Children with learning disabilities under stress with multiple board exams

The news of common exams being reinstated for class VI has many parents and students worried, especially the children who have learning problems or Special Educational Needs (SEN).

Considering such factors, the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD), and some inclusive schools in the country are trying meet the children’s needs.

Children with special needs are supported with special accommodations, time extensions and suitable assistance during exams.

However, the main barrier is that the content of the exam material is not to be modified, and only the form can change.

The Principal of Changangkha MSS, Nyendo, shared that the school has 126 children (80 boys and 46 girls) with various disabilities.

And there are children in classes VI and VIII and X, who would be sitting for common exams this year. But there are also some children who would not appear for the board exams.

Children with various disabilities are categorized into three different categories; mild, moderate and severe. A total of 51 children with disabilities are mild, 41 children are moderate and 34 are in the severe category.

Children who fall under the severe category are given life skill classes, and do not sit for the board exam. The mild and moderate categories of SEN students who are taking up the general curriculum will sit for the common exams but with adaptation and accommodations.

“We have been talking to BCSEA and they are kind enough to provide these facilities to the children with special needs in the inclusive schools,” said Nyendo.

For instance, if a child has visual problems, the test papers are edited into a special format, and the tasks are printed in larger font size as required.

Similarly, there are some children who have behavioral issues, and BCSEA provides a separate room to do the examinations.

Schools assist children by altering the examination arrangements according to their special needs.

The principal also shared that last year there were three children with special needs in class VIII who appeared in board exams, one could make it to class XI while two couldn’t. It was a surprise for the school since many children failed in the class VIII board exam.

At the time of examinations, they were also provided with adaptations and accommodation, he added.

A SEN coordinator of the Tendruk Central School, Tara Devi, shared that children with severe disabilities who are sitting for board exams have different curriculum, and children who are attending the general curriculum like any other students, have different sitting arrangements and flexibility is given. The school has to notify the BCSEA.

BCSEA in collaboration with REC and MoESD made special arrangements for children with various difficulties to appear for their exams.

“Personally, I feel children with special needs are lucky to have all those arrangements and flexibility provided by BCSEA and schools,” said Tara Devi.

Currently, there are 26 inclusive schools in the country.

However, while the above has been done the major problem for a large number of disabled children especially in terms of intellectual disability like Autism and others is that the system of examinations that starts from class 4 onwards now made worse by board exams in class 6, 8, 10 and 12.

While children with severe disabilities are taught life skills and vocational skills the large numbers of mildly disabled children attend government identified inclusive schools or private inclusive schools.

However, with so many board exams private inclusive schools who already do not get support from the government are now reluctant to take even mildly disabled students as the many exams would impact their pass percentage if these kids fail.

Those special needs children already in the schools are now under pressure to perform like other mainstream kids which is not possible. This puts a lot of stress on such children and their parents.

While Bhutan’s National Policy for Persons with Disabilities 2019 talks of inclusiveness in education on the ground it is not so with the focus on exams.

The parents of the special needs children are hoping that the Ministry of Education and Skills Development and other stakeholders can come up with a middle path.

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