The University of South Africa is planning to let “struggling final-year students” write open-book tests from home in order to help them graduate.
Students will be given 24 hours to complete these “alternative assignments”, and must then sign a declaration stating the work is their own.
It is not surprising that academics are concerned that students may cheat, and that this testing system may harm the university’s reputation.
This is just the latest in a string of developments which have dumbed down South African qualifications, though.
South Africa’s schooling system has been changed to remove higher grade, and lower the pass mark to 30%.
The effect was as expected: a much higher matric pass rate, and a more useless qualification.
“What kind of self-respecting nation accepts this level of mediocrity?” University of the Free State chancellor Professor Jonathan Jansen asked.
Jansen has long called for the pass mark to be increased to 50% to bring some credibility back to a matric certificate.
Graduation over education
Theses changes to the academic system in South Africa mean that more students are graduating, but that their qualifications are losing credibility.
Some Unisa staff members described the new system as favouring “graduation over education”, where students will pass courses that were above their learning ability.
And this is where the South African government is failing – instead of fixing the education system to improve results, they just drop standards to increase pass rates.
Unfortunately, dropping standards has real-world effects, like the need for universities to use admission examinations to find out what a student’s ability is.
Former Naspers CEO Koos Bekker warned that South Africa’s poor education system is hurting Internet developments by not creating enough engineers to drive the country forward.
“Regrettably, our education system is so poor it simply does not yield the mathematics geniuses we need to go to university to become engineers,” said Bekker.
Objective measurement of South Africa’s education system
While the matric results have climbed drastically over the last few years, objective measurements of SA’s education standards are telling a different story.
Here are some of the recent facts about the country’s education standards which the government were not able to fudge.