EXAM RED FLAGS
Umalusi matric irregularities findings — group copying, errors in exam papers heighten concerns
The Department of Basic Education is investigating instances of copying among candidates who wrote the National Senior Certificate examinations.
Copying, errors and poor printing quality are some of the concerns raised by Umalusi chief executive officer Dr Mafu Rakometsi relating to matric exams ahead of the public release of the results on Thursday, 18 January 2024.
Rakometsi told reporters at the media briefing in Pretoria on Monday that they are “deeply concerned” about the detected cases of group copying involving 945 candidates who wrote the National Senior Certificate (matric) examinations in 2023.
“Of this number, 763 cases (80.7%) cases were detected in KwaZulu-Natal and 164 (17.7%) in Mpumalanga,” Rakometsi said.
According to the report submitted, Rakometsi said these are cases where the candidates displayed common answers and, in some cases, the same wrong and right answers.
“These cases are not yet resolved because the numbers are still being verified,” he said.
In relation to printing errors or poor print quality of some of the questions, Rakometsi said:
- there was an omission of a subscript on the formula of an organic compound in Physical Sciences Paper 2 in Question 2.2, which was for 3 marks;
- The Physical Sciences Paper 2 in the North-West had missing grid lines in Question 3.5 meant for 6 marks; and
- The three Civil Technology specialisations (Civil Services, Construction and Woodworking) in both the English and Afrikaans versions had major printing errors in Limpopo.
He said the poor print quality in the Civil Services specialisation affected questions worth 60 marks in the English version and 62 marks in the Afrikaans version.
“In Construction, questions worth 31 marks in the English version and 14 marks in Afrikaans were affected,” Rakometsi said.
The marks affected in the Woodworking specialisation were 22 and 26 for English and Afrikaans respectively.
“Aside from printing quality, we would like to raise translation quality as something that needs careful attention,” Rakometsi added.
Due to the poor quality of translation from English into Afrikaans, he said candidates could not respond to questions 3.2.5 and 3.2.6 worth 3 marks in the Afrikaans version of Geography Paper 1.
“To mitigate the possible impact of these errors on performance of candidates, the questions concerned were excluded from the marking process and the marks achieved upscaled using conversion tables.”
On the other hand, he said it is regrettable that one of the questions in the Mathematical Literacy Paper 1 naively used the words “Mandatory Palestine”.
He said this was caused by the examiners and moderators being unaware of the political connotations of the words.
“Umalusi appreciates the fact that the DBE [Department of Basic Education] issued an apology in this regard.”
Umalusi’s chairperson Professor Yunus Ballim said the DBE is required to block the results of all candidates implicated in irregularities including the candidates who are implicated in the alleged acts of dishonesty, pending the outcome of the DBE investigations and verification by Umalusi.
“Umalusi is concerned about the recurring instances of printing and packaging errors in question papers and the ongoing practice of group copying,” Ballim said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Free State matrics caught with crib notes, phones in examination centres
The DBE, Ballim said, is required to address the directives for compliance and improvement highlighted in the Quality Assurance of Assessment report and submit an improvement plan by 15 March 2024.
He said Umalusi executive committee of council (Exco) commends the DBE for conducting a successful examination on such a large scale.
“Having studied all the evidence presented, Exco of Council concluded that the examinations were administered largely in accordance with the Regulations Pertaining to the Conduct, Administration, and Management of the National Senior Certificate Examinations.”
He said the irregularities identified during the writing and marking of the examinations were not systemic and therefore did not compromise the overall credibility and integrity of the exams.
“Exco of Council therefore approves the release of the DBE November 2023 National Senior Certificate examination results.”
Rakometsi said Umalusi is concerned about the unresolved irregularities associated with the previous cycle of examinations, especially in the private college space involving the General Education and Training Certificate: Adult Basic Education and Training (GETC: ABET) examinations.
“We urge the assessment bodies concerned to give this matter the priority that it deserves,” he said. DM