Students requesting special exam arrangements treble in seven years

95% of some 644 applications for special exam arrangement were accepted by the education ministry, with the rest rejected for insufficient documentation or failure to pay for exams.

The 10-hour assessment of students applying for Exam Access Arrangements should be scrapped, Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said this afternoon.

Exam Access Arrangements are provisions approved prior to the beginning of examinations that enable candidates to demonstrate their achievements without having an unfair advantage on their peers. Without these exam access arrangements, candidates might be unable to demonstrate their achievements due to various learning difficulties.

According to information supplied by the MATSEC department, the number of candidates who requested special arrangements tripled between 2006 and 2013, from 222 candidates to 644 applicants by the end of the last scholastic year.

The Education Minister highlighted how 95% of the 644 applications were approved. The remaining 5% were rejected for insufficient documentation or for failing to pay for the exams.

“With this in mind, experts are recommending that we scrap this assessment carried out for the SEC exams. The students are already assessed before so the SEC assessment is unnecessary. If a student is assessed with ADHD at the age of 7 years, what would change when he is 16? He would still need this help,” Bartolo said.

He underlined how the assessments for special arrangements applications are carried out by the School Psychological Services, and that most of their time is taken by these applications.

“Instead of offering support, these psychologists are only focusing their work on this substantial number of applications. Keeping in mind that 95% of the applications were approved, is it worth it to waste the limited resources on confirming previous assessments?”

The minister also said that exam access arrangements should be widened, and quoted recommendations calling for exam papers in electronic format, large print and coloured paper in both English and Maltese versions. These exam papers would be accessible and practicable to students including those with special needs.

Bartolo said famous universities such as Cambridge, Harvard and Oxford have wider arrangements to suit the needs of students with learning difficulties/disabilities, and thus this show that wider arrangements do not lead to lowering the standards of our education system.

He remarked that Malta has been lagging behind with exam access arrangements since a number of countries have allowed several students to gain access and be successful in exams for a number of years.

The drafting of a national policy on Exam Access Arrangements and the setting up of a National Examinations Authority are expected to start early next year, after the consultation process comes to an end this year.