Minimal dropout of grade 12s writing exams despite Covid-19 disruptions

For the first time in the country’s history, more than a million candidates will sit for the matric exams.
For the first time in the country’s history, more than a million candidates will sit for the matric exams.
Image: 123RF/Julija Sapic

The department of basic education is on track with its preparations for the largest ever matric exams, which start next Thursday.

This is according to the department’s head of assessments, Rufus Poliah, who briefed parliament on Tuesday on its exam system readiness.

For the first time in the country’s history, more than 1 million candidates will sit for the exams.

This is because they are combined exams that will also cater for candidates who were meant to sit for the May/June exams, which were cancelled after the country went into lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Five different cohorts will write the exams, including 616,021 full-time candidates who are at school. A total of 616,754 full-time candidates sat for last year’s exams.

Poliah said the decline in the number of full-time candidates was small.

“There was concern that we are going to have a massive dropout rate in the 2020 exams. The drop by 733 means there has not been a significant dropout rate in terms of grade 12 pupils writing the exams.”

He said they will conduct an investigation to determine why Limpopo’s full-time pupils dropped by 14,050 from 93,932 last year to 79,882.

KwaZulu-Natal recorded a drop of 1,413 full-time candidates.

Poliah said as pupils would be writing exams under difficult conditions this year, the department “is going the extra mile to make sure we administer the exams in fair and conducive conditions”.

“We work in conjunction with Umalusi [Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training] every step of the way to ensure we meet with the high standards set by Umalusi.”

He said provinces had completed the training of chief invigilators and are conducting invigilator training.

According to his presentation, there is strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols in provinces where the face-to-face modality is used to train invigilators in cluster groupings.

Provinces have also appointed private invigilators to manage the administration of the exams at designated centres. They were trained together with chief invigilators by the head office exams staff. The provinces have completed the audit of examination centres.

Poliah said if an exam centre is regarded as high-risk, there will be a resident monitor based at that centre for the duration of the exams.

“If the centre is medium-risk, we have a roving monitor who will be there and manage a cluster of centres.”

One of the challenges identified was the shortage of writing venues, and provinces had identified nearby primary schools and community centres.

Parents and pupils will sign a commitment agreement to ensure pupils and parents are made aware of the consequences if pupils are implicated in irregularities.

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