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Matric class of 2021 'lost 50% of school year in Grade 11'

Education department unpacks impact of pandemic

Yoliswa Sobuwa Journalist
Umalusi has found that matric class of 2021 has lost a substantial amount of classroom time due to Covid-19.
Umalusi has found that matric class of 2021 has lost a substantial amount of classroom time due to Covid-19.

The matric class of 2021 was confronted with an unprecedented crisis and they lost more than 50% of their Grade 11 year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This emerged when the department of basic education unpacked to Umalusi yesterday some of the challenges experienced by the class of 2021.

Department director-general Mathanzima Mweli said the loss of 50% of the Grade 11 year had serious consequences for this class. 

“These learners not only had to deal with a reduced exposure to face-to-face teaching and learning but they also had to contend with the anxieties and trauma of  Covid-19. Countless families have been pushed to the limits of financial endurance from lost jobs and income,” Mweli said.

He said the pandemic affected pupils in different ways, including losing loved ones.

“Many families have lost family members and friends due to the pandemic. Children have lost their parents, grandparents and [other] care givers. We often do not consider the psychological effect of this pandemic on learners,” he said. 

Mweli said the meeting they had with Umalusi, the country's education quality assurer, was on the standardisation of the 2021 national senior certificate examinations which is a special meeting that deserves attention for a number of reasons. 

Mweli said one of the purposes of standardisation was to ensure fairness from year to year and the disadvantages suffered by the class of 2021 cannot be ignored, as part of the social justice obligations.

“The crucially important foundation that Grade 11 work builds in preparation for Grade 12, was weakened. We will therefore see the deleterious effect of lost teaching time, in particular on those subjects that are time- intensive such as the languages, and subjects that are heavily dependent on language for utility, such as mathematical literacy,” he said.

Mweli said the class of 2021 is also the first class to be presented with the amendments to section 4 of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (Caps), which brought changes to the programme of assessment for subjects in grades 10 and 11 that affected 20 of the 67 subjects of this class.

“A further unanticipated hurdle that confronted this class was the load-shedding that would have adversely affected their final preparations for the examinations.

“A total of 733,746 full-time [candidates] registered to write the 2021 NSC examination, the largest full-time cohort over the last few years. A total of 123,487 more full-time candidates and 46,942 more part-time candidates registered to write the examination,” Mweli said.

He said of the 733,746 candidates that registered for the examination, 700,604 wrote the examination, which reflects the lowest percentage of “no shows” (4.5%), over the past few years. 

“The increase in the number of full-time candidates can be attributed to a number of factors and one of the key factors is the change in the assessment regime in grade 10 and 11, which was prompted by the need to create maximum time for teaching and learning,” he said.

Mweli said the school-based assessment in Grade 11 was increased from 25% to 60% and examinations were replaced by controlled tests. 

“Hence, the change in assessment practices resulted in a different outcome. These learners would therefore have written their first fully-fledged examination in their Grade 12 year, which was part of the preparatory examination,” he said.

Standardisation is used to mitigate the effect of factors other than the pupils' knowledge, abilities and aptitude on their performance. 

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga is expected to announce the matric results on January 20.

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