SA’s matric exam cheating crisis
Education stakeholders demand responsibility from Minister Angie Motshekga after allegations of group copying tarnish the credibility of matric exams.
Photo for illustration: iStock
Photo for illustration: iStock
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It’s time for Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga to be accountable and stop blame-shifting, the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (Isasa) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) say, in the wake of claims that independent schools were driving the group copying numbers out of “desperation”.
In an interview with Radio 702, Motshekga said these cases rarely happened in public schools, but the department was seen as responsible since independent schools write their exams.
Scandals like this hurt the credibility of matric exams, she added.
This was after exam quality assurance body Umalusi expressed deep concern about the detected cases of group copying involving 945 candidates of National Senior Certificate examinations in 2023.
Umalusi chief executive officer Dr Mafu Rakometsi did not specify whether these case took place in public or private schools.
However, he said that 80.7% of cases were detected in KwaZulu-Natal and 17.7% in Mpumalanga.
Motshekga said: “Normally, independent schools’ fortunes rely on being able to boast about getting good results, so they get desperate.”
Isasa executive director Lebogang Montjane said although not all independent schools were members of the association, “and not all independent schools are quality schools”, those that were not were normally monitored by the government.
“So if there are irregularities, the question is what is happening with ensuring there are no irregularities in the system,” he said.
As an association, he said they ensured that the independent examination boards systems of security were world-class.
Very sophisticated systems were used to make sure that exam papers and the integrity of exams was kept intact.
“In fact, we can say lock and key.
“They really monitor what happens with all of the exams and track them to make sure that there’s no leaking or anything of that sort,” he added.
However, Montjane also noted that, as indicated by the minister of basic education, the public system examined around 750 000 pupils, “so the numbers are really significantly quite large”.
“There’s a huge difference in numbers, it should be noted, so we want to be very careful not to say everybody is in the independent sector, [semi-independent or fully independent].
“But, understandably, there’s 750 000 pupils writing the exams so it is unreasonable to expect that there will not be problems. We are human.”
DA MP and education shadow minister Baxolile Nodada said the majority of pupils found to be culprits of cheating or other forms of irregularities were in public schools.
“She [the minister of basic education] cannot say ‘rarely’, because even in the past these events took place in her department.
“The majority of cases that have come to the fore are, in fact, cases in public schools.
“And we’ll find that a lot of consequence management has not been applied in these instances,” he said.
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“For example, in the cases in Mpumalanga, the teachers got a slap on the wrist.
“Nothing has happened to them because they’re protected by the South African Democratic Teachers Union.”
He said the department should not shy away from the fact that they have the core responsibility to make sure there were checks and balances in place so these incidents did not happen.
“And when they do take place, the department needs to act and make sure that there are consequences for these schools, or for these teachers, or for pupils,” he added.
“So whether they’re independent or public schools, the department has a responsibility to hold those institutions and individuals accountable. It is just scapegoating, in my view, to blame independent schools for the poor quality of outcomes that we are going to see on Thursday.”
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