From next year, a second national exam will be held over May/June.
The national decision has been supported by education stakeholders, saying it created access for more people to complete their matric. However, concern was raised about how this would affect university applications and admissions.
Education department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the decision was taken for many reasons, including that all those who qualified to write supplementary exams did not register, and of those who did, more than half did not write the exams.
“This has resulted in losses of millions of rand to the department over the years. Extra costs incurred include having question papers and answer sheets prepared, venue hire, and hiring invigilators and markers. Regardless of whether people arrive, markers are paid according to the amount of registrations,” he said.
Mhlanga said there was also a high failure rate, possibly because there was not enough time to prepare.
“Matrics write in October/November. They rest in December. In January they register for supplementary exams early in the year, so there’s no time to properly prepare. Having the exams mid-year will allow that.”
He said the second matric exam catered for other needs.
“You will be able to apply to write whatever subject you have failed, but also, if you want to improve your marks, you can re-do the exam of your choice.”
This decision was passed last year in Parliament. “In 2018, we want to concentrate on raising the matter more, to make the public aware,” said Mhlanga.
Basil Manuel, chief executive of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa), said the union supported the decision, but for different reasons.
“For us, it is about creating access for more people to complete their matric. For better or worse, our (education) system is geared more for an academic child.
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“With supplementary exams you had to qualify to write the exam by failing. We wanted a system that would include more adult and part-time pupils who, for various circumstances, could not write their matric exams in one sitting. So they write exams in parts, over one or two years.
“Having a second sitting mid-year means we can afford people who’ve failed the opportunity to rewrite, and those who can only sit for some of their exams in December get an opportunity to sit for the rest in June - a six-month gap, as opposed to having to wait a year,” said Manuel.
The downside, he said, would be for those who would have to wait a year to register for university courses. “But we have to look at what is best for the majority.”
Professor Labby Ramrathan, director of the School of Education Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said the decision made sense for efficiency.
“Any exam process is quite extensive, so if we can incorporate those who are wanting to rewrite exams and others wanting to complete their (matric) qualification, then that makes more sense. But where university admissions only take place once a year, the student will have to wait a year before they can register.
“What we need to now establish is to what extent these kinds of students will be affected,” Ramrathan said.
Vee Gani, South Durban chairperson of the KZN Parents’ Association, said the department must be clear about the process to rewrite an exam.
“Currently, if you request a re-mark and get a pass lower than your first, the higher mark holds. But, if we are saying children can apply to rewrite any papers to improve on their mark, what happens if they get a lower pass than the first time? Which mark will stand? Everyone deserves a second bite at the apple, but there must be clarity on how the process will work.”
He said university access was already an issue for many pupils whose supplementary results arrived too late.
“Ultimately, there’s no way to avoid that six months to a year of lost time. So the pressure will now be more on matric pupils to pass first time around and avoid these delays.”
For more information, call the department at 0800 2029 33.