Matric results standarsisation gives a skew picture of the current state of education in the country

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As 2017 begins to gain its momentum one tends to turn to the year that comes before it. The beginning of January welcomed not only a new year but answers for the Matrics of the year 2016. It is the dawn of a new chapter in one’s post-school life or beckons in a time of reflection and need to try again. With the release of the results come interesting debate and statistics about the current state of education in South Africa.

The final results pass rate, excluding the results of the so called ‘progressed’ learners are at 76, 2%, an increase from the previous years’ pass rate. The provincial pass rate indicates that the Free State has the highest pass rate at 93.2% ; the second highest pass rate provincially was the Western Cape at 87.7% and the third highest provincial pass rate belonging to Gauteng at 87%.

Whilst these results have been praised by the Umalusi council, the quality assurance body, and the Department of Basic Education, there has been some concerns about the mark standardisation and ultimately the impact the results have on the South Africa’s school-leavers.

Concerns about standardisation and the systemic issues, raised questions of the general “trend towards upwards adjustments”. This concerns were explained in various points, that out of “32 adjusted subjects, 28 had their marks adjusted upwards and only four downwards in a manner that did not seem to address cognitive demands of papers and results achieved adequately.

This is problematic as it could potentially skew the statistics that various educational bodies rely on to benchmark progress and, thus, could render areas that need addressing, easy to overlook.

Despite Umalusi and the Department of Education dealing with these concerns, they still create an excellent opportunity for discussion around standardisation. As integral a part of the marking process, standardisation is one area that needs to be constantly assessed to ensure that indicators of things going awry within educational systems nationally are acknowledged.

The chairperson of Umalusi, Prof John Volmink, stated concerns about the achievements of students in the area of mathematics and steadily in mathematical literacy too. The marks speak for themselves, showing where attention needs to be directed and this is a positive.

Prof Volmink’s acknowledgement is essential for the developing of a narrative whereby the nation dedicates itself to ensuring that steps towards nurturing the best possible education for the country’s youth are put in place. The way to do this is to look at the feedback matric results give us.