Parents of a 19-yearold “slow learner“ have moved the state board and the education department to make a request for a writer during his HSC exam. Their request has been put on hold, though, over lack of clarity on available concessions.
Rahul Shah (name changed), a student from Dadar, has got a borderline intellectual capacity (IQ of 7075) certificate from Sion Hospital. He had cleared Class X through the Cambridge International Examination using a reader, a writer and extra time.
According to a government resolution issued this January, the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education revised the concessions it offered to students with special needs. Among categories of students that can avail of writers during the exam are matimanda or ment ally challenged children with an IQ below 70 and those with learning disabilities. However, students with an IQ between 70 and 90, usually referred to as slow learners, do not fall under any of these categories and hence are not given writers.
“We sent a request to the board for a writer in July and were asked to return in December. However, when we went this time, the officials told us that since the GR does not specify the meaning of matimanda, our request has been kept pending until further orders,“ said Shah's mother. She has sent her complaint to the chief minister and the education department as well.
Board officials said they were aware of the problem and are working with experts to reach a conclusion. “Currently , slow learners cannot avail of writers because it is not a specific category. We are looking into the matter and will take a decision in the best interests of genuine students and also ensure that some others don't misuse it. We are therefore consulting experts,“ said Gangad har Mhamane, chairperson of the state board.
Parents are worried that the student might not be able to appear for the exam in case a decision is not taken in time.“Students with learning disabilities who have normal or above normal IQ can avail of a writer but our children can't.This is unfair because even wi th extra time, my son can complete only 30% of the paper, which means he will not be able to pass the exam,“ she said.
Experts say the problem is not limited to one student. “ A lot of students fall in this category . We are following up with the government to include them in some category which will allow them to use writers.The board needs to consult the health department and make necessary changes,“ said Sonali Saini, member of the state's committee which worked on the concessions. Psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty plans to write to the state. “We have ignored the needs of slow learners. The state must give them the same concessions.“
Worldwide, a host of measures are recommended to help students who are slow learners. These include providing supplementary readingreference material, getting teachers to put aside time for group or individual sessions to deal with specific weaknesses, more oral work assignments, etc. It is surprising that the state education department has not yet recognized slow learners as a category distinct from those with learning disability since they have a significantly lower pace of development. It is important to provide them the care and assistance they need through swift policy changes.