Marking matric: colloquium proceedings
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The past ten years in South Africa has seen many changes in education: the creation of a single department of education; common examinations for all learners in public schools in the country, a new outcomes based education curriculum which was introduced to learners in the General Education and Training Phase since 1998 and will be introduced to the Further Education and Training Phase from 2006. To evaluate the success of these changes South African researchers still use the indicator of student achievement.
The matriculation examination is the visible, high profile and public performance indicator. Every year parents, learners, teachers, researchers, government officials, policymakers, and the general public get involved in the debate around the matric examination with the most frequently asked questions being: Did the pass rate go up? Are standards dropping? Are the results real or have they been manipulated? How is our education system doing? Are we meeting the development goals? What should the matriculation examination of the future look like? To deepen the discussion the HSRC hosted a Colloquium in November 2003, with participants from government (national and provincial), Umalusi and academics (from universities and the HSRC), at which eighteen papers were presented.
This collection of papers grapples with issues regarding testing and particularly the matric examination - as well as the issues of standards, reliability, validity, centralisation or decentralisation of examinations and the predictive value of examinations. In the first section, the papers outline the challenges faced by the department of education in organizing examinations, presents a history of examination, and raises methodological questions with regard to standards and standardisation. Four empirically based papers disaggregate the performance data by race and gender to illustrate the inequalities of performance, which in turn is linked to inequalities with regard to human and economic resources. The latter sections offers an analysis of social issues that have an impact on education and educational performance and the transition from school to work and higher education. In addition there is an analysis of the structure of the qualification framework that dictates how the examination in the last year of the schooling system is structured.
This unique collection of papers offers valuable research findings to academics, policy-makers and those generally involved in education.