Changes for South Africa’s matric exam timetable to accommodate elections

The Department of Basic Education has shifted the end-of-year exam timetable for matrics to accommodate the local government elections on 1 November.

In a notice published on Wednesday (15 September), the department said that the exams are now scheduled to start on 27 October 2021, four days earlier than originally scheduled.

The department said that the matric exams include 207 question papers written over 25 days, with no vacant spaces available in the five-week period to accommodate the new date of the elections.

It said that the change would impact several papers, including:

  • English (home language, first-additional language and second additional language);
  • Business studies;
  • Non-official languages.

“The Council of Education Ministers (CEM) held a special meeting where the decision was taken earlier this morning. The CEM meeting took place following a series of consultations with the key stakeholders in the Basic Education sector.

“The changes were necessitated by the local government elections, which will take place on 1 November. Learners eligible to vote will now be able to cast their ballots.”

All government schools reopened on 26 July as part of the country’s move to an adjusted level 3 lockdown. At the same time, the basic education department also instructed primary schools (Grades R – 7) to prepare for the return of full-time teaching.

However, the country’s high school students have continued to work rotationally, leading to concerns around a loss in learning time.

Under the current rotational system, high schools in South Africa operate under one of three systems. Students are expected to attend school physically every second day, every second week or once a day in a morning or afternoon slot.

Students are expected to complete assigned work in the downtime to ensure they don’t fall behind the curriculum. Several schools have also incorporated online and digital learning platforms for students. Primary school students have returned to school full-time.

The Department of Basic Education has developed a three-year recovery plan to help make up for teaching time lost during the Covid-19 pandemic, said minister Angie Motshekga.

Motshekga said that the Recovery Annual Teaching Plan accounts for each subject in each grade and will help teachers focus on key concepts, content, and skills to be taught per subject over the next three years.

“A panel of curriculum content experts evaluated the curriculum statement for each grade and subject, and the content was reduced to ensure that only the core concepts, knowledge and skills are taught for each subject and grade.

“It is anticipated that over the next three years, learners would have covered the core content in the subject, and the curriculum statement, post the three year period, would be reviewed to take learners forward in their learning process,” she said.

Read: Curro is offering new subjects at its high schools

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Changes for South Africa’s matric exam timetable to accommodate elections