INNOVATIVE WAYS OF ASSISTING LEARNERS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS IN THEIR EXAMINATIONS

INTRODUCTION

Over the years, the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council has worked hard to meet the assessment needs of All candidates and has put provisions in place for learners with special needs. That includes children with Physical Impairment, Hearing Impairment, Visual Impairment, Health Related Disorders and those with transitory disabilities.

Candidates with Learning Disabilities have not been attended to despite the availability of their examinations provisions largely because Heads are failing to identify them and apply for the necessary provisions. The current examinations provisions are set out in the ZIMSEC “Handbook for Centres”. This is available in every examination centre. There are also examinations Circulars in schools that explain these provisions.

This write up is an opportunity to remind parents and communities, and teachers and heads in schools, of the processes currently in place. It explains what special provisions learners with disabilities are able to have, when they are taking examinations.

It is important to note that these provisions can be availed to the learners if they are applied for during registration. ZIMSEC also will accept applications for special arrangements and considerations for cases identified after registration. All applications should be in writing through school heads. The learner (or their parents) needs to discuss with the head of centre.

It should be noted that each impairment has different processes and concessions in place which are described below.

Physical Impairment

There are many different types of physical impairment which means that the children may have difficulty being able to move around and being able to handle writing equipment. Some may also have trouble speaking clearly. The types of impairment include:

  • cerebral palsy
  • learners who are spastic
  • learners affected by polio
  • learners that have been involved in accidents
  • learners that are non-ambulatory
  • learners with brittle bones

ZIMSEC allows these learners to be supported in their examinations. They are allowed to:

  • Use laptops to write their examinations
  • Use an amanuensis(a professional who writes the learner’s answers that are dictated to them)
  • Have extra time of up to 25% or more, depending on the condition
  • Have time for breaks during the examination itself
  • Change the layout of the examination room, as needed to improve access
Hearing Impairment

Hearing Impairment includes children who have absolute or profound deafness as well as those that are hard of hearing. Their biggest problem is usually language; especially those that became deaf before they learned to speak or from birth. ZIMSEC has modified language in the question papers for these learners. The modification does not tamper with the technical language of the subject. Teachers of learners with deafness are also invited to mark the examinations, because they understand the language of the deaf best.

ZIMSEC allows these learners to be supported in their examinations. They are allowed to:

  • Use a sign language interpreter- this one could be a teacher or any other deaf adult with the knowledge of the subject being tested.
  • Use examinations album/illustrations at Grade 7 level, to help the interpreter explain concepts during assessment.
  • Have a time allowance of 25% or more, depending on need
  • Use hearing aids for those who have them, during the examination
  • Use overhead projectors to beam the question paper to help the learner’s focus and interpretation of the question paper.
  • Use special amplification through headphones
  • Candidates with profound deafness are also allowed to respond to a note taker through sign language under a video, if required
Visual Impairment

Visual impairment connotes those with total blindness and those with low vision. The Low Vision category encompasses learners with myopia, hyperopia and colour blindness among others. Learners with low vision due to albinism also fall within this category.

ZIMSEC allows these learners to be supported in their examinations. They are allowed to:

With low vision and Albinism

  • Use enlarged print
  • Use magnifying glasses (provided by their schools) when the font provided is still too small to be sufficient

With total blindness

  • Where Braille can be used by the learner, Braille question papers are provided
  • Limited use of diagrams (only simple two dimensional diagrams are used in Mathematics)
  • Use modified sight referenced statements
  • Be exempted from experiments/practical components that may endanger them.
  • Be exempted in Geography from the map reading part in paper one.
  • If the learner acquired blindness later in life and has a challenge in reading or writing Braille, the learner is allowed a reader and or scribe to help them during the examinations.
  • Use laptops with “jaws” software and/or other reader software
  • Use headphones
  • Use talking calculators. (these are not provided by ZIMSEC but examination centres are encouraged to have them)
  • Have extra time of 25%, or more depending on the observed speed of the candidate
Health Related Disorders

For learners with asthma, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, nose bleeding and other ailments that may disturb concentration during examination taking, ZIMSEC allows teachers to time the period of the seizure (or attack or nose bleeding or any such disturbance). They then can allow the learner to continue writing when he/she recovers, as long as it is the same day. For those who do not recover within the same day, a process called aegrotation is then applied to estimate the learner’s grade using set components, as determined by the examiners.

  • Have extra time of 25% or more depending on the condition
  • Have time breaks
  • Have access to counselling
TO NOTE

All of these details on the examination provisions are in ZIMSEC’s “Handbook for Centres” which is available in all schools on pages 25-28, and also in Examinations Circulars.

Every other disability is treated as they are seen in the examination centres on a case by case basis. Through discussion and observation, an appropriate examination provision will be decided upon. The head of centre has a great responsibility to look out for individual cases and raise them with ZIMSEC with the goal that every child has equitable access to examinations in Zimbabwe.