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‘One country, one exam’: Education activist supports call for one matric exam system

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Education activist Hendrick Makaneta has voiced support to the loud calls by Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi this week for the amalgamation of matric examination systems to form a single system in South Africa.

EDUCATION activist Hendrick Makaneta has voiced support to the loud calls by Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi this week for the amalgamation of matric examination systems to form a single system in South Africa.

This amalgamation, the proponents argue, is in order to promote equality and eradicate a class-based schooling system.

Makaneta, who is also deputy chairperson of the Foundation for Education and Social Justice Africa, said that Lesufi is right and added that the different systems separate learners on the basis of financial standing.

“The premier is correct. We are one country, and as such we should have one examination that is going to be written by all our learners,” said Makaneta.

“The fact that we have different exams – one for IEB (Independent Examinations Board) and the National Senior Certificate (NSC) – should be a cause for concern. We must urgently move towards unity, ensuring that we take the best, that we have one curriculum and examination offered.”

He said the amalgamation of the examination systems would be “for the sake of unity” in South Africa.

The activist emphasised that the different examination systems in South Africa have perpetuated a class-based education system.

“Quite honestly, the majority of the learners who do IEB are from rich families and those who do CAPS are from poor families. There might be one or two situations where the poor are accepted in the IEB,” said Makaneta.

“Generally, IEB is done by those who come from affluent suburbs, you don’t find it in townships you don’t find it in rural communities. There is a need to speed up the process of merging the two, to ensure that all learners have the same examinations.

“If IEB is the best, let everyone do IEB and of course that would be good for the country.”

Education activist Hendrick Makaneta, the deputy chairperson of the Foundation for Education and Social Justice Africa. Picture: Supplied

On Thursday, Lesufi rubbished widespread reports purporting that he is campaigning for the scrapping of the IEB and South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI) exams in favour of the National Senior Certificate administered by the national Department of Basic Education.

It has previously been reported that the 98.42% matric pass rate for the IEB private schools has come as no surprise to academics and education experts.

Speaking to broadcaster eNCA, in his capacity as an activist, Lesufi said financial resources cannot continue to perpetuate inequality in the education sector.

“I have never called for the scrapping of any examination. What I am calling for is that we are one country called South Africa, let all our children write one examination. You can’t have other children writing a better Maths, while other children are writing an inferior Maths in our own country,” said Lesufi, who is the former Gauteng MEC for Education.

“If we believe IEB or any other is the best, give it to all the children to write the best examination. It must not be on the basis of those that have resources who can write this examination and those that do not have resources will not write this examination.”

He said after writing the different examinations, young people have to compete at institutions of higher education and will still have to write the same examinations for their tertiary courses.

“Why not prepare them early? Besides that particular point, the reality is that all our teachers are trained from the same pot. There is no teacher that is trained to teach IEB, or a teacher trained to teach other children. All teachers are trained from the same pot,” said Lesufi.

“In short, I am calling for one examination for all our children. If a certain examination is the best, actually then that best education must be given to all our children, especially the poor. You need quality education for the poor children to be uplifted.

“What we are fighting for is quality for all. No one must be discriminated on the basis of their financial well-being and on the basis of where they stay, or a curriculum that we really believe is equal to everyone. Let all our children write the same examination. If IEB is the best, let all of us write it,” he said.

Lesufi argued that the differences between the IEB and the NSC are “cosmetic”, adding that the “pass mark is the same, the curriculum is the same, the assessment body is the same, they go to Umalusi”.

“If you say a certain examination like IEB is quality, then why is that quality not made available for everyone? Why should our children write different examinations but go to the same lecture room in the next two days?” Lesufi argued.

On the other hand, the proposal to amalgamate the matric exam systems to form a single system has been dismissed by education analysts.

Professor Labby Ramrathan, from the School of Education Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said that if things were relatively equal in the country, then there would be some merit to what Lesufi is saying.

“The difference between the public schooling system and the independent schooling system is so vast and therefore warrants a differentiated system to match learning experiences.”

Lebogang Montjane, the executive director of the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (Isasa), also broke his organisation’s silence on Lesufi’s contentions.

“We must debunk the ill-informed myth of ‘two systems’ of examinations,” Montjane said.

“Were those agitating for South Africa to have one examination body to succeed, it then follows that the country would have to adopt a single curriculum. Within Isasa member schools, there is diversity of curricula on offer. There are schools that offer, inter alia, the International Baccalaureate, the Cambridge education pathway, the German Abitur, Montessori and Waldorf.

“Thus, a threat on the IEB has broader implications for independent education in our country,” Montjane said.

– Additional reporting by Khaya Koko.

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