A-level fees removal contributes to higher absentee rate

12% absent in A-level exams attributed to removal of fees

The removal of Matsec exam fees has removed a heavy burden for lower-income families, but also contributed to an increase in candidates who do not even turn up for their exam for which they had registered.

The absentee rate among candidates sitting for their A-levels increased from 7.1% in 2017 when students still paid registration fees, to 12.1% in 2021. In the same time-frame the absentee rate also increased from 5.4% to 14.6% among candidates sitting for their intermediate level exams.

The absentee rate among candidates sitting for their A-levels has slightly decreased from 2020 when 15.5% of candidates were absent, but is still considerably higher than the 7.4% reported absent in 2018, where half the examination registration fees were covered by the State; and the 7.1% reported absent in 2017 when candidates paid registration fees for examinations.

The data from a Matsec statistical report suggests “that the introduction of government subsidised examinations in 2019 has considerably increased the number of absent candidates sitting for their advanced level exams”.

This difference is notable in some subjects more than others. For example, at Advanced level, all registrants for Latin and Applied Mathematics were absent, while more than a quarter of applicants were absent for Arabic (30%) and Religious Knowledge.

For Intermediate Level, absenteeism stood at 34.8% for Art, 33.3% for Russian and 28.6% for Arabic.

When compared to last year, some subjects experienced a 100% increase in absentees, with the percentage of absentees increasing from 8.6% to 20.5% in advanced level Sociology and from 9.1% to 18.2% for A-level Spanish.

Despite the removal of exam fees, no significant increase is reported with regards to the number of registrations, even among those hailing from less affluent localities with the number of candidates from the southern harbour only increasing from 522 to 523 from 2017 levels.

Candidates from the south harbour, which accounts for 19% of the total population, still account for 12% of the total number of candidates as was the case in 2017.

A previous analysis by MaltaToday showed that the removal of exam fees had contributed to an increase in students sitting for their O-levels, particularly in the south harbour where the numbers shot up by 9% between 2018 and 2019.

But this is not reflected in the number of students sitting for their A-level in what could be an indication that students hailing from poorer families are already weeded out from tertiary education at post-secondary level, when students sit for A-levels.