Heads of Examinations and their teams from each of the nine provincial education departments;
Staff from the Quality Assurance Council, Umalusi;
Members of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU);
Members of the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA);
Members of the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU);
Representative from the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA);
Representative from the Universities South Africa (USAf);
Representatives from the Independent Examination Boards, the IEB and SACAI;
Representatives from the National Association of Independent Schools of South Africa (NAISA)
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my singular honour, and a privilege to speak at this Annual Lekgotla of the National Examinations and Assessment Committee (NEAC).
As we know, the National Examinations and Assessment Committee is one of the longest serving sub-committees of HEDCOM.
It is also this sub-committee that has become synonymous with the successful administration of public examinations in our country.
I must congratulate this cohort of education managers, and stakeholders for your stellar performance in our most recent national public examinations.
We further congratulate you on your effective social compact that has delivered robust, and credible examination system in our country since 1996.
Today, our public examinations standards are comparable to the best in the world.
In his 2019 State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa said education is one of the seven priorities of the sixth administration.
The cornerstone of the post-apartheid democratic order has been to overhaul the basic education entirety.
In recent years, we have focused on achieving greater efficiencies of the education system while paying particular attention on improving learning outcomes.
We remain committed to the pursuit of quality basic education, the necessary raising of standards, and careful monitoring of progress.
One of the 11 priorities of Basic Education in this sixth administration is dealing decisively with the quality and efficiency of our education system.
We have elected to so through implementation of standardised assessments to reduce failure, repetition, and drop-out rates.
As you know we are also working on the introduction of multiple qualifications such as the General Education Certificate (GEC) before the Grade 12 exit qualification.
Thus you will have your work cut out once this GEC becomes a reality.
I must reemphasise that the purpose of the GEC is to provide a foundation certificate for learners in the General Education and Training (GET) Band.
This is so that we acknowledge the competencies gained from nine years of formal schooling at the end of Grade 9.
The achievement of the GEC will allow learners to access three learning pathways.
As you may recall, we have recently finalised the Concept Paper to strengthen the Three-Stream Curriculum Model that will offer our learners a choice of learning streams that best suit their capabilities.
The GEC is not a new qualification neither an exit one.
It was registered in the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) in 2008/09, and expired in June 2012.
Progress in the development of the GEC has been made as follows:
- The qualification framework has been reviewed.
- Approval has been granted for handing the qualification framework over to Umalusi for further refinement up to registration by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
- The qualification has been submitted to Umalusi for finalisation and submission to SAQA for registration on the National Qualifications Framework.
I am expecting NEAC to play a key role in building an assessment ecosystem that enjoys the same credibility as the NSC examinations.
We mustn’t replicate the complexities of the NSC examinations system as it is a high stakes one.
There is a Zulu idiom that says, kushawa edonsayo. It simple means those who work hard tend to be given more to do.
In line with this wisdom of the ages, we plan to launch a systemic evaluation to be conducted at strategic grades.
We are finalising technical standards for the administration of systemic evaluation to enable high level national and provincial monitoring.
We are to do so in the light of the National Development Plan (NDP’s) injunction that we must have a ‘world class assessment system’ involving ‘reliable measures of learning for every school across grades.’
The first cycle of systemic evaluation in Grades 3, 6 and 9 will be finalised by June this year.
It is against these priorities, and new policy imperatives that this Lekgotla convenes today.
At the heart of a successful education system, is a credible and integrous public examination system.
It must enjoy respect and be acknowledged as such by the higher education institutions, employers and our people.
The National Senior Certificate has stood the test of time, and has maintained its currency & status at home and beyond.
According to pundits, the matric certificate, our only exit qualification from the basic education system, after 12 years of teaching and learning has intrinsic value for both individuals and society.
Foreinstance, research indicates that the labour market values the matric certificate, and this positive attitude has remained the same in the post-apartheid era.
Researchers say that the premium to matriculation in terms of earnings and the probability of finding a job has also remained positive.
Researchers insist that the worsening of the labour market outcomes of matriculants should not be confused with a negative valuation of the matriculation certificate relative to fewer years of education.
We are thus proud of your exploits as this collective.
Thus as members of NEAC you must take full credit for having persevered and laboured beyond the normal call of duty over these many years to deliver our credible public examinations.
Our public examination system stands out as one of the most successful State led project in the country.
I am confident that you will continue to maintain these high standards into the foreseeable future.
Having mastered the administration of large scale examinations, I need to alert this Lekgotla that currently examinations dominate the assessment systems in many countries.
In my view, there is a lack of emphasis on the role of formative assessment in the learning process.
Arguably this explains the accumulated content, and skills deficits that are not identified immediately in the classroom.
This might as well explain the poor achievement of our learners which results in high learner drop outs.
It is an undeniable fact that effective teaching and learning can only be measured through effective assessment practices in the classroom.
In the 21st century we rightfully need to ask, ‘How can we ensure that learners think critically and creatively, use evidence to solve complex problems and communicate clearly?’
Therefore, our education system need to be geared towards developing an ‘Assessment for Learning’ approach with improved capacity and skills of all education officials.
I am encouraged by the adoption of the National Assessment Framework (NAF) by our social partners.
This is a first major step in ensuring that we emphasise all components of assessment.
These include formative, the summative and the systemic, so that we do not become an examination driven system.
I was also encouraged by your support to our deaf learners in South Africa by granting them the opportunity to sit for the first South African Sign Language-Home Language examinations since 2018.
The performance of the learners with special needs who wrote the 2019 NSC examination confirms that we are supporting our learners with special needs at appropriate levels. We can do better.
Of the 2656 learners with special needs that wrote the examination, 2319 (87%) of the learners attained the NSC and 1310 of these learners attained admission to Bachelor Studies.
This is remarkable by all standards but let us increase the number of learners with special needs who register to write the NSC examination across all provinces.
We need to increase the professional support across all districts so that learners with special needs are identified early and appropriately serviced.
I have also been in discussion with the senior managers regarding the establishment of an independent National Examination council.
I am of the view that the climate is right for us to set up such an external body that takes responsibility for the administration of the public examinations so that we have enhanced credibility.
In the future, we have to relieve the Department of Basic Education from the responsibility of managing public examinations.
Despite our recent successes and professionalism, there are conflicting roles of being the institution that delivers education, and the evaluator of the curriculum outcomes.
I am awaiting for the NEAC to develop a concept document on the model that could be adopted to suit our local context.
Hopefully, you will do so after having considered international best practice in this area, and carefully considering the implications of such a model for South Africa.
My advice to all of you is that you must reflect on assessment challenges in our country.
These include grade repetition, low throughput rates, multiple examination opportunities, policies on progression, and the setting up of appropriate pass requirements.
Poor learning foundations are often the main cause of these challenges.
Therefore, we must prioritise the improvement of the quality of assessment in the early years of schooling.
This is to ensure that learners are equipped with the skills needed to cope with the cognitive demand of tasks in the higher grades.
In conclusion, one must emphasise the need for an integrated approach to assessment without allowing public examinations to dominate the assessment regime.
I wish you strength and courage as you find the right tonic so as to enhance our already credible public examinations ecosystem.
All the best in your deliberations.
I thank you