Exam chaos highlights EAAB ineffectiveness
MAIN IMAGE: Adrianne du Toit of Rebosa; Meryl Muller, Facilitator of EATA and IEASA; Mamodupi Mohlala, CEO of EAAB; Mfundo Daki, Executive Manager: Education and Training at the EAAB
Estate agents are up in arms about the apparent ineffectiveness of the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) to manage and execute online examinations for the Professional Designation Examination (PDE).
The Covid-19 pandemic necessitated the move from classroom to online exams, the first of which was held on 19 November 2020. The industry applauded the EAAB for taking this proactive step and while it could be appreciated that teething problems would be expected, it appears that none of the lessons learned were observed or taken cognisance of in the next exams of 25 February 2021 or 20 May 2021. In fact, the system failed candidates sitting for the exam more so than in the inaugural exam.
Technical glitches included agents being unable to access the system to begin the exam, dropping them from the platform while writing and not allowing them to go back to previously unanswered questions. Insufficient time was allocated for exam candidates to download the specific software and set-up requirements which are arduous at best i.e. examination candidates need an uninterrupted internet connection, a functioning webcam with video and installation of the latest Google Chrome Browser on their computers. The email link to enable the candidates to tour the system upfront, was also not sent out in time for candidates to test the system in all instances of the new online exams.
At no time did the EAAB take into account the nature of the industry not being tech savvy. The high costs of data coupled with interns not having access to laptops or desktop computers but rather operating from smart phones, as has become the norm, further complicated the process.. Enough time and process should have been assigned to allow candidates to familiarise themselves with the platform prior to sitting for the exam.
According to the EAAB’s own standard process, the examination results are released within 6 to 8 weeks after the date of the examination. In an email received by Rebosa on 13 May the EAAB CEO Mamodupi Mohlala communicated that “we would like to mention that while we are aware that there has been a delay in issuing results due to internal issues, marking will be finalised and results communicated by no later than 18 May 2020.”
Unfortunately, the deadline for registration of the May exam was 7 May 2021 leaving candidates who failed the exam without an opportunity to re-register.
As at 18 May, 12 weeks after the 25 February exam, results were still not released causing enormous anxiety to agents who believed they may not have passed the previous exam and thereby denying them the opportunity to re-register.
Although the EAAB did acknowledge that there were technical glitches, they did not improve the system since November last year and candidates were still negatively influenced by the lack of ability to execute a proper online examinations system.
It is evident that the EAAB were not suitably equipped to manage the online exam process, causing immense concern to candidates and their education facilitators.
Meryl Muller, facilitator of EATA / IEASA-Nationally and iSiKolo School of Learning, said candidates’ livelihoods have been affected, by not only the stress but also the time involved while waiting for the EAAB to issue the results and more importantly, an educated response to the problems experienced, with their so called .. ‘system glitches’.
“The ‘once again’ incompetence of the Board to not only ensure that the platform via which the candidates were to take the second PDE, was reliable and working, but after all this time, provide an uneducated reply, to why it has taken so long to come back with legitimate and acceptable answers or solutions.
“It is not good enough to say that the marking of the last PDE will be concluded on whatever date this ridiculous reply was written and that the results will be conveyed by no later than 18 May, two days before the next session.
“I believe as an industry representatives and educationalist, that it is way overdue for us to find a way to escalate and expose the once again failed service delivery on the part of the EAAB, to a higher authority. We, who the industry rely on, run the risk of not being taken seriously and our reputations are on the line,” she said.
Technical system problems are nothing new when it comes to the lack of service delivery estate agents receive from their regulatory body. For the past few years, the EAAB has blamed the annual backlog to issue FFC’s timeously on an outdated IT system. Promises to address the problem were already made in 2017 but actual updating of the system has been continuously postponed.
In her address to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on 29 April this year, the entity’s CEO, Mamodupi Mohlala, said they are in the process of securing an IT service provider to implement a new system.
Bridget Clark, Human Resources Manager at Jawitz Properties, said one of their agents went through the whole chaotic system but finally received his results last week.
”The EAAB does not know what they are doing or what is going on. They have dictated to the industry what qualifications should be obtained but know they fail to put structures in place to enable the candidates to obtain these. Our agent did not know that he was registered for the exams until a day before he had to sit for the paper and on the day of the examinations the one technical problem after the other hampered the process. Interns do what they should do, but now the EAAB is a challenge on their way. Their incompetence is a barrier to allow new agents into the industry and it also deprives them of a higher income,” she said.
Peta-Ann Dumbleton of Urban Spaces Realty, who received her results on 20 May 2012, in a letter to Mfundo Daki, Executive Manager: Education and Training at the EAAB, said she doesn’t really understand the lack of responsibility and the unprofessionalism of how the EAAB has handled this situation.
“We cannot get hold of anyone to get a proper answer. It is terribly unfair for us as agents to put all our time and effort to get qualified for the better part of 3 years, while working full time, to be left hanging and not know if we have passed or failed. Then on top of that get an email saying I am registered to write ‘the next day’ when I hadn’t registered. This has been very stressful. It really is a sign of incompetence within the organisation.”
On 19 May the EAAB issued a statement confirming exam results for the exam conducted on 25 February 2021 were available on the Cirrus System.
The statement also indicated that those examination candidates whose results were unfavourable “Failed results” were advised to ensure that they log their written appeal against the results and attach proof of payment and within 10 -14 days log an appeal on the MyEAAB portal.
In reaction to these allegations, Mfundo Daki, Executive Manager: Education and Training at the EAAB, said before every exam, the EAAB tests the online exam platform with its service provider. Secondly, candidates are afforded an opportunity to navigate the system and familiarise themselves with same a few days before the exam.
“An investigation was conducted by our IT department and the online system was found to be functioning. It was established that some candidates had network problems, had tried to utilise incompatible gadgets and a few had been found to be cheating.
“IT related glitches during exams are not a unique feature to the EAAB only as some tertiary institutions reported some challenges when they rolled out online exams. We will, in conjunction with our service provider, strive to ensure that we look at the repeat glitches and address them so that there is no future repeat of the challenges that were experienced by some candidates.
“The EAAB has convened a meeting with the service provider to look at the repeat challenges that were experienced by the candidates. A solution will be found to ensure that all the challenges are addressed so that in future, we have a smooth and efficient exam.
“As we did previously, we will conduct an investigation and if the investigation reveals that there was no fault on the part of the concerned candidates, they will be granted an opportunity to participate in the coming exam at no additional cost on their part. We have communicated this to the candidates who raised queries with us,” he concluded.