Umalusi CEO Mafu Rakometsi. Picture: SOWETAN
Umalusi CEO Mafu Rakometsi. Picture: SOWETAN

EXAM quality assurer Umalusi has declared South Africa ready for the 2013 final examinations.

More than 700,000 pupils will sit the National Senior Certificate exams across more than 6,600 examination centres from October 28.

"All these examinations are set to get under way soon and it is a mammoth task to ensure the system is ready to assess such a large volume of learners in so many examination centres throughout all nine provinces," said Umalusi CEO Mafu Rakometsi.

This year, 50,000 more learners than last year will participate in the make-or-break exams. Their papers will be assessed by roughly 35,000 markers in 118 marking centres across the country.

Dr Rakometsi said markers were already in place and the marking of papers would not be affected by the current dispute between the Department of Basic Education and the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union over salary increases.

"The process won’t stall while we wait for the decision by the Labour Court (on the dispute), but we expect no delays to the time we have set for marks to be ready for collection," he said.

Vijayen Naidoo, acting chief operations officer at Umalusi, said all question papers had been approved and security measures put in place to prevent leaks this year.

The quality of the National Senior Certificate has been subject to much scrutiny in recent years, with education commentators expressing their outrage at the 30% pass rate, as well as the introduction of mathematical literacy as a subject.

Jonathan Snyman, a researcher at the South African Institute of Race Relations, said the ratio of maths literacy students to those taking mathematics had gone from 0.9:1 in 2008 to 1.3:1 by 2012.

"It seems to indicate that either schools are increasingly pushing pupils to take maths literacy to improve their overall pass rates or that pupils themselves are opting for maths literacy because it is an easier subject," he said.

"However, this greatly jeopardises a pupil’s chance of being admitted to university as all professional degree courses, and even the more technical courses at FET colleges, require mathematics and not maths literacy."

Dr Rakometsi said Umalusi was satisfied with the overall preparations for the end-of-year exams.

"Our system compares favourably with the best in the world and in future we are looking to perhaps start e-marking ... our neighbours in Zimbabwe and Namibia have already worked on that system," he said.