It is that time of the year when we commence with the national senior certificate examinations.
The basic education department is hard at work to ensure that this year’s exam is not dogged by irregularities, is of the appropriate standard and largely error free. This year 677 141 full-time and 150 183 part-time candidates will sit for the exam.
Preparing for and managing an examination of this magnitude is a mammoth task. It requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders – most especially administrators that are a key cog in the success or failure of the entire national senior certificate examination process.
Having undertaken a comprehensive risk assessment process, the department has put in place additional security measures to safeguard these exams.
To avoid the leaking of exam papers, storage points across the country have been audited to ensure that they comply with minimum security standards. Those that do not comply will not be allowed to store exam papers.
Provincial education departments were instructed to audit all exam centres and to classify them as high, medium and low risk centres. There will be extra invigilation at centres considered medium or high risk to mitigate any risk of leaking of papers or any other security breach. Specific focus is on independent examination centres and those where irregularities were previously detected.
To safeguard papers and prevent the risk of storing printed papers for longer periods, provincial education departments have adopted a principle of “just in time” printing.
At the beginning of August provincial education departments received question papers for the November exams, but this was based on an already approved printing plan. This has been done to minimise the amount of time that approved question papers spend in storage.
The overall national picture when it comes to the storage of question papers reveals positive and worrying trends. While we are satisfied with the storage capacity and security of exam papers in the Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the North West, some challenges were experienced with regards to the remaining provinces.
In the Eastern Cape, there were concerns about security at district offices in Butterworth. Although there were concerns about Limpopo storage centres, enough has been done to address the security arrangements and we are confident that all will go well.
In the Northern Cape, question papers are stored at 27 schools. The Western Cape, which also stores question papers at schools, has introduced a Smart Locking Logic mechanism in 91 schools.
However, we are satisfied that examinations will be written at secure venues that are compliant with risk and security policies that we have put in place. Those centres that are considered high risk have been taken over the by the provincial education departments.
Where this is not possible, a risk monitor is placed at the centre in question for the duration of the exams. The training of exam invigilators was conducted based on a manual drawn up by the national department of basic education and training was done by competent teams.
Lastly, there are a number of important dates that must be noted. The national senior certificate exams kicked off on Tuesday and will be concluded on November 29.
The marking of external examination papers will be completed by December 15; from then on capturing and verification of the marks will take place.
Quality assurance body Umalusi has to standardise the marks and approve of the final national pass mark.
Once that is done, Minister Angie Motshekga will officially release the results on January 4 2017. The results will be released to candidates and to the media the next day.