REPORT ON THE 1999 SENIOR CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION

November 1999


1. INTRODUCTION

The 1999 Senior Certificate examination is the fourth Senior Certificate examination run on a non-racial basis by the provincial education departments and over the last two years we have seen a marked improvement in the administration of the examination. The 1999 Senior Certificate examination was written by 748 452 candidates in 5 558 examination centres throughout the country. In total approximately 1500 subject based question papers were set, moderated, typed and printed and approximately 8 million question papers were securely delivered from the point where they were printed and packed to the examination centres. The marking of these 8 million scripts was completed at 56 marking centres by 38 512 markers.

2. ADMINISTRATION OF THE SENIOR CERTIFICATE EXAMINATIONS

Monitoring of the 1999 Senior Certificate Examinations

The Department of Education (DoE) and the South African Certification Council (SAFCERT) have monitored the 1999 Senior Certificate examination very closely. The monitoring by the national Department of Education included:

Barring certain minor problems that were identified by the Departmental Monitoring Team, the writing of the examinations, the marking process and the capture of marks were found to be efficiently administered. The monitoring team has noted that the 1999 senior certificate examination represents a marked improvement when compared to the 1998 examination.

The brief of the SAFCERT Monitoring Committee was to, "monitor the Senior Certificate Examinations process of all examining bodies so as to timeously raise objections prior to the release of the results, if any evidence is found to suggest unfair examination practices".

The SAFCERT monitoring teams were appointed in each of the nine provinces, and they were mandated to monitor the entire examination process. These teams were based in the provinces from the middle of September until the end of December 1999.

At a meeting of the monitors held on 24 December 1999, the monitoring teams agreed that there were no problems reported that seriously jeopardised the integrity of the examination. However, a few concerns were raised during the monitoring process and these were attended to by the monitors and the provincial officials concerned, and this did not affect the integrity of the examination. The SAFCERT Council has therefore, based on the reports from the Monitoring Committee, certified that the examinations in all nine provinces were conducted in a proper and orderly manner and has therefore accepted the results as a fair reflection of the achievement of the candidates. Formal permission has been granted to all nine provinces to proceed with the publication of the results.

Problems encountered with the conduct of the Senior Certificate Examinations

In a public examination of the magnitude of the South African Senior Certificate, it is to be expected that minor glitches will be experienced. During the writing of the examination the problems encountered included:

In the marking of the scripts, some of the problems encountered included the following:

The improvement in the administration of the 1999 Senior Certificate examination can be attributed to the continued commitment and dedication of officials at both provincial and national levels who collaboratively tackled the challenges relating to the administration of the Senior Certificate examinations.

Review of the Senior Certificate Examinations by Cambridge International Examinations Syndicate.

As part of the Ministry’s ongoing review of the Senior Certificate Examinations, the Minister of Education, Professor Kader Asmal, MP, requested the Cambridge International Examinations Syndicate to conduct an international review and bench-marking of all procedures relating to the conduct of the South African Senior Certificate Examinations. This review was conducted over a two-week period during the month of August 1999. The following is a summary of the findings of this review:

The recommendations of the review by the Cambridge International Examinations are being seriously considered by the Department of Education and a plan of action will be put in place early in the new year to implement these recommendations.

As a follow up to this review the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) has already approved the international benchmarking of the standards of the Senior Certificate examinations. As a first step the Senior Certificate will be benchmarked with the Scottish Highers, and this process is scheduled to commence in the year 2000.

An evaluation of the Senior Certificate Examination System

The intervention of the Department of Education and the closer collaboration between provincial education departments has resulted in the remarkable improvement in the examination process. The focussed approach to the administration of the senior certificate examination, and the exceptional commitment of all officials involved in the examination process has contributed to this improvement. Despite the fact that certain areas are still in need of refinement, the examination system in the country is of a high standard. The contribution of educators, learners and the public at large in ensuring that there is no reliance on leaked papers must be commended.

