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Umalusi says matric mark adjustments above board

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Education experts say there is nothing fishy about the standardisation process used by the Council for Quality Assurance in Further Education and Training‚ Umalusi‚ in the wake of criticism of the process by the Democratic Alliance (DA).

In an open letter addressed to Umalusi CEO Dr Mafu Rakometsi‚ DA education spokesman Gavin Davis suggested that the methodology employed for mark adjustments in matric results was unsound.

This is something Umalusi has strongly denied.

Adjustments take place each year to ensure matric results are comparable year on year‚ even though the exam papers differ.

In the letter‚ Davis suggested that marks were adjusted in subjects where scores were low in the absence of evidence that the question papers were more difficult.

Davis said: “According to Umalusi and the Department of Basic Education (DBE)‚ adjusting the raw mark upwards is justified if the exam paper was demonstrably more difficult (ie‚ more cognitively demanding) than previous years. However‚ no evidence has been put forward to demonstrate that these papers were of a higher standard.

“I noticed at the standardisation meeting that the starting point for adjusting the marks was not the papers themselves‚ but the results. In cases when the raw mark was worse than last year’s‚ the DBE went back to the paper and found difficult questions to explain the drop in the raw mark. The DBE then motivated for the raw mark to be adjusted upwards accordingly.”

He said he feared marks were being artificially inflated.

But Basil Manuel‚ executive director of the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa)‚ said the union was happy with the Umalusi standardisation process and that the body had made it clear how the process had happened.

“There was a lot of transparency at the meeting in which statisticians tried to explain what they had done.”

He said the standardisation body didn’t need to increase or change Physical Science or History marks‚ which was a positive thing.

Manuel said: “Standardisation happens internationally in order to ensure papers are comparable year to year. It is done in universtities and technical colleges. It is not an unusual phenomenon. It is done to standardise the fact there are different markers each year that may have a different understanding of the process.

“The explanations to more than hundred people were very well organised and clear by statisticians.”

Education professor at the University of the Witwatersrand Elizabeth Walton also said that Umalusi had taken care to explain the standardisation process publically‚ though some questions were still worth asking.

“Clarity would be appreciated on subjects where raw marks were kept when [marks in those subjects] were higher‚” she said.

Responding to Davis’ letter‚ Umalusi denied that Rakometsi had declined to answer questions forwarded to him by Davis.

“In a series of emails between Mr Davis and Dr Rakometsi‚ which started on 27 December‚ 2016‚ several reasons were given to him why it was not prudent to engage in an email discussion on a matter as complex and technical as standardisation‚” it said.

Umalusi adjusted marks in 28 subjects upwards and lowered the marks in four subjects in the matric examinations administered by the DBE this year.

[Source: TMG Digital]
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