Question Without Notice No. 719 asked in the Legislative Assembly on 17 November 2010 by Mrs M.H. Roberts

Parliament: 38 Session: 1

Answered on 17 November 2010


719. Mrs M.H. ROBERTS to the Minister for Education:

I draw the minister’s attention to the litany of errors in this year’s Western Australian Certificate of Education exams, including errors in the year 12 physics, modern history, music, economics and maths exams.

(1) Are the mistakes in any way related to the 30 per cent, or $7 million, funding cuts that the Barnett government has made to the Curriculum Council’s budget?

(2) What responsibility does the minister take for the errors?

(3) How will the minister ensure that there is not a repeat of this plainly unacceptable situation next year?

Dr E. CONSTABLE replied:

(1)–(3) The Western Australian Certificate of Education exams began on Monday, 1 November. On 2 November, I met in my office with the chairman of the Curriculum Council, Professor Bill Louden, and David Wood, the chief executive officer, because I wanted to express to them my anger and disappointment at the mistakes that appeared on the first day or so of those exams.

Mrs M.H. Roberts: And they kept continuing.

Dr E. CONSTABLE: If the member wants an answer, she should just listen for once. Let us see whether the member can sit there for one minute without interrupting.

Mrs M.H. Roberts: I would like an answer. I hope you can actually address the budget cuts. I have asked you about the budget cuts and their impact. Try answering the question about the budget cuts.

The SPEAKER: Order! One person has asked the question and one person is answering it—one person, the Minister for Education.

Dr E. CONSTABLE: No mistakes in an exam paper are acceptable. There have been a number of exams —

Ms M.M. Quirk interjected.

The SPEAKER: I formally call to order the member for Girrawheen for the first time today.

Dr E. CONSTABLE: This is a very important issue that affects thousands of young Western Australians. I take this matter seriously and I would expect the opposition to take it seriously as well. I will go through this and explain what has happened during the last two weeks.

Ms M.M. Quirk: You could have done that in a brief ministerial statement.

Dr E. CONSTABLE: The reason I have not drawn attention to this—I am surprised that the opposition has drawn attention to it while the exams are still on—is that the future of thousands of young Western Australians depends on these exams. The opposition is now making a political issue out of it. The opposition could have waited until next week. This is not a political matter.

Several members interjected.

The SPEAKER: Thank you, members. I have heard the question and I would like to hear the answer.

Dr E. CONSTABLE: When I met with the chairman of the Curriculum Council and the CEO on Tuesday, 2 November, I specifically requested that every exam paper be checked and rechecked so that there would be no more mistakes. I am assured that two people checked every paper again at that point, yet there were mistakes in those papers. It is unexplainable that there would be mistakes in those papers. I will go through the papers and explain what the mistakes were in a moment. The mistakes are not systematic. Some are proofreading mistakes and some are other errors, which I will explain in a moment. When the exams are finished next week —

Mrs M.H. Roberts: Can you explain the impact of the budget cuts, because that is what you have been asked about?

Dr E. CONSTABLE: It is nothing to do with cuts; it is to do with human error. It has nothing at all to do with budget cuts. It is very important to realise that the futures of thousands of year 12 students who are doing these exams depend on those exams. They should be given as much peace of mind as possible over the next week to complete those exams. They should expect that from every one of us. I am really sorry that the member for Midland is making this a political football.

Mrs M.H. Roberts: They expected better of you and your government. You have cut 30 per cent of funding out of the organisation that has failed the TEE students in this state.

The SPEAKER: I formally call to order the member for Midland for the first time.

Dr M.D. Nahan interjected.

The SPEAKER: I formally call the member for Riverton to order for the first time as well.

Dr E. CONSTABLE: Since 2006 the number of exams that have been presented for year 12 has risen from 31 to 93 because of a decision by the former Minister for Education and Training that stage 2 and 3 exams should be examined. This is the first year that the full set of exams has been offered to students. Errors in the exams have been identified in six areas. In the 3A and 3B physics paper, an incorrect unit of measurement was nominated. I understand that the action taken on this will result in all possible correct answers being accepted. In the history 3A and 3B paper—this was publicised in The West Australian—a wrong date was listed on a source document that was referred to.

Ms M.M. Quirk: That is immaterial in history!

Dr E. CONSTABLE: It was not immaterial because there were two different dates. It was not immaterial. In the papers for music 2A, 2B, 3A and 3B, in one of the three contexts, reference was made to material that was not necessarily part of the syllabus for all students studying the course. That error was made when setting the exam by the examiners, which was checked and rechecked. In the mathematics 3C and 3D paper, a zero was missing from one figure in an example used in one question. That is why I am very angry about it. This is what I had asked the chairman and the CEO to check and recheck when I spoke to them on 2 November. These exams were checked and rechecked but their errors were not picked up by the people who proofread them. In the business management and enterprise paper, there was an error in the data table to illustrate financial statements. Data from that table was used to answer two parts of the question. I am happy to table this page explaining those errors. I think the member for Midland also referred to the economics paper. A printing error occurred and the printer stapled some of the history paper to the economics paper. That printing error occurred in some of the bundles of a few papers. The errors I am tabling are the errors in the actual papers themselves.

[See paper 2864.]