Parliamentary Question

Special Allowances for Students Sitting National Examinations

14 Jan 2013

Ms Sylvia Lim, Aljunied GRC

To ask the Minister for Education (a) what process is in place to evaluate requests for special allowances (e.g. having extra time) for students sitting national examinations such as the Primary School Leaving Examination and the GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level Examinations; (b) over the last 10 years, whether there has been  any uptrend in such requests annually; (c) what are the typical allowances given for approved requests; and (d) whether the results slips/certificates of students given special allowances are specially annotated and, if so, what is the rationale for such annotation and whether such annotation will adversely affect the student’s progression and employment prospects.

Generally there are two categories of applications for special arrangements for students sitting for national examinations. Applications for access arrangements by students with sensory and physical disabilities are reviewed by qualified medical specialists. Applications from students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, ADHD and autism are evaluated by an MOE panel of  education psychologists, based on each candidate’s specific needs. Students and parents are informed at the point of application that the result slips and certificates will be annotated.

Over the past 10 years, the number of applications from students with physical and sensory disabilities has remained relatively stable at less than 1.5% of candidates for all examination levels. The number of requests for access arrangements for learning disabilities has increased to about 2% of candidates for all examination levels.

Access arrangements that involve significant modification of the examination are annotated. These include:

  • Exemption from a component in a subject (e.g. oral exam)
  • Extended time
  • Exemption from answering certain types of questions e.g. questions with graphic stimulus or questions related to measurements, constructions and drawings, tessellations and symmetry;
  • Special assistance through the use of readers or scribes.

These access arrangements are granted to enable candidates with special needs access to the national examinations, by giving them the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and abilities and receive recognition for their academic achievements.  Standardised testing condition is an important principle of fair examinations. When testing conditions are altered for students with special needs, it has to be done in an even-handed, fair and transparent manner.

The annotation practice is not intended to indicate a disability or discriminate against the test taker. It indicates that a student has taken the examination under conditions that are different from those who take the examinations under the standard prescribed conditions. No detail of the student’s condition and access arrangements appear on the certificate. The annotation does not affect students’ progression to the next level of study.