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South African Journal of Chemistry

On-line version ISSN 1996-840X
Print version ISSN 0379-4350

S.Afr.j.chem. (Online) vol.63  Durban  2010




Grade 12 achievement rating scales in the new National Senior Certificate as indication of preparedness for tertiary chemistry



Marietjie PotgieterI, *; Bette DavidowitzII

IDepartment of Chemistry, University of Pretoria, South Africa
IIDepartment of Chemistry, University of Cape Town, South Africa




There has been much discussion on the impact of the new curricula for Grades 10-12 on the preparedness for tertiary studies of the 2009 cohort in subjects such as mathematics, chemistry and physics. Using the Chemical Competence Test that was developed and refined earlier, we have evaluated the proficiencies of incoming students to determine the shifts in preparedness for tertiary chemistry that occurred after students wrote the National Senior Certificate (NSC) in South Africa for the first time in 2008. Data were collected in 2009 for first-time entering students at the Universities of Pretoria (UP) (N = 828) and Cape Town (UCT) (N = 315) and compared with that of students who were educated according to the former National Education curriculum (NATED 550) (2005: NUP+UCT = 776). The raw score results showed a decline in proficiency in all topics, and significantly reduced skills development, with mastery of acids and bases showing the most serious decline. Rasch analysis of the data indicated that a 12 percentage point shift in preparedness occurred in 2009 compared with 2005. The contribution to this shift of a mismatch between the new NSC rating scale and the one used previously was also investigated. The implications of the findings for selection and placement and teaching of first year chemistry courses are discussed.

Keywords: Chemical education, preparedness, tertiary chemistry, Chemistry Competence Test, National Senior Certificate, achievement rating



Full text available only in PDF format.



The authors wish to thank Elsie Venter of the Centre for Evaluation and Assessment, University of Pretoria, for statistical processing of data, Kate le Roux, Numeracy Centre, University of Cape Town, and Rene Toerien, Centre for Research in Engineering Education at University of Cape Town for helpful comments on this paper. This material is based upon work supported financially by the National Research Foundation. Any opinion, findings or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and therefore the NRF does not accept any liability in regard thereto.



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Received 15 February 2010
Accepted 14 June 2010



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