Own Initiative Report by the Commissioner for Education on MATSEC Access Arrangements for Special Needs Candidates with Reference to candidates suffering from ADHD, Autism or Dyslexia Conditions
Own Initiative Report by the Commissioner for Education on MATSEC Access Arrangements for Special Needs Candidates with Reference to candidates suffering from ADHD, Autism or Dyslexia Conditions.
The Commissioner for Education at the Office of the Ombudsman undertook this study 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.
The Commissioner was spurred to undertake this analysis by parents of special education needs candidates who on one hand appreciate the value of the current special arrangements offered during examinations, and on the other hand feel that these do not go far enough and should be improved.
This study is not an investigation into the workings of the University’s ACCESS Committee or the MATSEC Board since the Commissioner is aware and appreciates the valuable work that the two entities carry out to those who deserve support. Instead, it has three objectives.
First, it presents 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.
The data collected for this study demonstrate in no uncertain terms that candidates with special education needs perform less well in SEC exams than other students. The data is consistent over the three years 2014-2016 and in the three selected subjects, namely Maltese, English and Mathematics. Table A shows that the success rate of candidates with the identified conditions is less than half that of other candidates.
Table A: Cumulative data emerging from other three tables
These figures do not prove conclusively that special need candidates perform less well than other candidates because of:
- either their innate conditions,
- or insufficient access support by the University.
It is reasonable to conclude that the results emerge from a combination of both factors. 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. 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.
The Commissioner appreciates the good work the University is performing in this regard. He also endorses parents’ requests for better access arrangements that enable their children to sit for the national examinations on a truly level ground with other candidates. Parents repeatedly stressed to the Commissioner that they do not want their children to obtain de-valued University certificates. Neither do they want their children to take unfair advantages over other candidates They want the University authorities to treat their children as “Different But Equal” to other candidates. One augurs that this study will contribute towards this end.
The Commissioner conducted this study under the Own-Initiative Investigation proviso of the Ombudsman Act of 1995 and in cognisance of the Education-Equal Opportunities (Persons with Disability) Act of 2000 CAP.413, the University’s Assessment Regulations of 2009, as well as its Guidelines to MATSEC Examinations ACCESS Arrangements, 2015.