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Distance and online schools can register with the IEB to offer NSC examinations

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to catapult work and learning into the digital realm around the world, the demand for online schooling platforms has soared. This demand is fuelled by a number of factors – concerns around the disruption of ongoing school closures to a learner’s progress, health and safety concerns, a growing acceptance of digital delivery models of learning, global work and trade which requires a more flexible schooling model for expat families and children, financial considerations and personal preference.  These reasons are certainly not the only drivers but do cover the more common reasons. There are many factors that influence a parent and learner decision to pursue online and distance education towards achieving a recognised school-leaving qualification.

According to Anne Oberholzer, CEO of the Independent Examinations Board, the IEB has received a significant increase in enquiries from distance/online education providers as well as schools interested in operating under a hybrid delivery model in future.

“While there has been a statement from the South African government that online schools are acceptable, there is yet no word on any formal registration or accreditation process required by the authorities. By the same token, the IEB is reluctant to bring institutions into the fold where there has been no process of registration to check the minimal requirements to operate effectively and re-assure prospective learners and their parents that the institution is a legitimate institution that has at the very least a minimum set of principles, policies and processes in place. To this end, the IEB has   established a registration process to conduct the initial compliance checks that would determine whether the IEB would recognise any such affiliation to the IEB for an online school.  This is however not a new process, and a number of reputable online and distance education institutions already write the National Senior Certificate (NSC) with the IEB or have already joined the IEB for their FET phase learners,” explains Oberholzer.

Oberholzer explained that it is preferable for institutions that want to join the IEB in order to write the NSC examinations with it, should register with their Grade 10 learners. This phase-in period entails orientating them to the IEB requirements, its approach to assessment and providing guidance and support as necessary.

“The application process is not an evaluation of the institution’s quality of teaching and learning but rather a process to determine whether it has the minimum professional and administrative requirements to operate.   It is a process for the IEB to be assured that the institution has the capacity to teach and assess the NSC curriculum and manage the conduct of site-based assessment, practical and oral assessment as necessary,” says Oberholzer.

The aspects that are reviewed in the application process are various, however the fundamentals include ensuring that the entity has a verifiable legal status in South Africa, the necessary resources and professional expertise to develop appropriate learning material and assessments and the administrative capacity to manage distance students.

“Only once an institution has met these initial compliance requirements and has been accepted by the IEB, will the registration process to offer the NSC with the IEB commence. The same application process applies to distance (including online) education institutions that are not yet at Grade 10 but wish to be registered with the IEB. Existing traditional schools already registered with the IEB for the NSC examinations who wish to follow a hybrid model of delivery are not included in this initiative, and simply continue to operate, using whichever delivery mode they consider appropriate,” adds Oberholzer.

“As an organisation that is at the forefront of innovation in terms of improvement of examination systems and processes, and that leads in terms of assessment practices that enjoy international recognition, we believe it is crucial to open up the same opportunities to online and distance learners to achieve a quality, accredited NSC qualification upon successful completion of their matric exams,” concludes Oberholzer.

The IEB is an independent assessment body offering the NSC since 2008 and is accredited by Umalusi.

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