n South African Journal of Higher Education - Is a year-long access course into university helping previously disadvantaged black students in biology?

Volume 19, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



There has been increased demand to widen access to university study. The Science Foundation Programme (SFP) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) (formerly Natal), Pietermaritzburg, is a year-long access course specifically for previously disadvantaged black students. Students in the SFP take five courses and performance in these is reflected in final marks. This determines whether they proceed into the faculty. However, little is known about whether or not this guarantees their success. One of the subjects SFP students take is biology. In the present study the performance of these students in their SFP biology course was assessed across years (1995-2000), as well as in the first year bioscience course. Assessment marks were also analysed to determine if they showed trends in the mastery of the skills and knowledge tested. The use of different forms of assessment as monitoring instruments appears to improve the reliability and validity of the final mark awarded to a student. It seems that passing their biology SFP does not necessarily mean that these students will perform well in their first year Biology course. This is a consequence of a myriad of academic and non-academic factors. However, in terms of ongoing curriculum development, the types of teaching and assessment used to award a final grade need to be examinationined. Development of language and higher order thinking skills need to be examinationined at both SFP biology and bioscience levels.

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