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[WATCH] Education minister calls for accessibility to post-secondary levels for children with learning issues

We need to break down boundaries faced by students with learning challenges after secondary school – Evarist Bartolo

Martina Borg
1 March 2016, 2:53pm
Education minister Evarist Bartolo speaking at a discussion with students with learning difficulties
Education minister Evarist Bartolo speaking at a discussion with students with learning difficulties
 
Education minister calls for accessibility to post-secondary levels for children with learning issues
Education minister Evarist Bartolo stressed the need to ensure that boundaries faced by students with learning difficulties, like Autism and Dyslexia, were further broken down particularly at post-secondary school education.

“We are giving students the necessary aid when it comes to compulsory education, but it is useless to then expect them to magically fit into a one-size fits all educational and testing method once they finish their compulsory education,” Bartolo said.

Speaking at a 45minute discussion, with students from 100 colleges including Junior college, ITS, Higher Secondary, MCAST, teachers and parents, Bartolo pointed out that discussions of the kind further clarified and underlined beliefs that education could not be the same for everyone.

“Thinking that all children have to fit into the same methods makes no sense,” he said, adding that many students wished to have more hands-on experiences to suit their interests and needs.

“It's not natural to spend so much time sitting around in class, and we have to focus on these needs,” he added.

During the discussion, parents expressed their concerns that in assessing whether students needed assistance to sit for their O’Level or A’Level examinations, the committee was often overlooking people with dyslexia and autism because “their intelligence levels were superior.”

“My son has dyslexia, and although he might pass the exam, I know that he would need additional time in order to achieve a grade that truly reflects what he has learned,” one speaker said.

Saying that he felt that his inability to affect the sector so far, was something of a personal failure, Bartolo said that he was still committed to increasing accessibility for students with learning disabilities.

Responding to some of the comments made throughout the meeting, Bartolo also stressed the need to increase differentiated methods of assessment and learning for students.

Students largely pointed out that they wished to have a more specifically crafted timetables to reflect their interests and aspirations for the future, with one student pointing out that that he found certain subjects challenging abd that he wished a future job in landscaping and gardening, subjects which he wished he had more time to practice.

Others also explained that they found difficulties in learning specific subjects like Maths and Physics, with teachers explaining that finding ways of incorporating visual and practical aspects to such subjects often proved useful to the students.

One student who said he had trouble reading and writing said that he wished that the layout of exam papers could be clearer including through bigger fonts and easier exercises like matching or underlining among others. He further added that a bigger focus on visual aspects, and learning through the use of tablets and technology could also help in his development.

His mother, who also spoke during the discussion, further clarified that due to her son’s writing difficulties, it was somewhat unfair to assess his knowledge through essays so he required specific kinds of exercises.

She added that better training for Learning Support Assistants was also necessary to ensure that they know how to use tools like tablets and computers for educational purposes.  

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