PibSpeex as a selection instrument

Utilizing the PIB in selection - a tertiary institution's perspective by Helena Kriel Tecknikon Pretoria

1. Introduction

Present admission requirements for tertiary education are a Senior Certificate as well as matric exemption in the case of universities. All tertiary institutions regulate additional entrance requirements autonomously. In many instances degree and diploma programmes involving Mathematics, Natural Science and Biology, attach additional requirements. In the case of some professional fields, admission is governed by the relevant professional body and limitations are placed on the number of students admitted for study.

As tertiary institutions receive the bulk of their government subsidies on the number of successful students, the increasing financial burdens of Higher Education institutions likewise imply that institutions will no longer be able to bear the burden of unsatisfactory study progress by students. (Stumph, 1997: 14). Pienaar (1991:9) agrees that tertiary education is cost-intensive and therefore it will become more and more important to select only students who have a predictable chance of being successful, for higher education.

According to Stumph (1997:2) the official average pass rate for students enrolled at South African Technikons for three-year diplomas was 15% for historically white institutions and 9% for historically black institutions in 1990. Official records for the Technikon Pretoria show that 35% of the students registered as first year students in 1996 dropped out of their courses by the beginning of 1997. This figure does not take the 34% that failed more than half their subjects into account (Technikon Pretoria: Strategic Information and Planning, 1998).

Hand in hand with the financial burden goes the principle of maintaining standards. Tertiary institutions can either drop their standards and in that way increase their throughput statistics in order to increase their government subsidies, or maintain their standards, but ensure that the students they admit have the potential to be successful in their chosen courses.

From all the arguments above it seemed clear that some innovative measures had to be developed to enable tertiary institutions to select potentially successful students. A potential assessment program with scientifically proven predictive validity was suggested as such a measure to ensure that those students with the best chance to pass will be admitted to the Technikon Pretoria. It was decided to utilize the Potential Index Batteries for this purpose and an ongoing research project was launched in order to determine the impact of this selection process on the dropout rate of first year students; and eventually its impact on the retention rate of the Technikon Pretoria. As not all courses are included in the selection program the effect of the selection procedure is monitored on a course specific basis.

2. Method of Study

In this specific study the difference in the dropout rate between groups that were evaluated with the PIB and those who were not (from the same academic course) were determined. This was done by comparing the dropout rate for the relevant courses for the two years before the onset of potential assessment with the dropout rate after selection with PIB commenced.

3. Results

The difference in dropout rate will be given as a percentage per academic course:


The 1996 first year students were the first from this department to be assessed for academic potential, utilising PIB. In this group the dropout rate declined with a staggering 22% from the previous two years. This tendency continued into the next year, when as second year students 35% less dropped out than previous years. The 1997 first year students confirmed the tendency and 18% fewer dropped out than before potential assessment.


Students from this Department were evaluated in 1996 for the 1997 intake. The dropout rate declined with 25% for first year students and as these students went on to their second year 22% fewer dropped their studies. The decline was even a percentage higher for the 1998 intake where only 15% of the students dropped out in their first year.

*Analytical Chemistry

The first students to be evaluated with PIB in this department showed a decline of 26% in dropout rate. At the time of this study statistics for the performance of these students in their second academic year was not yet available.

*Veterinary Technology

The first students in this course were evaluated in 1997. The dropout rate for this department declined with 36% in comparison with the previous year.

* Biomedical Technology

The Biomedical students evaluated in 1996 showed a decline of 18% in dropout rate in comparison with the previous year’s students. This group distinguished themselves, as no students dropped out to the second year of study.

4. Conclusion

It is clear from the above that the selection process definitely impacted on the dropout rate of students evaluated. As the process is conducted by utilising the PIB the conclusion might be drawn that the instrument is highly successful in indicating students with the ability to be successful in tertiary studies.

5. References

Pienaar, J.L. 1991. Die voorspelling van akademiese sukses met behulp van die AAT. Unpublished Thesis: VISTA University. Pretoria Stumph, 1997. The White Paper on Higher Education: Implications for counselling and guidance of students particularly regarding access and retention issues. Paper presented at the 17th Annual Conference of the Society for Student Counselling in Southern Africa, Technikon Port Elizabeth.