Disparate Impact, Justice and fairness: A case study of the Test of Academic Literacy Levels

  • K Sebolai
Keywords: impact, justice, fairness, academic literacy, test.


The teaching of academic literacy has become critically important at South African universities in the postapartheid period. The reason for this is that universities that were previously exclusively accessible to white students are currently within reach of non-white students. Most of these students, however, graduated from public schools where they received poor education in English, a medium of instruction at most universities. A result of this has been that the students struggle to handle the demands of university education in the language. This contributes to their failure to complete their studies in scheduled time and to drop out. As a way to deal with this challenge, Higher Education South Africa (HESA) has introduced a National
Benchmark Test of academic literacy to assess the reading, writing and  thinking abilities of these students to ensure their proper placement at universities. The Inter-institutional Centre for Language Development and Assessment (ICELDA), a partnership of the Universities of Pretoria, Stellenbosch, North-West and Free State, has also developed a test of academic literacy known as the Test of Academic Literacy Levels (TALL) for the same purpose. This paper was a case study of the impact, justice and fairness of this test. The findings were that the test possessed an acceptable degree of justice and fairness and that it aimed for a positive impact on the test-taker.

Keywords: impact, justice, fairness, academic literacy, test.


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eISSN: 0259-9570