High absenteeism in vocational exams a concern for Umalusi

The Quality Council for Further Education and Training (Umalusi) has called on the department of higher education and training (DHET) to investigate the reasons for the high absenteeism rate in the vocational and technical skills national exams.

Umalusi made the call in its statement approving the release of the four national exams administered by the Department of Basic Education. DHET forms part of the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, the Independent Examination Board (IEB) and the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (Sacai).

Other important national exams

While the focus is on the National Senior Certificate, which accounts for 80% of the 1, 150 304 candidates who wrote the national examinations in the October and November 2023 period, there are three other important national exams.

The DHET administers three national exams. The National Certificate: Vocational (NCV) (Level 2-4), the NATED Report 190/191 (N2-N3) and the Education and Training Certificate: Adult Education and Training (GETC: Abet).

In 2023, only 133, 718 out of the 164, 898 candidates who registered to write, actually wrote the exams. A total of 31 180 candidates, making up almost 19%, did not write the exams.

Worrying absenteeism rate in exam rooms

The N3-N4 examinations were written by 58, 190 candidates (31, 332 for N2 and 26, 858 for N3), instead of the 68, 916 that registered to write. The number represented an absenteeism rate of 15.6%.

Regarding the GETC: Abet, there was a 3.4% increase in the number of candidates who wrote the exams – 38, 022 in comparison to 36, 742  in 2022. However, the growth is nowhere near that recorded by the Independent Examination Board (IEB).

The IEB’s GETC: Abet examinations were written by 585 candidates, marking a 25.3% increase from last year’s 467 candidates.

Umalusi expressed concern about the high number of absenteeism in the NCV (L2-4) and (N2-N3).

Important transformative mechanism

Umalusi chairperson Prof Yunus Ballim said the DHET exams are an important transformative mechanism.

GETC: Abet provides those who were not able to complete their schooling for whatever reason a second chance, he said. While the NCV (L2-4) and (N2-N3) provide skills that candidates are able to use immediately to earn a living.

“Adult basic education and training is an important instrument in this country. [It’s] for citizens who had their learning and education interrupted or disrupted for whatever reason (be it) social, political, etc.

“The Abet exams are an important access point for people to improve their qualifications,” said Ballim.

Provides second chance for school leavers

“When someone gets access to artisan training, that family feels the impact immediately – employability goes up,” he said.

For Umalusi, he said, the DHET exams represent important transformation moments not only in individual families but community lives.

“So, the high absenteeism gives us a cause for concern,” he said.

The DHET needs to find out what prevents people from writing the exams, he said.

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