Marking of national examinations - Solomon Star News

Marking of national examinations

09 December 2014

The national examinations happened every year and marking of these papers is one of the important components of the process in which students’ selection into another level of their education is decided.

This tireless work usually is carried out by markers whom majority of them were teachers.

Before deliberating on the main issues I want to raise regarding this year’s marking I will give you some background information that will certainly enlighten the discussion.

The discussion on this matter is based on grade six, form three and five examinations marking.

Previously, marking is done on individual marker marking a booklet or a script. The ministry pays a marker per script, which is $7 for secondary and $4 for primary.

This year the National Examination Standard Unit (NESU) of the Ministry of Education has introduced section marking which means two or three markers marking each section of a booklet or a script.

The idea that it’s good intention for a quality marking outcome cannot be disputed.

They also informed the markers that the rate per script has increased to $10 and $5 for secondary and primary respectively.

However, I believe there were no thorough preparation inputs into implementing this proposal which I will raise some inconsistencies in the contract agreement in relation to the section marking. I will also deliberate on other related matters.

 Firstly, the contract agreement should be reworded.

The contract agreement still adapts to the old marking system- a marker marking a script.

My understanding is that the wordings should be changed and tailored towards the new system- section marking.

By this it gives the parties involved especially we markers a clear understanding of its content which helps markers’ decision to sign the document.

Now, as it was the case, we have different understanding and interpretation of the document.

For instance, I will quote clause 3 of the primary marker’s contract agreement.

I quote “The Ministry agrees to pay the marker a fee at the rate of $ 5 per script. The payment is to be made after the Chief Marker has submitted his/her Marker’s report and other tasks stated in the Chief Marker’s contract.” 

The first part of the clause has become the point of argument for the markers and NESU. Some of us markers have raised this before signing off the agreement.

We agreed to sign it when some chief markers explained that section marking does not change the rate but still markers will get $ 5 each per script.

After some more discussion amongst us markers, we think the opposite of what our chief markers have told us so we raised the issue as a concern for clarification.

The way I see it is simple and clear. Literally, the ministry will pay each marker (not markers) an amount of $5 per script.

The way NESU is enforcing this particular clause is understood by me as this, it reads the ministry will pay the markers an amount of $5 per script.

Let me illustrate a bit in detail of NESU and my explanations.

NESU’s understanding is that two or three markers in a sub-set (group) you mark the exam papers and the total will be shared equally between you and then is multiplied by the rate of $5 or $10.

For example; 3 primary markers marked a total of 300 scripts which can be put into figure as, {300÷3= 100 scripts each x $5= $500 per marker}

On the other hand my perception of their (NESU) interpretation can be illustrated in its simplest form as you divide the $5 between 3 markers and then multiply by the total scripts marked. { $5÷3= 1.6666666667 x 300 = $500}. This simply means every script a marker gets about $1.66 cents.

It got me by surprise that they seemed not accept my explanation even though I put myself clear that their explanation is same as mine.

The point here is when you desired a quality marking and result outcome, how can you expect one to do his best for a dollar and sixty six cent?

What was obvious from their expression during our meeting with them at KGVI was they stand their ground as their understanding is the correct way of explaining clause 3.

Thus they gave us no other avenues to deal with this matter but to allow their opinion to prevail. Can anyone help us to explain this clause? Is there other way to explain it?

Another issue with the agreement is the signing of the contract before carrying out the duty.

My simple understanding of a contract agreement as a legal binding document is that it should be signed by both parties in their presence.

This is something that I have not seen since involving in marking.

What normally happens is markers usually sign their part while the Ministry which the Permanent Secretary (PS) supposes to sign is left blank.

Whether it will be signed later by the PS or the Director of NESU on his behalf, I do not see it as the right manner by which a contract agreement is signed.

Thus, my understanding tells me that, teachers we have been signing contract documents without the other party consent of the terms and conditions stipulated in the contract.

This means the agreement is not legally binding and we have no room to raise a complaint whenever an issue arises.

Secondly, this year another newly introduced concept of CHECKERS was introduced. WHO are the Checkers?

This is another group of people hired by NESU to check the exam papers after they were marked.

According to NESU, checkers’ sole duty is to check whether the marks are correctly added and transferred into the official use only of the booklet- no more, no less.

The introduction of checkers into the process of marking at the marking venues raised a lot of questions and dissatisfaction amongst markers and some chief markers.

Whatever each markers may perceive of these people who are engaged to check as the word implies, I also have my own way how I see this.

While I accept the fact that their work is to ensure quality and accuracy of marks awarded, there are areas regarding their recruitment that need to put straight.

One is the question of qualification and experience. If it is so for the sole purpose of quality examination results then people who are selected to do checker’s work should possess qualifications in specialized areas and have experiences.

Surprisingly, many who were hired are form 5, 6 and 7 students, a few were university graduates and less is those with working experiences.

Do you think these young students will maintain the confidentiality of examination data? Certainly, I don’t think so.

To make things even appeared suspicious is they select their own relatives and immediate family members.

Is this not a broad day light nepotism practiced in the government office?

Does the Ministry have a selection criteria or guideline for choosing people to be part of this independent body?

If the Ministry has one, then can you explain to us how these checkers were selected? Moreover, if the Ministry can advertise the positions of markers why not do the same for the checkers?

I think this position should be advertised so that people out there with the right qualifications and experiences can apply for it and do the job.

Their roles and scope of duties should be well outlined. This is to avoid duplication of responsibility and any complaint.

The Chief markers must be well informed of such information so that they can pass on to the markers.

In addition, there should be a clear cut of when the checkers to do the work. I don’t think it’s a good idea that the checkers come in while marking process is going on.

Checkers payment is better off than the markers. Some of them were sympathetic for the markers and expressed openly how bad markers are paid.

They told some markers that they will be paid $ 1 per script. Just imagine if they check 5000 scripts they will be paid $ 5,000.

Is this fair on the part of the markers who comparably are doing more work, to give judgment and award marks are given the lowest?

National examination is a national duty. If it is so then the necessary supports required for the marking to run smoothly must be taken seriously.

Markers for this matter, play a key role in the process so therefore they must be given a fair package.

Marking determines the quality results which the NESU (the Ministry), parents and guardians expect at the end.

While I thank NESU for their support in terms of bus, I suppose they also include a stipend for food especially for Honiara markers. Currently, they pay two weeks bus fare of $300 which markers also use it to buy food, water and etc.

Sometimes, markers stayed overnight to do marking and returned home at their own cost.

We experienced a delay and marking went into another week. We put forward a request for another bus fare.

They (NESU) agreed during a meeting with us and informed the markers that they will provide it. The next day they changed their mind-no money so no more bus fare.

I don’t see any valid reason because if they have genuine reason(s) they should have explained it the day before to all markers.

I know that bus fare is being allocated according to number of markers. I understand, in some panels there are less number of markers to the original list. Where is the bus fare allocation for those who didn’t come?

A word of caution for next year’s marking.

Take heed teachers that our solidarity and togetherness before signing the agreement and doing the actual marking is of utmost importance.

Enough is enough. Let us not fall into the same mistake to sign the contract without a thorough reading of the terms and conditions.

We must ensure that we have a common stand on the contract agreement before we put our signature and kick start the marking.

I salute you teachers for your work well done.