Writing as construct in the Grade 12 Home Language curriculum and examination
The newly introduced Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) contains a lethora of genres and writing tasks, aimed at helping learners develop dexterity in written communication. Accordingly, writing also features as a dominant construct in the Grade 12 school-leaving examination, with an entire language paper (Paper 3) being devoted to the assessment of this ability. There are a number of material concerns with the writing component of the national curriculum, particularly in relation to the testing of this ability in a timed examination setting. The kinds of examination tasks do not provide a valid or reliable basis for measuring proficiency in written communication. Moreover, the separation of skills reflected in both the curriculum and Grade 12 language papers may serve to inhibit rather than advance writing proficiency. This paper problematises the nature of the writing tasks, on the basis of the accepted principles of validity, reliability and fairness in language testing. Data gleaned from an analysis of Home Language papers reveal a disturbing lack of comparability of standard, as well as the prejudicial treatment of some learners. A more responsible approach to the measurement of writing ability is advocated.
Keywords: Home Language assessment, writing ability, construct validity