Durban - A controversial question that featured in this year’s dramatic arts matric exam paper will be disregarded by markers after a marking of sample papers last week.
The compulsory question, based on an extract from South African playwright Lara Foot Newton’s work Tshepang asked pupils to describe how they would symbolically stage the raping of a baby using a loaf of bread and a broomstick.
A spokesman for the Department of Basic Education, Elijah Mhlanga, said in each subject, 20 scripts per province were made available to provincial officials for pre-marking.
“The pre-marking of scripts prior to the marking guideline discussion is a procedure applied in all subjects to allow chief markers and internal moderators to obtain first-hand information on how candidates experienced the examination in that subject,” he said.
A meeting was held last week, attended by the panel which set the paper, the Department of Education-appointed moderator, exam quality assurer Umalusi and provincial representatives. Sample papers were analysed to determine whether pupils had been disadvantaged by the perceived insensitivity of the question.
Mhlanga said that the final decision by the department, endorsed by Umalusi, was that although there was no compelling evidence to confirm that pupils were adversely affected, the question may have been unfair to the candidates and so it was excluded.
“The question paper was based on a total of 150 marks and the questions that were excluded totalled seven marks. The question paper will, therefore, be marked based on a reduced total of 143 and the marks will be up-scaled to 150. No learner will be disadvantaged,” he said.
Professor Kobus Maree, an education analyst at the University of Pretoria, said the question should not have been included but it was too late to make changes after the fact.
Maree said some pupils might have spent a lot of time on the question, while others ignored it, and the best option would be to get a statistician to analyse the exam marks against the year marks and see if there was a drop below the average.
However, one matric pupil, who wrote the paper, said he didn’t feel it was necessary to cut it. “It was a bit insensitive and maybe shouldn’t have been in an exam but these are issues we should be dealing with.”
On Monday Durban theatre publicist and columnist, Illa Thompson, said: “The outrage around the issue is unfortunate as it clouds the important role that theatre in education plays in addressing social challenges.”