The NSC exams behemoth has rolled into town. As of tomorrow until the end-of-November, thousands of matriculants engage in their school-leaving examinations. It is an operation run with military precision.
Earlier this month final briefing sessions with invigilators were held. Schools also started clearing out their safes to harbour exam papers, which are couriered in batches over the course of the exams. Each consignment must be verified by district officials and the chief invigilators of the school. And we always pray that there are no shortages, for that triggers a separate, often anxiety filled process.
And all this happens before a single exam has been written. On the morning of the exam, a similar step-by-step drill is executed before the seals are broken and the papers issued. Given these are national examinations, any breach has huge implications for everyone across the country. The most stress-free period (in my view) is the period spent writing the actual paper. For at the conclusion thereof, similar military style processes kick in as the school prepares for the collection of the scripts.
At the end of the entire exam, the provincial marking centres come to life. The centre has a limited life span, so intensity rules from Day 1 as hundreds of markers churn out marked scripts for processing. Quality assurance processes run next to this and verification steps implemented. Before we know it, the national standards body is certifying the provincial results and the media frenzy kicks in as we wait for the number of candidates who passed, failed and the quality of pass breakdowns.
The release of the results generates frenetic activity by all and every analyst who has an opinion on education. Results are dissected and diced, compared and critiqued and the inevitable finger-pointing across political and sectoral divides occur.
And in all of this, each year over the last several ones, sits on average 25% of learners who fail the exam. They have no hope of entering an HEI or furthering their studies. They are destined to join the bloating numbers of jobless people, waiting for a fortuitous break that might lead to employment. Of those who get to move on, around 70% entering university won't successfully exit. An absolute drain of community and family resources.
Is all this energy and millions spent each year and over 12 years of schooling, worth the effort? This year the national education budget hovers around R200 billion. We will probably have a matric pass rate nationally nearing 80%. But what does this mean if it doesn't translate into gainful employment or successful post matric studies? Can we continue spending such vast sums of money and run such effective examination administration that would make any intelligence agency proud and know the outcome doesn't match the inputs? At what point do we say enough-is-enough and change the course of the current tide of mediocre outcomes?
What do you think? do leave a comment.