Parents demand computers during MATSEC exams for autistic, dyslexic and ADHD children

Education ombudsman finds in no uncertain terms that candidates with autism, dyslexia and ADHD are performing less well in their O’levels than other students

A report by the education ombudsman on special needs students’ access to MATSEC exams has found in no uncertain terms that these candidates are performing less well in their O’levels than other students.

The data is consistent over the three years 2014-2016 in three selected subjects, namely Maltese, English and Mathematics, with success rates of candidates with ADHD, autism and dyslexia being less than half that of other candidates.

Commissioner for Education Charles Farrugia said in his own-initiative report that it was reasonable to conclude that the results are not just down to candidates’ innate conditions, but also to insufficient access support by the University of Malta, which organises the MATSEC examinations.

SubjectSpecial Needs Candidates Other Candidates 
RegisteredObtained Grades 1-5RegisteredObtained Grades 1-5
Maltese1183339=28.7%128198488=66.2%
English1215380=31.3%144909208=63.5%
Maths1222294=24.1%140317575=54.0%

“However, parents of Dyslexia-ADHD candidates, for example, point to such data to claim that the University authorities do not help their children in any way when the latter’s spelling mistakes in language subjects are penalised to the same extent of other candidates when it is well known that Dyslexic students have an innate difficulty to spell correctly.

Parents in fact requested that the MATSEC Board should allow their children a much wider use of technological aids than it does at present. One group of parents stated: “Students should be allowed to use technologies that overcome their disabilities and demonstrate their mastery of content material.”

Farrugia said a wider use of computers and calculators during SEC and Matriculation examinations present the University with some formidable challenges. But parents counter-argue that computers feature prominently in their children’s lives so they should be allowed to use this equipment to express their knowledge, views and answers to examination questions when handwritten efforts do not do them justice.

Commissioner for Education Charles Farrugia
Commissioner for Education Charles Farrugia

“As a result their performance in Maltese and English is 40% lower than other candidates’. In the process, parents argue, the University deprives these candidates the opportunity to pursue tertiary education when they possess the intellectual capacity to do so with profit,” Farrugia said in his report.

The study was carried out to establish whether students with special education needs sitting for the SEC and Matriculation examinations receive all the access support they require to overcome fully the obstacles imposed by their conditions.

Farrugia said the study was not an investigation into the workings of the University’s ACCESS Committee or the MATSEC Board, but a presentation of the perspectives of the parents of candidates with special education needs of the obstacles their children face when they sit for the SEC and Matriculation examinations.

“Second, it provides parents in general with a document to help them understand the complex issues involved when their children sit for these national examinations and how the University authorities seek to deal with them.

“Third, the study can serve as an additional tool for the University authorities to understand more comprehensively the concerns of these candidates and their parents. Such a tool can be particularly useful at a time when the Institution itself is reviewing its ACCESS and examination policies,” Farrugia said.

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