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RE Exams Pass Rates

Seldom has one seen such disparate views on a matter of national interest as those expressed on the 2013 matric results.

While the government sang its own praises based on statistical improvements, concerns were raised by others about the bigger picture, and particularly how much value one can place on a certificate when the pass rate for some subjects is only 30%.

An article in Business Day states:

While the results were given the thumbs-up by Umalusi, the statutory body that sets and monitors education standards, Umalusi chairman Sizwe Mabizela said much work still had to be done to improve the standard of education.

“There is a need to focus on the quality of passes rather than obsessing with pass rates.”

Dr Mabizela said the pass rate masked “deep and worrying” inequalities in the education system. “There are many schools that lack even the most basic infrastructure and necessities such as libraries, laboratories or even textbooks for any semblance of normal schooling to take place.”

Our industry’s “matric” results differed vastly, both in terms of pass mark, pass rate and fall-out.

Pass Mark

The pass mark of 65% (RE1) and 66% (RE 5) came in for much criticism despite the fact that it was set at this rate as the REs were professional examinations, and not merely a token gesture. It was intended to provide the public with the assurance that financial advisors were skilled to provide financial advice in accordance with stringent legal requirements.

Compare this to the nearly 70% of last year’s matriculants who passed without a bachelor’s pass, and who now have to try and find employment in an environment where work is very scarce.

Noted academic, Professor Jonathan Jansen, called for the pass mark to be increased to at least 50% for this qualification to have more value than the paper it is printed on.

Pass Rate

The matric pass rate increased to 78.2% in 2013. The regulatory examination pass rates, announced in December, were 93% (RE1) and 92% (RE5), respectively. Viewed together with the pass marks discussed above, the industry can pat itself on the back on achieving this. Job seekers with an RE1 and RE5 qualification will be in huge demand in an industry with a high staff turnover, as opposed to school leavers with an inferior qualification.

Fall-Out Figures

An article in Mail & Guardian states:

Paul Joubert, senior economic researcher at the Solidarity Research Institute, said that of the 1.2-million pupils in grade one in 2002, 34%, (about 408 000) went on to pass matric. One reason for the drop in numbers was “culling”, where weak pupils in Grade 11 are prevented from going on to matric to boost pass rates.

No doubt, there will be losses where people are unable to pass the regulatory examinations in time. This is no light-hearted matter, given that some of these people have spent a lifetime building up a practice to their own benefit, and that of their clients. This is indeed the biggest tragedy of the process, and one must express the wish that a solution to this can be found, given that the biggest losers in the process will be their clients.

The way forward

The postponement of the level 2 REs, and proposed amalgamation of the RE1 and RE5 are but some of the changes we can expect, resulting from lessons learnt in the past few years.

Professionalisation of the industry will remain the key objective, and consultation with the industry will no doubt enhance cooperation in achieving this. We have seen encouraging signs of such interaction, and are confident that a new dispensation lies ahead.

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