South Africa

EDUCATION & PANDEMIC

Umalusi gives its approval to 2020 National Senior Certificate exam results

Umalusi gives its approval to 2020 National Senior Certificate exam results
Umalusi says the investigation into the exam paper leaks that rocked the Department of Basic Education last year is ongoing.(Photo: Gallo Images / The Times / Daniel Born)

The quality assurance body Umalusi has rubber-stamped the 2020 National Senior Certificate exams despite the pending outcome of the investigation into the leaks of the mathematics and physical sciences Paper 2. The body also reported other irregularities at exam centres that did not involve leaks.

Despite numerous isolated irregularities and two leaked examination papers, the 2020 National Senior Certificate (NSC) exam results have been approved by the quality assurance body Umalusi. 

However, Umalusi did state that the investigation into the leaks that rocked the Department of Basic Education (DBE) during the exams last year is still ongoing. 

The DBE administered the NSC examinations of 1,055,529 candidates – making it the largest exam ever sat for in SA, as a result of the cancellation of the June rewrite exams that could not take place because of Covid-19 and had to be combined with the November exams. 

“The executive committee of the council is satisfied that, based on the evidence [presented by the DBE], there were no systemic irregularities which might have compromised the overall credibility and integrity of the 2020 NSC exams,” said Professor John Volmink, Umalusi’s chair of the council. 

Umalusi held a briefing on Monday 15 February ahead of the release of the 2020 matric exam results scheduled for 22 February. 

Explaining what he meant by systemic irregularities, Volmink said there would always be irregularities in the examination environment, while systemic irregularities, on the other hand, undermine the credibility and integrity of the examination. 

“These [systemic irregularities] are exam irregularities that compromise the integrity of the examinations on a large scale. So, when a paper leaks, it has that potential to affect a subject in an entire school, district, or nation,” he said. 

The DBE also reported cases of group copying to Umalusi which involved 893 learners from four provinces. Their results will be blocked pending further investigations. 

Various assessment bodies approved by Umalusi to administer the exams experienced irregularities, some of which were administrative, technical and systemic. 

The Independent Examination Board (IEB) reported two isolated cases of irregularities to Umalusi that involved copying. 

Volmink said while the council was satisfied that the exams were administered according to examination policies and regulations, the results of learners implicated in irregularities must be blocked pending investigations by the IEB. 

Each assessment body submits a report of irregularities noted during the examinations period to the quality assurer, who then approves the results of each body based on the report. 

“They [irregularities] are across all assessment bodies and they vary in degrees,” said Dr Mafu Rakometsi, Umalusi CEO. 

“A learner writing a subject at the wrong level is considered an irregularity: You are registered to write English home language, but at the point when you are given examination papers during the exam, you are given an English first additional language paper – that is an irregularity.” 

Rakometsi said the list of general irregularities noted at all the assessment bodies was exhaustive but the leaks were contained to the DBE. 

As the quality assurance body, Umalusi has to standardise results from all assessment bodies to maintain consistent results over the years. 

Volmink said standardisation “aims (in the main) to achieve equivalence of the standard of the examination across years, subjects and assessment bodies and to deliver a relatively constant product to the market”.

Standardisation involves adjustments that can be made to candidates’ marks in each subject, either downward or upward, depending on the material or contextual conditions of the adjustment. 

An adjustment can be made to a mark if, for example, a question in an exam paper may disadvantage or advantage certain candidates. 

In the case of the DBE, Umalusi received raw marks (marks received from the assessment body before standardisation) for 65 subjects. After moderation, raw marks were accepted for 48 subjects from the 65. 

Eight subjects were adjusted downward, with nine adjusted upwards towards the average historical learner performance. 

A total of 13,163 candidates sat for the IEB-administered NSC examination. A total of 66 subjects were presented for standardisation to Umalusi, of which raw marks were accepted for 46 subjects with upward adjustments for eight subjects and downward shifts for the remaining 12. 

All adjusted results, however, cannot be adjusted by more than 10% of the mark obtained by a candidate. 

Rakometsi cautioned candidates who were involved in the leaks, group copying and other punishable irregularities that their results would be blocked.

At a media briefing on Sunday, Hugh Amoore, chairperson of the National Investigations Task Team (Nitt), operating under the auspices of the National Examinations Irregularities Committee (NEIC), found that based on the available evidence, widespread leaks did not occur.  

“Given the fact that the spread of the questions papers was done via WhatsApp, it is a fact that the full extent of the leaks may never be revealed.” DM

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