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DBE: Basic Education on policy on progression and policy on multiple examination opportunity


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DBE: Basic Education on policy on progression and policy on multiple examination opportunity

DBE: Basic Education on policy on progression and policy on multiple examination opportunity

31st October 2017


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The 2017 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination has commenced and fifty four (54) of the 174 question papers have been written in the last seven days. The examinations are proceeding exceptionally well. However, there appears to be a need for clarification relating to the Policy on Progression and the Policy on the Multiple Examination Opportunity (MEO), which is also referred to as modularisation by some.

An examination and assessment system must keep pace with the contextual changes and accommodate learners who are the primary focus of the education system, without compromising standards. Hence the need for a continual review of policy to make it more relevant and meaningful.


The Policy on Progression has been applicable in the General Education and Training (GET) band since Curriculum 2005, and has been applied to the Further Education and Training (FET) band since 2013. In terms of the Regulations pertaining to the National Curriculum Statement Grades R-12, promulgated on 28 December 2012, a learner may only be retained once in the Further Education and Training Phase in order to prevent the learner from spending more than four years in a phase.

This implies that a learner who fails a grade for the second time, cannot be retained in the grade, but , must be allowed to progress to the next grade. However, such a learner at the end of Grade 12, must satisfy all the requirements of the NSC, in order to be awarded the matric certificate. Schools have been requested to provide such learners with additional support to address their specific subject deficiencies so that they will be able to cope with the demands of the next grade.


The rationale behind the policy on progression is that it is intended to minimise the high dropout rate and maximise school retention. The notion of progression of learners is not new in our education system and internationally. Progression of learners is consistent with international best practice in countries such as Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Korea, and United Kingdom. The intention is that instead of forcing these learners to consistently repeat a grade, rather give them the opportunity to progress to the next grade, and provide them the additional support.

It also needs to be noted that a learner who fails the grade for the second time is not automatically progressed. Learners must meet certain criteria, in addition to the basic requirement of not spending more than four years in the phase, before they are progressed to Grade 12. These learners must pass atleast four of the seven subjects (Life Orientation included), they must pass the Language of Learning and Teaching (LoLT), they must have attended school on a regular basis and must have complied with the School Based assessment (SBA) requirements in all subjects.

To ensure that schools implement the policy on progression appropriately, the DBE developed a Guideline to assist schools in the implementation of the Progression dispensation.

Furthermore, these learners are closely monitored throughout the Grade 12 year to ensure they are coping. For those who struggle, based on their performance throughout the year, the Policy on Multiple Examination Opportunity (MEO), can be applied. This policy allows learners, to take their final examination in two parts.

This implies that the learner writes a minimum of three subjects (excluding Life Orientation) in the November examination sitting and the remaining subjects in the subsequent June examination. The number of subjects learners will be allowed to write in the November examination, will be finally decided based on their results in the preparatory examination. Progressed learners that demonstrate acceptable level of achievement in all subjects will be allowed to write all six subjects.

The rationale for the Multiple Examination Opportunity (MEO), is to allow these learners to focus on the subjects they are confident in the November examination and to have an extended period to revise and prepare for the remaining subjects, almost six months later, in June of the following year. Writing all six subjects in the November examination, places them under undue pressure and this will negatively affect their performance in all the subjects.

The Multiple Examination Opportunity (MEO), resembles modularisation, which is a broader concept that relates to the curriculum being divided into a number of units or modules and each of these is examined separately. This is a practice in a number of countries around the world, however, in South Africa, the Multiple Examination Opportunity (MEO), only relates to the writing of the NSC examination in two sessions. This dispensation also only applies to learners that are progressed from Grade 11 to Grade 12.

To ensure uniformity in the application of the Multiple Examination Opportunity (MEO), specific criteria were formulated and distributed to all schools. The following criteria must be satisfied by a learner before he/she is allowed to exercise the multiple examination option. The Learner must:  

  • Be a progressed learner.
  • Have completed all his/her SBA requirements in all seven subjects.
  • Have attended school regularly.
  • Have written the Preparatory examination in all subjects.
  • Have failed a minimum of three subjects.

The Department of Basic Education is responsive to the needs of learners and the learning context. The above two policies confirm the Departments commitment to ensuring that as many learners as possible have the opportunity to qualify for a National Senior Certificate and are creating the conditions that will allow for this to become a reality.


Issued by Department of Basic Education


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