Sometimes children with special needs require additional time and effort to get through what may seem like the simplest of tasks. It’s completely okay to need more time and there’s finally enough awareness for the government to dedicate extra time to support students with special learning needs.
In fact, the Ministry of Education (MOE) Singapore dubs it as “access arrangements for exams” and can be availed by students diagnosed with a learning disability.
As per data released in 2017, MOE says that about 5,000 students or about four per cent of those sitting in the national exams in Singapore applied for access arrangements. The number of students applying for it increased over the last decade. This only happened due to higher awareness about the provision available.
With the national exams approaching fast, here’s what you need to know about access arrangements for exams and how you can avail them.
What Is Access Arrangements?
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Under the special provision, students get extra time, larger print on exam papers or even a scribe. The number of students with special education needs is also higher than before in mainstream schools, due to higher diagnosis of such issues.
MOE fully rolled out the school-based dyslexia remediation programme in 2016, across all primary schools on the island. This further helped parents and students identify potential learning disabilities.
How to receive access arrangements?
To receive access arrangements for exams, students need to request for special exam provision that needs to be evaluated by a panel. They will look at reports from a health professional and the student’s teacher. It will also include school exam results to gauge how the student is coping academically.
While the process goes through a proper channel before the access arrangement is granted, it can be a time-consuming exercise.
Parents will get a letter a year before the national exams to apply for access arrangements. So, in the case of primary students, parents can expect a letter during Primary 5, and during Secondary 3 for secondary students.
The guidelines keep changing for the access arrangement options, so make sure to keep a tab on this letter.
4 Types Of Access Arrangements For National Exams
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Access arrangements get further divided into four different types. Here’s a look at how each of these contributes during the exam time:
1. Additional Time
Children with special needs may not be able to complete their paper in the stipulated time and require some more time. While some parents may feel this already stretches the existing long exam durations, the child will be able to write at their own pace.
That being said, the extra time is not provided for listening comprehension exams. In the case of oral exams, children can speak at their own pace and can read aloud.
Meanwhile, those with special learning needs can apply for extra preparation time.
2. Colour Identification Assistance
In the case your child has colour vision deficiency, they you can apply for colour identification assistance for the papers necessary.
3. Question Papers In Larger Print
Students with special learning needs can receive the question paper in non-standard exam paper format. These include:
Question paper enlarged on an A3 sheet, instead of the standard A4 sized paper
All questions typed in 18-point bold print on A4 size paper with simplified visual information
For blind students, the question papers are in Braille with the option of English and Malay
Some students can also avail an exemption from exams if their health does not permit them to participate
However, a student can only apply for an exemption if the weightage of the exam is 50 percent or less of the total subject grade. If the weightage is higher, the student cannot be exempted and will be issued an “Absent” grade instead of the subject.
Students can also seek exemption from mother-tongue exams with approval from the Minister of Education.
In addition to these provisions, access arrangements for exams also include:
Taking the exam in a separate room
Using a word processor computer aid
Child health professionals or a teacher advise the child on the range of options available
Access Arrangements Is Not A Drawback
While access arrangements for exams are great to help students with learning disabilities, some parents may see them as a shortcoming since it does show up on the student’s certificate.
However, we need to remove the stigma around health issues, especially with children. Instead, it’s a push for your child to learn and grow at their own pace without having to feel inferior compared to their peers.
Which Students Can Apply For Access Arrangements For Exams?
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Students with learning disabilities can apply for access arrangements. These include:
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Autism spectrum disorder
Students with physical disabilities are also eligible for access arrangements. These include:
How Can I Apply For Access Arrangements?
The application for access arrangements will be available in your child’s school. It contains all the necessary instructions and also mentions the documents you will need to furnish to the MOE.
The application goes to the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) via the school for review.
What you need to keep handy are the documents that go with the application form. This comprise of:
A clear statement of your child’s diagnosis
Your child’s medical, developmental, and educational history
Description of tests and techniques used to arrive at the diagnosis
A health professional’s observations of your child
A detailed account of your child’s functional limitations in an exam
An explanation on the access arrangements your child needs and why do they need it
Do remember to be as thorough as possible with the form and the documents. The review board at SEAB will be taking this into consideration seriously when granting access arrangements.
Also, make it a point to reach out to other parents who are in the process or have already applied for access arrangements for exams. You will get a fair idea of what not to do in this situation. Do reach out to your child’s form teacher and the school’s allied educators to further guide you in this process.
With a little effort and support, you and your child will sail through the exams with ease. And yes, it’s no less of an exam for you as well.