Teacher Unions should welcome marker competency tests

Tom Stokes MPP

Democratic Alliance KZN Spokesperson on Education

IF ever there was an issue that defines the difference between responsible teacher unions and those careless to learner rights, it is the issue of exam marker capacity.

Minister of Basic Education, Angie Masheka, made a statement some months ago that she would be insisting that matric markers write a competency test to ensure they had the relevant subject knowledge to competently grade the papers they have applied to mark. This is a responsible response from the minister. In a number of subjects the answers are not clear cut – the marker is not asked to merely tick a right or wrong response, but is called on to “get into the head of the learner” when the answer is not delivered in a conventional way. In order to do this the marker needs to understand the relevant subject matter at a much deeper level than the question might require. In addition, the marker needs to be able to assess the quality of the learner’s response in terms of this wider knowledge base. When the educator has a narrow understanding of the subject matter the unconventional and the divergent thinker is prejudiced as original answers are merely overlooked.

Rather than protesting against marker competency tests, SADTU and Natu should welcome them. They will ensure that only the best teachers mark our learners’ final exams. They will also give those who are accepted onto marking panels the prestige of being ranked top teachers. At present the marking of matric papers is merely a scramble to get bonus money with little concern for the welfare of the learners, whose futures depend on accurate assessments, and little regard for the professional development of the teacher corps.

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