STRAIT IS THE GATE THE MATRIC CONUNDRUM I – THE SYSTEM

Charles Simkins | Jan 12, 2017
This brief is the first in a series which will discuss the circumstances in which young people live. Some briefs will be supported by technical reports which set out additional detailed information for those interested in it. The first brief will consider the objectives and the extensive structure of the National Senior Certificate system. The second will deal with published information on National Senior Certificate outcomes.
This brief is the first in a series which will discuss the circumstances in which young people live.  Some briefs will be supported by technical reports which set out additional detailed information for those interested in it.
 
The first brief will consider the objectives and the extensive structure of the National Senior Certificate system.  The second will deal with published information on National Senior Certificate outcomes.
 

1. The policy framework

 
Two Department of Basic Education policies shape enrolments in Grades 10, 11 and 12, and the National Senior Certificate:
 
The norm that learners should spend a maximum of four years in Grades 10, 11 and 12.  This implies a maximum of one repeated grade.
As many learners as possible should pass the National Senior Certificate.
 

2. Promotion, repetition and progression

 
A decision about every learner in Grades 10 and 11 is taken at the end of the year.  In order to be promoted, a learner has to pass three subjects (at least one of which is an official language at the home language level) with at least 40%, and a further three at the 30% level. A learner who fails to meet the promotion requirement for the first time repeats the grade. Progression is an option once a learner has repeated once. Progression requires 30% in the language of teaching and learning and in three other subjects, as well as regular school attendance. What happens to a learner who has repeated once and fails to meet the requirements for progression is not clear. Grade 12 may be repeated by learners who fail the National Senior Certificate on the first attempt.
 
There are eight possible ways in which a learner can complete Grades 10, 11 and 12 in a maximum of four years. [1] Three of them entail progression into Grade 12.
 

3. The forms and requirements of the National Senior Certificate

 
The National Senior Certificate has a standard form and two variants. In the standard form, learners must offer seven subjects: two languages (at least one of which must be an official language at home language level), mathematics or mathematical literacy, life orientation, and three other subjects. Combination rules apply. The requirement for a pass is a mark of at least 40% in three subjects, one of which must be a home language and a mark of at least 30% in three other subjects.  
 
The National Senior Certificate may be offered on a full time or a part time basis. To enrol on a full time basis, a learner must have been in Grade 12 in the year in question. Learners who have been promoted to Grade 12 or are repeating it must offer all subjects in the November examination. Candidates who fail the November examination are granted permission to write supplementary examinations in one or two subjects in March of the following year. Learners who have been progressed to Grade 12 may offer all subjects in the November examination, or split the subjects between the November examination and the examinations held in June.
 
Part-time candidates for the National Senior Certificate do not attend school. They may write one or more subjects each November until they have met the National Senior Certificate requirements.
 
Full time and part time candidates are required to submit School Based Assessments (SBA) for Grade 12.  25% of the final mark for a subject is determined by the SBA and 75% by the examination, except in the case of Life Orientation where the final mark is entirely determined by the SBA. SBAs have a shelf life of three years.
 
The first variant is the Endorsed National Senior Certificate. This is available only to learners who have one or more specified learning difficulties.  Learners must offer five subjects: an official language at the home or first additional language level, mathematics or mathematical literacy, life orientation and two other subjects.  The requirement for a pass is a mark of at least 30% in each subject. Very few learners – 154 in 2015 and 125 in 2016 – pass the Endorsed National Senior Certificate.
 
The second variant is the Amended Senior Certificate (ASC). This is intended for learners who are 21 or older. To qualify for entrance, a learner must have completed Grade 9, or have an incomplete old Senior Certificate, or have an incomplete National Senior Certificate with expired SBAs. A candidate must offer six subjects (no Life Orientation is required).  The marks are determined entirely by the examination. In order to pass, a candidate must pass three subjects with at least 40%, one of which must be an official home language, two subjects with at least 30%, one of which must be an official home or first additional language, and one subject with at least 20%.  ASC candidates write in June.
 

4. Support

 
In addition to ordinary school tuition, assistance is offered to categories of candidates as follows:
 
Information and Communications Technology. This takes the form of TV and radio broadcasts and internet programmes, available to all candidates.
Supplementary examinations. This takes the form of 12 hours of instruction in February/March, available to candidates for supplementary examination.
Progressed learners during Grade 12. Autumn and Winter Schools are offered to these learners, as well as additional in-school instruction.
Progressed learners who elect to take some of their examinations in June and Amended Senior Certificate learners. 30 hours of face to face instruction between April and June are offered to these learners.
Part-time candidates. 30 hours of face to face instruction in August and September are offered to these learners.
 
All these interventions are offered free of charge.
 

5. Reporting of outcomes

 
There are seven ways in which learners can complete a National Senior Certificate.  Only three of them are reported on in the National Senior Certificate Examination Report.[2] The reported awards are:
 
Full time non-progressed passes in the November examination among candidates who have not repeated Grade 12.
Full-time non-progressed passes in the November examination among candidates who have repeated Grade 12.
Full-time passes among progressed candidates who have elected to write all their subjects in November.
 
Completions of the National Senior Certificate are not reported for:
 
Supplementary examination candidates.
Progressed candidates electing to write some of their subjects in June.
Part-time candidates.  There is information on how many pass selected subjects, but no information on how many complete the National Senior Certificate
Amended Senior Certificate candidates.
 
These omissions could be rectified in the National Certificate Examination Report by including sections on the outcomes of the February and June examinations.
 
Charles Simkins
Head of Research
charles@hsf.org.za