RE Standards

An article on the pass mark of recent matric exams, reminded me of one of the controversial aspects of the regulatory exams – the pass mark of 65/66%.

Professor Jonathan Jansen is arguably the leading academic in the country as far as exposing cracks in the education pot is concerned. In the wake of the recent announcement of our matric results, he took exception to a statement by the minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga. She intimated that the reason for setting a pass mark of 30% was to enable learners to leave the basic education with dignity, according to Jansen.

“To tell these learners that they can leave the school system in a dignified manner with such false results, is adding insult to injury. Dignity means to achieve a quality matric pass. The struggle for education was aimed at equal education – meaning equal opportunity, and equal outcomes. Those noble goals have long since been forsaken in the political cover-up, known as the National Senior Certificate.” (my translation).

Harsh words, indeed.

How does this situation compare with the regulatory exam reality?

The last figures received from the Regulator indicates that the pass rate was in excess of that achieved by the matrics: 85% for representatives and 84% for key individuals.

A major difference, of course, lies in the pass mark. Would you rather pass an exam in which 30% is regarded as acceptable? What value would a client place on such a measurement of your competence?

A lot of people felt that the RE pass mark of 65% was way too high. Despite explanations by the Regulator as to why this figure was justified, those who battled to pass the exam remained disgruntled.

In the wake of the first step in the process (the level 1 REs), those who passed can justifiably feel proud of having achieved something of note. The exam was designed and presented at a high standard, and passing it can justifiably be regarded as a truly professional achievement.

Unlike the matrics, who only have one chance to re-write, those who failed to pass the first time have been given a number of additional opportunities to write and pass the REs.

Jansen also discusses the Cambridge Examination Syn¬di¬cate in the UK. An O (ordinary) level candidate would be able to write at a level appropriate to his or her needs, while an A (advanced) level candidate is tested against higher standards.

Unfortunately, in our case, we all started at A levels, until it dawned that where less complicated products were involved, the A level was far too high a standard. Our version of the O levels, referred to as “bespoke exams”, are currently being drawn up. Time will tell if further distinctions are to be made.

What is next?

While some 10% of the market still has until the end of March to write and pass the REs, those candidates who were successful are unsure about what lies ahead. Nothing official has been said about the level 2 (products) REs, whilst the third phase, continuous professional development, was placed on ice until further notice.

No doubt, the Regulator has learned a lot from the first phase of the process of raising professional standards in the industry. We are expecting changes from what was originally anticipated. The extension of the deadlines by more than 15 months, though, will have a domino effect on all the other exams.

The industry eagerly awaits guidance on the road ahead, while the focus appears rather to be on those still trying to make the winning post.

One day, while playing golf at Wingate Park, I was part of a fourball which played particularly slowly. After eight holes, we were more than one fairway behind the team in front of us. A member of the fourball behind us strolled over and said:

“Guys, the idea is to keep up with the fourball in front of you, not the one behind.”


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