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Signalling performance: Continuous assessment and matriculation examination marks in South African schools

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  • Servaas van der Berg

    () (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

  • Debra Shepherd

    () (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

Abstract

Economists regard information and feedback as important ways for self-correction in a system. This study analyses one aspect of information and feedback in the South African education system. Continuous assessment (CASS) carries a 25% weight in the final matriculation (Grade 12) mark and, more importantly, provides feedback on performance that affects examination preparation and effort. Weak assessment in schools means that pupils are getting wrong signals that may have important consequences for the way they approach the final examination. Moreover, similarly wrong signals earlier in their school careers may also have affected their subject choice and career planning. This study analyses data on CASS and compares it to the externally assessed matric exam marks for three years for a number of subjects. There are two signalling dimensions to inaccurate assessments: (i) Inflated CASS marks give students a false sense of security that they are well-prepared for the matric exams, thereby leading to unrealistic expectations and diminished effort. (ii) A weak correlation between CASS and the exam marks means poor signalling in another dimension: Relatively good students may get relatively low CASS marks. This indicates poor reliability of assessment, as the examination and continuous assessment should both be testing the same mastery of the national curriculum. The paper analyses the extent of each of these two dimensions of weak signalling in South African schools, by subject, province, socio-economic background of schools, and public versus independent schools. The analysis draws disturbing conclusions for a large part of the school system.

Suggested Citation

  • Servaas van der Berg & Debra Shepherd, 2010. "Signalling performance: Continuous assessment and matriculation examination marks in South African schools," Working Papers 28/2010, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers127
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    File URL: https://www.ekon.sun.ac.za/wpapers/2010/wp282010/wp-28-2010.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2010
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. David Madden & Fiona Smith, 2000. "Poverty in Ireland, 1987-1994 - A Stochastic Dominance Approach," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 31(3), pages 187-214.
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    Cited by:

    1. Servaas van der Berg & Cobus Burger & Ronelle Burger & Mia de Vos & Gideon du Rand & Martin Gustafsson & Eldridge Moses & Debra Shepherd & Nicholas Spaull & Stephen Taylor & Hendrik van Broekhuizen & , 2011. "Low quality education as a poverty trap," Working Papers 25/2011, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    2. Chris van Wyk, 2015. "An overview of Education data in South Africa: an inventory approach," Working Papers 19/2015, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    3. Stephen Taylor & Servaas van der Berg & Vijay Reddy & Dean Janse van Rensburg, 2011. "How well do South African schools convert grade 8 achievement into matric outcomes?," Working Papers 13/2011, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economics of Education; assessment; asymmetric information; South Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design

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