Covid-19, Catholic Schools and The National Senior Certificate
The Catholic Institute of Education reports on the results of the National Senior Certificate 2020 in light of the pandemic
The class of 2020 wrote their final school examinations in the context of a global health pandemic which tested the bounds of social cohesion, economic conditions and most importantly the important time needed for teaching and learning. Under normal circumstances the social environment can be Hobbesian for many, being “nasty brutish and short”, during a pandemic these conditions are exacerbated beyond our limits. Within this environment of uncertainty, learners across the Catholic Schools network performed exceptionally well achieving an 86.6% pass rate and an impressive 55.99% bachelor pass rate. A notable achievement is the increase in learners from 6987 in 2019 to 7750 this year.
We give thanks, for the efforts of all the learners who despite major disruptions, put in the hard work needed to firstly write the examinations and secondly to do well. The educators who suffered greatly at the loss of colleagues and in some cases learners and their immediate family members and yet started and stopped teaching when called to do so. The school leaders who were tried beyond limits they thought they had, to provide superhuman results for the school community. We also give praise to the support staff, especially the cleaners who ensured schools were safe for those who used them and importantly ensured the sanitisation of examination and marking centres. For many at the frontline of the pandemic, school cleaners put their own lives at risk to ensure that others could be safe.
The National Senior Certificate is administered by the state and the independent examinations board respectively. All papers are set, moderated and standardised by Umalusi the council responsible for the quality assurance of the examination. After the examinations have been approved by Umalusi, learners writing the examinations receive a certificate from Umalusi irrespective of which examination they wrote. This process ensures that whether you write a state or independent examination paper, the results are credible and fair.
Importantly the process is also historical, to ensure that learners who wrote in the past are treated fairly and does not only deal with learners in this given year. There has been some criticism that the processes should have been amended to recognise the particular challenges of the year but the Umalusi council opted for a business as usual approach which makes the results even more impressive as learners were measured against learners from previous years who did not write during a pandemic. The high achievements of 86.6% would be celebrated during ordinary years of schooling so we can thank all those involved again for this extraordinary achievement.
With the leaking of two papers administered by the state, the approval process was put under strain this year and a very creative solution was adopted to ensure that those who did not cheat, were able to receive a result while anyone who may have been found guilty of cheating now or in the future will have their results revoked. While many across the country have done well to alleviate the challenges of the pandemic, across all spheres a small minority have resorted to criminal activities whether through overcharging for essential services and in the case of the examination, deliberate acts of cheating. While the matter is still being investigated, it is worth commending both the department of Education and Umalusi for identifying the leak and taking action which bears testament to a well-run process that leaves no space for cheating. Furthermore the judiciary should be respected for the decision to not allow a rewrite which was proposed by the National Minister of Education, which ensured that the majority of learners who did not have access to the paper and did no wrong, were able to receive their results.
An important thing to note is the standardisation process which you will probably hear was especially harsh this year. The standardisation process is a statistical event, and the committee that oversees this process is made up of University professors from statistics departments across the countries universities. As a statistical process, it can be as it was this year, an event lacking in compassion and while learners did exceptionally well, 8 papers were adjusted downwards in the state examination and 16 were adjusted downwards in the IEB examination following the process. This means that statisticians believed learners had done too well and in order to be fair to learners in the past, the results were reduced across these eight subjects.
For Catholic schools this year, we are very impressed with the 46 schools out of 105 that achieved a 100% pass rate. A further 86 schools out of 105 had pass rates above the national average and 8 schools received 100% pass rate and had 100% bachelor pass rates. Of these 8 schools, 6 wrote the IEB examination usually associated with more affluent independent schools and 2 wrote the state examination. A special mention must be made for Kwathintwa School for the Deaf for achieving this milestone of 100% pass and bachelor pass rates.
We also pleased to report at the time of writing this article that Lethabo Rapholo from Pax College achieved an outstanding 100% score for Physical Sciences and 99% for Mathematics, he amongst others in the Catholic schools network bear testament to the quality of education provided in our schools and the hard work of learners this year. We give praise to all the learners who excelled this year.
For all the learners who did not pass, opportunities are available for writing of supplementary examinations and to access a range of further education options now available including FET Colleges and Community Colleges. The CIE amongst others has been at the forefront of advocacy to expand after school opportunities and has engaged Parliament, National and Provincial departments as part of our work to ensure that the end of schooling is the beginning of further education for the many. With regards to community colleges, formal memorandums have been agreed between the department of Higher Education and Training and the Catholic network.
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