Sacai matric results may be ‘mess’ again, parents warn

Henry

Months after the matric results shattered the dreams of thousands of Sacai matriculants, there is still no conclusion about what parents consider to be “serious malpractices” during the preparation and marking of the Sacai final exams.

These malpractices, parents claim, gave rise to the fact that less fortunate students were suddenly no longer able to study at a university or that many matrics failed against all expectations.

Even the quality control body Umalusi has meanwhile expressed its concern because the average for some final exam papers was below 30%.

Sacai registers candidates registered with distance learning providers and independent schools.

Almost 4,500 parents have already signed a petition to launch an “immediate and comprehensive” investigation into allegations of irregularities that have been circulating since January. A total of 5,826 learners were registered to write the exam.

“We believe in the importance of a fair and transparent assessment system for our students who have worked tirelessly throughout their academic journey,” reads the petition.

However, members of the Concerned Parents and Students group, who are in constant discussion with Sacai about the results, told RNews that the institution maintains that their processes are flawless. The fear now exists that the same fate will befall this year’s matrics again.

Radhiyaa Domingo is one of the students who is repeating her matric year this year. She forfeited selection to study medicine at one of three leading universities because her marks fell by between 30% and 40% after the final exam.

“I was in shock, devastated, when I got my grades at the beginning of the year,” she tells RNews.

Her annual average for all her subjects was between 80% and 90% before she wrote the final exam. After the exam, her maths and science marks dropped to an average of 50% and 40% respectively. Her life sciences and geography marks dropped from 90% to 70%.

Domingo says the papers themselves were quite easy for her, with only one or two questions she struggled with. “I worked hard my entire matric year and expected nothing less than distinctions.”

After she got her final results, she fell into a deep depression. She is now repeating her matric year through the Department of Basic Education (DBO).

Chané Venter is in the same boat. She achieved only 26% for business studies, a drop of more than 50 percentage points compared to her annual mark. She also forfeited her university selection.

“I cried all January. I had all these plans and now I can’t do anything more until I repeat the subjects.”

Concerns about learners’ weak points

In a report on the preparation, administration and marking of the final examination, Umalusi expresses his concern about what he describes as the “poor performance” of some candidates.

For mathematics paper one, learners only achieved an average of 39.3% and in paper two only 28.6%. This is 10 percentage points lower than in 2022. “Especially business studies’ average was very low, with 35.4% on average for the first paper and 33.4% for the second paper,” says the report.

The average mark for the geography paper was 25.7%. For question 3, which dealt with geographical skills and techniques, learners achieved an average below 17%. The reasons for this, Umalusi believes, are learners’ lack of in-depth subject knowledge and a poor understanding of subject content and terminology.

Umalusi does find irregularities

In a presentation to the parliamentary committee on basic education on 6 February, Umalusi said they were aware of numerous complaints about the results of the Sacai final examination.

“These complaints include that the year marks do not match the final and exam marks,” the submission states.

“The matter was taken up with Sacai and received Sacai’s attention. Umalusi’s executive committee, after considering all the evidence, came to the conclusion that the examination was largely set up and conducted in consultation with the relevant regulations.”

A few irregularities during the writing and marking of the answer sets were noticed. “However, these irregularities were not systemic and therefore did not have an influence on the credibility and integrity of the 2023 matric examination.”

As part of Umalusi’s quality control process, 46 papers were reviewed before the exam to ensure the content was correct and fair and that the marking guidelines were clear and fair. Only five of these papers were approved in the first round of moderation. Sacai had to make changes to the rest.

A total of 17 papers had graphics, sketches or tables that were “suspicious”. Six of the papers’ content was not appropriate, relevant or academically correct.

Regarding guidelines for marking answer sets, only 31% of the marking guidelines agreed with the relevant papers during the first round of moderation. In some cases, the answers to the memoranda did not correspond at all to the questions in the question paper. Only 9% of the marking guidelines were reliable in the first round.

Consequently, Umalusi also advised Sacai to “give intensive training to examination panels”, but was satisfied with the final marking guidelines and instructions to markers for all the papers.

Inquiries were already sent early Wednesday morning to Chipo Chibaya, head of Sacai’s department that coordinates the national matric examination. She only replied on Friday evening to say that Sacai would respond to inquiries on Monday. RNews will post these answers as soon as they are received.