The following are some of the areas that are in need of refinement or change:


3. THE RESULTS OF THE 1999 SENIOR CERTIFICATE EXAMINATIONS

Enrolment statistics
PROVINCE FULL-TIME CANDIDATES

(No. registered)

PART-TIME CANDIDATES

(No. registered)

TOTAL
N. CAPE 7 521 2 699 10 220
FREE STATE 35 773 23 487 59 260
E. CAPE 87 853 36 095 123 948
KWAZULU-NATAL 111 500 35 000 146 500
MPUMALANGA 41 109 21 261 62 370
N. PROVINCE 111 136 32 855 143 991
GAUTENG 79 203 41 211 120 414
NORTH WEST 48 425 29 709 78 134
W. CAPE 41 373 14 661 56 034
       
TOTAL 563 893 236 978 800 871

Nationally there were 563 893 full-time candidates who registered for six or more subjects and 511 474 candidates finally wrote the examination. This implies that 52 419 candidates who registered for the examination did not write the examination. In terms of the number who wrote the Senior Certificate examination in 1999, there was a decrease of 8% (39 555) in the number of candidates. This large decrease in the enrolment of candidates needs to be investigated further.

In terms of part-time candidates there was also a decrease of 12 011 candidates who registered for the Senior Certificate examination. However it is a point of concern that in certain provinces between 50 – 80% of these candidates did not write the examination.

In terms of provincial breakdown, the Northern Province, with 104 200 candidates had the largest number of candidates. KwaZulu-Natal, with 103 268 candidates had the second largest number and the Northern Cape had the fewest candidates of all provinces, i.e. 7 160.

There has been a noticeable decrease in the number of candidates that wrote the examination in both the two large provinces (Northern Province a decrease of 9% and KwaZulu Natal a decrease of 5%). Three of the large provinces, i.e. Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Province constitute 57% of the full-time candidates who wrote the Senior Certificate examination.

Summary of the Senior Certificate Results for Full-Time Candidates who wrote six subjects or more.

The examination results show a slight decline in the performance of the senior certificate candidates of 1999. An improvement in the pass rate from 47,4% to 49,3% (an increase of 1,9%) was seen in 1998 and 1999 has recorded a slight decrease in the pass rate from 49,3% to 48,9% (a decrease of 0,4%) (Refer to Table 1).

A slight increase in the pass rate has been recorded in three of the nine provinces i.e.:

Six of the provincial departments registered declines over the previous year:

Although there has been a decrease in the overall pass rate, in four of the provinces (i.e. Free State, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and Northern Province) there has been an increase in the percentage of Senior Certificates with endorsement. Nationally there has been a decrease of 0,1 % in the number of candidates who passed with endorsement, i.e. from 12,6 % to 12,5%

The impact of the three larger provinces (i.e. the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Province) on the national pass rate is also worth noting. In Table 4 the combined pass rate of these three provinces is compared to the combined pass rate of the other six provinces. The three larger provinces have a combined pass rate of 43% in contrast with a pass rate of 56,4% in the remaining six provinces. This indicates that an improvement in the three provinces would impact positively on the national pass rate. It would appear that the large pupil numbers coupled with the large rural component in these provinces are responsible for the lower pass rate in these provinces.

In Table 5 the results of learners who obtained Senior Certificates with university endorsement is presented. Of the 511 474 candidates who wrote the Senior Certificate examination, 67,6% (345 722) registered for the Senior Certificate with endorsement and only 18,4% of the total number of candidates who registered for university endorsement passed with university endorsement. In the Northern Province, which has the lowest pass rate, 84,7% of the candidates registered for the Senior Certificate with endorsement and only 8,9% of these candidates obtained university endorsement. On the other hand, the Western Cape and Northern Cape, which have the highest pass rates, have the lowest percentage of candidates registering for endorsement. Only 39,6% in the Western Cape and 34,3% in the Northern Cape registered for university endorsement and 61,7% and 32,9% of these candidates, respectively, obtained University endorsement.

