Education is a necessary pre-requisite for the advancement of any civilised nation. The erosion of public trust in our educational system will unavoidably lead to economic and political woes.
I have paid close attention to the matric results of 2015 and 2016 and the process leading to the finalisation of the results. There appear to be many grey areas that seem to irk tertiary institutions and business investors. The following events that happened before, during and after the release of the matric results should raise eyebrows and should require an independent internal audit.
It is worth noting that we, as South Africans, are also stakeholders in the educational systems that the government has put in place. We are all affected in one way or the other by the good/bad quality of education that plagues the nation.
The essence of entrance examinations into tertiary and higher educational institutions is to build public trust and uphold the intergrity of the educational system. If anything, the matric examination body has not lived up to this standard lately.
The following events that happened before, during and after the release of the matric results should raise eyebrows and require and independent audit.
1. Leaked examination papers
It does not sit well (at least with me) to learn that matric examination papers are leaked with relative ease. These leaks happen year on year at the same province (Limpopo).
In 2015, there was a matric exam paper leak that originated in Limpopo and spread across the nation. There was an action plan to deal decisively with the exam paper leak and bring the perpetrators to book. Going through the action items that the Minister of Basic education planned to do was to arrest and lock up of the perpetrators. However, nothing seems to have been done to prevent the exam paper leak from recurring.
We fast-forward to matric 2016 and we note, with dismay, that the same province (Limpopo) had leaked examination questions which resulted in more than 700 matriculants required to re-sit for the examination. The consequences of the leaked exam questions are far-reaching, thus the need to perform a proper internal audit of the exam question handling processes.
2. Absurd and mediocre threshold required for passing matric
Nicholas Spaull, an education researcher from Stellenbosch University explains that in order to pass the matric exam, pupils are required to take a minimum of seven subjects. These include three compulsory subjects – usually a first language, a first additional language, mathematics or mathematical literacy and life orientation.
“You need 40% in three subjects (one of which must be your home language), and 30% in 3 other subjects,” Spaull said. If a pupil meets that bare minimum, they will pass even if they fail their seventh subject.
Reading this has my tummy rumbling. The fact that 40% can be considered and discussed publicly as the threshold of passing 3 of 7 subjects is problematic. To add salt to the wounds, there is a further requirement of 30% score to pass 3 of the remaining 7 subjects.
If we compare this threshold with professional qualifications such as the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), which requires a score of at least 75% on all 3 subjects to pass, we see that the requirements to pass matric are very mediocre and need to be audited and reviewed.
Final results adjustments
The process of adjusting matric results upward by government institutions (Ministry of Basic Education) after the examination has been completed needs to be reviewed. It raises eyebrows when ministers, who are able to wield political power, interfere and meddle in the finalisation process of a public examination such as the matric exams. This practice does not speak well nationally, internationally and rendered the process to appear conflicted. The matric examinations should be handled by independent bodies from start to end and there should be no political influence over the process. In additional to the perceived non-transparent process, the “adjustments” (as they are called) are said to be done in a confidential manner. Which means that public, which should rely on these results, have no clue about what happens inside closed doors.
We look forward to better and transparent matric examination management processes.
Write to me or follow the discussion on my Twitter handle (@RansomNformi) and let me know what you think.