State flip-flops over Matric raw results release
JEANNE VAN DER MERWE and THANDUXOLO JIKA
THE State is flip-flopping over the release of the raw matric subject marks for the 2012 examinations.
Umalusi, which is responsible for standardising the matric results prior to release, has provided unadjusted examination scores to Media24 Investigations for the past two years.
But now it says this was a mistake and that the data really belongs to the Department of Basic Education.
Media24 Investigations first requested the data from Umalusi two weeks ago when the results were released. The organisation said it would only be able to comply by this week Tuesday.
But on Tuesday, its CEO, Dr Mafu Rakometsi, back-pedalled and said the data actually belonged to the Department of Basic Education.
On Wednesday, the department’s chief director for national assessment and public examinations, Dr Rufus Poliah, said that our request was “rightly lodged with Umalusi and a response from Umalusi should be awaited”.
Umalusi then promised to hand over the data by Thursday.
On Thursday night, Umalusi’s spokesman said that “after consultation with the Department of Basic Education they have agreed to assume full responsibility for the custodianship of the raw data”.
The education department’s Dr Rufus Poliah failed to respond to follow-up requests yesterday.
Asked yesterday to explain his organisation’s position, Rakometsi responded: “Umalusi is independent of DBE, but we work closely with them in that the raw data that we standardise comes from the department. It is therefore not our data; it’s the department’s data.
“Our process is the standardision process, which we shared with journalists at the (release of the matric results) in December,” Rakometsi said.
“We realise we might have issued the information of the department by mistake,” he said.
He said the education department had not complained about Umalusi handing over the data to the media in the past.
Dr Edith Dempster of the University of KwaZulu Natal’s school of education, said Umalusi’s reticence to hand over the data may be because “the standardisation process is complex, and easily misinterpreted”.
“It is a valid statistical procedure, though, and I have no doubt that it is applied rigorously every year. I personally found [Umalusi’s 2011 release of the raw scores] very useful because it gave the raw average mark for each subject, and the average standardised mark. The average mark gives much more information than the pass rate, because it tells you about the mark distribution,” she said.
Prof. Servaas van der Berg, education economist with the University of Stellenbosch, said Umalusi may be reluctant to release the data in order to avoid conflict with the Department of Basic Education.
“Umalusi is supposed to be an independent organisation, but its role is determined to a degree by how useful it is deemed to the Department of Basic Education.
Derek Luyt, director at the Centre for Accountable Governance, said the central issue was that “the raw data should certainly be made available to the public. “There is absolutely no justifiable reason to withhold it. Dr Rakometsi has in the past noted that the statistical procedures for standardisation are complex and open to misunderstanding. Lots of things are. That’s no reason to keep them secret.
“On the contrary, the best way to get the biggest number of people to understand the process of standardisation is by making the raw data public.
“The bottom line is that you cannot have informed discussion if you don’t have access to the raw data.”