It is also notable that there is a decrease in the number of candidates enrolling for university endorsement. 67,6% of the candidates enrolled for university endorsement in 1999 compared to 74,5% in 1998.

Gender Comparisons

In all the provinces more female than male candidates wrote the Senior Certificate examination, a phenomenon that was also characteristic of the 1997 and 1998 candidates.

Of the 511 474 candidates who sat for the examination in 1999, 285 049 candidates (55,7%) were female and 226 425 (44,3%) were male. However, in relative terms, the pass rate of the male candidates (52,3%) is higher than the pass rate of the female candidates (46,1%). In each of the individual provinces, the pass rate of the male candidates is higher than that of the females.

In comparing the endorsement rates of the male and female candidates, 13,4% of the males passed with endorsement in contrast with 11,7 % of the females who passed with university endorsement.

Frequency Distribution of Pass Rates of Schools in the Provinces

Table 6, which presents information on the frequency distribution of pass rates of school in the provinces, indicates that 6%(334 schools) of the 5 558 schools in the country obtained 100% passes. This percentage is the same as that of 1998. The percentage of schools that scored a pass rate between 81 – 100% has decreased from 23% to 20%. In terms of schools which performed poorly, 19% are in the 0 – 20% range, i.e. approximately 1056 schools obtained a pass rate of between 0 and 20%, which represents an increase of 2% from 1998. The number of schools that scored a 0% pass rate is 55.

Subject Results

For the purpose of this report, the following subjects are selected: Biology, Geography, Mathematics, Physical Science, Accounting, Business Economics, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, Sepedi, Setswana, Siswati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga. These seventeen subjects include the four subjects in which the results in previous years have been generally poor, as well as the eleven official languages. In addition to these seventeen subjects, ten of the most popular, technical/vocational subjects are also presented. These include Art, Electrician Work, Fitting and Turning, Home Economics, Hotel Keeping and Catering, Metalwork, Motor Mechanics, Needlework and Clothing, Technical Drawing and Woodwork.

It is encouraging to note that the pass rate in all the languages is extremely high, ranging from 88,7% to 100% (Table 9 Graph 13). All of the African languages recorded a pass rate of above 95%. Afrikaans recorded an overall pass rate of 88,7% and English an overall pass rate of 89,8%, an increase of 0,7% when compared to 1998. The performance in English Second language and Afrikaans Second Language is not as high as the performance in the other language papers.

The percentage of candidates that offer the science subjects, i.e. Biology, Mathematics and Physical Science is as follows:

When comparing these percentages to that of 1998, it is noted that in Biology there is a decrease of 3,5%, but an increase in Mathematics (3,2%) and Physical Science (2,5%).

The increase in the number of candidates taking these two subjects is a welcome sign in view of the national need to promote Science and Technology. When the performance in Biology, Mathematics and Physical Science is compared, it is noted that Mathematics has the lowest pass rate of 43,4% (Graph 10). This refers to the combined pass rate for higher and standard grade. The national pass rate for mathematics in 1996 was 49,5% and it dropped in 1997 by 3,2% to 46,3%. In 1998 it dropped further by 4,2% to 42,1%. However, it is encouraging to note that there has been an increase in national pass rate for mathematics from 42,1 in 1998 to 43,4 in 1999. Physical Science has the highest pass rate of 63,9% followed by Biology with 52,2%.

In these three subjects a higher proportion of males passed than females (Graph 11), although in all these subjects, except Physical Science, a higher proportion of females wrote the examination.

An analysis of the practical/technical subjects shows that these subjects are still not offered by many candidates (Graph 38). Except for Home Economics and Technical Drawing, all the other subjects are taken by less than 10 000 learners. There has been no significant increase in the number of candidates taking these subjects when compared to 1997 and 1998. These subjects must be promoted in the new year. It is encouraging to note that the pass rates of these subjects are high, ranging between 83,7% and 99,7%.