04/01/2017 07:43 SAST | Updated 04/01/2017 13:34 SAST

We Stand By The Matric Results, Department Says

This despite criticism that the results won't be a true reflection of examinations.

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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA � NOVEMBER 28: Matric pupils Roxanne celebrate with each other after completing final exams on November 28, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Greenside High School matric pupils celebrated outside the school premises after they wrote their final exam paper, Afrikaans. (Photo by Gallo Images / The Times / Alon Skuy)

The Basic Education Department is standing by its 2016 matric results, due to be released on Thursday, despite DA MP Gavin Davis questioning the way some averages were increased.

"We do stand by our results," said department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga on Tuesday.

"We don't quality assure ourselves - it is an independent entity that has done its job," he said, adding that the final results were assured by a team, including professors.

Last week, Davis wrote an open letter to the CEO of education quality assurance body Umalusi, Dr Mafu Rakometsi, questioning the way some matric marks were increased, if raw mark averages were lower than previous years. This was based on his observation of Umalusi's verification process.

Raw marks are the marks pupils get in their exams.

As a member of Parliament's basic education committee, Davis was part of a team of observers at Umalusi's deliberations on the results. According to him, a drop in the average was attributed to a very difficult exam question or paper.

Conversely, if marks were higher than normal, they were kept as they were and officials gave themselves a pat on the back for the improvement.

"It would be interesting to hear, in the case of each adjustment, what made that case exceptional. Because it seemed to me, as an observer, that some adjustments were made as a matter of routine, rather than exception," Davis told News24.

He said that, out of 58 subjects, 32 were adjusted. Only 26 retained the raw mark.

He wanted to know if there was a formalised policy on the adjustment of raw marks, which subjects were adjusted, and why.

His concern was that the adjustments could mask systemic problems, and find pupils being accepted to universities with marks that did not reflect their true abilities. This could lead to problems for the students once in university, he said.

He said he was worried that the 109 000 "progressed" pupils' results had not been treated separately. If these were pupils with a history of weaker marks, they could be pulling the averages down.

"Progressed" pupils are those unable to pass Grade 11. To prevent them from giving up and dropping out, they are put into Grade 12 and given extra support, often with a good outcome, he said.

Umalusi spokesperson Lucky Ditaunyane rejected Davis's concerns, saying the MP did not understand the intricacies of the process. He said Davis had spent only two hours observing something that went through different phases over 10 days.

"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," he said.

"It starts with the setting of papers, then moderation, writing of exams, marking of exams, verification and, only then, finally, adjustment of mark distributions."

Ditaunyane said Rakometsi had not ignored the concerns Davis had raised. Rakometsi had written back to Davis, saying he did not have enough staff to assign to his request, given the limited staff numbers over the holidays.

Instead, a workshop would be held soon for the committee to explain the process, and MPs would be able to ask questions.

The matric results are expected to be released on Thursday in the rest of the country and on Friday in the Western Cape. -- News24Wire