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DURBAN - Struggling pupils will no longer be able to write their Grade 12 examinations over a two-year period after the Department of Basic Education (DBE) announced it was phasing out the multiple examination opportunity (MEO).

This policy, which came into effect in 2017, will be phased out from next year to prevent schools from exercising gatekeeping.

The change means there will be one end-of-year exam for all matriculants irrespective of their performance during the year, and no pupils will be modularised (allowed to write over two years).

Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, made the announcement last week following a meeting of the Council Of Education Ministers (CEM) last month.

Motshekga said they are phasing out the policy because, although it was developed with good intentions, it had been abused by schools.

Schools prevent struggling pupils from writing for fear they might fail and drag down the school’s matric pass rate.

“Education provision is in the public eye and gets a lot of critique. One of the concerns we have heard from the public is around the multiple examination opportunity.

“We looked critically at some of the more seemingly controversial decisions we have taken as a collective, such as the policy on progression, as well as the MEO,” she said.

She said they were happy with the progression policy as it allowed more than 100000 pupils to get matric certificates and helped arrest the drop-out rate.

“We had to acknowledge as CEM, however, that while well-intentioned, the MEO is being used by some schools as a gatekeeping mechanism, which was not its original intention.

“Instead of assisting vulnerable pupils to get a matric certificate, it was allowing schools to cull pupils through this process and not adequately support them.

“For this reason CEM took the bold decision to protect pupils and do away with the MEO from next year,” she said.

Explaining gatekeeping, education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said: “In some instances, there will be 20 pupils in a school and the teachers only allow five to write and modularise 15. If four of the five pass, the school will achieve a 90% pass rate, despite 15 children not writing.

“We now have 100% coverage. All the children will write at the same time. There will be no more setting them apart from other pupils because they were being modularised,” he said.

National Teachers Union president Allen Thompson said they were pleased with the change.

“There have been instances where a teacher will teach a class of 80 pupils, but only 30 will write, which was a waste of the teacher’s time,” he said.

“This will also end ill discipline among pupils. Those who knew they would not write were disruptive and did not attend classes. Now they will be more focused and disciplined because they know they will write at the end of the year.”

Professor Labby Ramrathan, Director of School of Education Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said that for the change to be meaningful, pupils and parents needed to take additional responsibility.

“This will depend on how pupils view matric. Those who see a further chance to study will take the opportunity,” he said.