conduct a workshop for the entire portfolio committee on basic education based on an invitation from the chairperson of the committee. Therefore, to avoid creating more confusion to the public, Umalusi will not respond in the media to Davis’ queries which require lengthy and technical responses. Instead, Umalusi will place a discursive article in one of the national publications on January 5. The article will outline the basic methodology and principles of standardisation in a non-technical parlance.

Umalusi is the council for the quality assurance of general and further education and training in South Africa.

According to Section 17A (4) of Umalusi’s founding Act, the General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Act, 2001 (as amended in 2008), “the council may adjust raw marks during the standardisation process.”

» Lucky Ditaunyane is Umalusi’s senior manager for public relations and communications


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