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Assessment experts encourage the DBE to improve learner assessment at public schools

“It is befitting for us to converge in this fashion to share best practice on international assessment to inform the DBE’s decision in dealing with assessment deficits. Although the DBE has made huge strides in terms of strengthening the National Senior Certificate (NSC),  more work still needs to be done to improve the level of literacy and numeracy in the General Education and Training (GET) band. The DBE needs to ensure that the sector empowers learners to become innovative, problem solvers, and critical thinkers to contribute to the development of the South African economy,” said Chief Director for National Assessment and Public Examinations, Dr Rufus Poliah during the DBE and Organisation for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD) workshop. The workshop took place at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg from 07 to 08 June 2018.

Dr Poliah further added that the DBE is busy finalising the preparatory processes for the implementation of Systemic Evaluation, which will be carried out at the beginning of October 2018. “The findings of this study will help us to improve operational systems at national, provincial and district levels with a view to strengthening the implementation of policies on improving learning outcomes. We also believe that the study will guide all levels of the Department in setting targets in relation to the national benchmarks for learner performance,” explained Dr Poliah.

Deputy Director-General for Planning, Information and Assessments, Mr Paddy Padayachee and Dr Poliah both delivered critical presentations on assessments. Dr Yuri Obara Belfali from the OECD commended the DBE for its ambition in developing a coherent framework for evaluation: “The OECD strongly encourages South Africa to join the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to improve its National Education system for the better,” she said. 

The workshop was attended by local and international assessment experts, focusing on developing a coherent National Evaluation and Assessment Framework to improve quality learning and teaching. The DBE partnered with OECD to gain an international perspective on best assessment policies and practices during the development of the framework. The OECD was expected to provide insight and experiences of developing countries participating in PISA. PISA includes several countries with emerging economies, from within BRICs and the G-20, including Russia, Japan, China and Switzerland.

The event ended with a report back session on the input collated during the commission discussions. 

Highlights from the Commissions:

Commission 1 Chairperson, Ms Helen Mokgosi, indicated that, “Our main responsibility in this commission is to make recommendations on the development of an assessment framework. Through this commission we engaged on the repackaging and aligning of all assessment components that are already in the system to add value to the development of the assessment framework. We also had robust discussions on the critical value of the national assessment as compared to international studies. We further engaged on possible ways to align the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) with the international assessments in order to meet international assessment standards. This workshop has been very critical because it afforded South Africa an opportunity to compare itself with other countries that are excelling in respect of international assessments”.

Commission 2 Chairperson, Dr Qetelo Moloi, former Director for Annual National Assessments, mentioned: “Our commission was tasked to discuss and make recommendations to the Department on the role that international assessments can play in South Africa, particularly in terms of improving teaching and learning in schools. The commission, comprising experts from curriculum to assessments, both local and international, recommended that South Africa stands to benefit from participating in international assessment. Benefits range from benchmarking national performance against international practices, interchange of expertise and general awareness about the quality of our education system. However, the commission cautioned against overloading the system with too many assessments. A prudent choice needs to be made without compromising the benefits that such assessments offer”.

Commission 3 Chairperson, Mr van der Horst said that, “The commission proceedings went very well. Our main objective was to explore various attributes of evaluation to help the Department in preparing for the Systemic Evaluation. There has been a good working relationship with all participants and hopefully all collective inputs that will be submitted as part of this commission will improve assessment in the South African context. Through the commission, we aim to gain a good understanding of international testing to guide processes around the Systemic Evaluation implementation in South Africa”.


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