The 2014 matric results for mathematics, mathematics literacy and physical science were worse than in 2013, monitoring body Umalusi said on Tuesday.
Mathematics had undergone major changes in content with the inclusion of Euclidean geometry and probability, Umalusi council chairman Prof John Volmink told reporters in Pretoria.
He said the curriculum would prove a challenge to most pupils.
“This was shown in the learner performance in that there is a significant increase in the failure rate compared with 2013,” he said.
“However, learners at the top experienced the mathematics examination much easier.”
In mathematics literacy pupils did “significantly worse” in 2014 than in any previous year.
He said upward adjustments were made to the marks at all levels for mathematics literacy. Normal mathematics had no adjustment at the bottom end and a slight downward adjustment at the top end.
Volmink said the results of all but 58 examination centres, where irregularities were found, would be released next week.
In physical science, pupils performed worse than in 2013 and an upward adjustment was made at all levels. Life sciences was the “easiest in the group of subjects” taken and the marks were decreased.
In business studies the performance was the worst compared to any other year and the marks were increased.
In mathematics there were more failures, but also more distinctions. Volmink said the crux of the matter was how children were being taught. He said there had been no real improvement over the last five years.
“To be quite frank, we thought the results would be much worse because large sections of the mathematics curriculum was not there last year.”
He speculated there might have been more emphasis on teaching the subject, otherwise the results would have been worse.
He said for the basic education department, 58 subjects were presented for standardisation. After moderation the raw marks for 35 subjects were accepted, 13 subjects had marks increased, and 10 decreased.
Volmink said evidence of “group copying” was found in the 58 centres in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
“This is a new phenomenon… Umalusi is very concerned about this trend and takes the view that strong action be taken against those learners and supervisors who have made themselves guilty of these acts of dishonesty.”
Following a probe, in KwaZulu-Natal 39 centres were implicated in cheating and 19 in the Eastern Cape.
Volmink said the irregularities did not affect the integrity and credibility of the exams as a whole. KwaZulu-Natal had 1741 examination centres and the Eastern Cape had 924, so the irregularities occurred at two percent of the centres.
When asked how the irregularities were discovered, Umalusi CEO Mafu Rakometsi said pupils provided the same answers.
“These problems were detected at the marking centres… the students are providing the same answers, the same right answers, the same wrong answers.
“It is clear that there is sharing of notes, it is clear that there is dictation.”
Giving an example, he said whoever gave the dictation to pupils said “go ahead” and the pupils wrote “go ahead” on their answer sheets.
He said if pupils wanted to cheat it was the duty of teachers, principals, and supervisors to stop them.
The department had told Umalusi the investigation into these centres would be completed by the end of March and “drastic measures” would be taken to deal with the problem, Rakometsi said.
Volmink said apart from these incidents the 2014 matric exams, although not perfect, were “fair and credible”.
Umalusi approved the release of the exam results from the basic education department, the Independent Examinations Board (IEB), the SA Comprehensive Assessment Institute, and the higher education department.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said on Tuesday her department had opened its gender-based violence “command centre” for counselling to IEB matriculants who would get their results on Wednesday.
Dlamini appealed to parents to beware of signs of depression in their children so they could seek help for them.
Public schools’ matric exam results will be released next Tuesday. SAPA