PALAKKAD: Lack of coordination between the Departments of Education and Health over the classification of learning disabled students has left hundreds of such students preparing for SSLC examinations in the lurch as a new government order stripped them of the concessions they had enjoyed till last year.
The Director of Public Instructions has issued new orders at the beginning of every academic year since 2009, making it difficult for parents of such students to chalk out the future strategy, said Nandini Pradeep, from Thalassery, whose children Akash and Akshara have learning disabilities.
While the CBSE and the National Institute of Open Scheme give such students several concessions, it is only the students of state-run schools who feel discriminated against.
Since 2009, learning disabled students had been given additional 10 minutes per hour in all papers, assistance of interpreters and exemption from either the first language paper or the second language paper and also from the Hindi examination if necessary. They could alternatively opt for subjects such as computer education, horticulture, catering, drawing, painting, ratton work and instrumental music. They were also permitted to use scribes, said Priya K Venugopalan, an Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) counsellor from Malampuzha. All these concessions have been restricted to the extra 10 minutes per hour and the service of an interpreter, she added.
The latest order states that for availing themselves of the concessions, candidates with learning disabilities should submit certificates issued by the medical board comprising nominees of District Medical Officers.
However, the medical boards don’t issue certificates for dyslexic students, holding that learning disabilities are temporary.
According to Priya, government doctors sign on a form issued by the Department of Education which can be used only for SSLC exams. Learning disabled students don’t have to submit disability certificates till they reach Class IX. The students have difficulty in all the areas of learning such as perception, cognition, understanding, reasoning, reading, writing, doing mathematical calculations, attention and concentration.
Ajith Sajeendran, principal of Vigyan Valley Public School, Ernakulam, concurred saying learning disabilities are a permanent condition, and that their manifestations could change as the children grow up.
In the West, learning-disability certificates are issued based on how adversely a student is affected while taking exams after a detailed diagnosis at a very young age to ensure that the disabilities don’t lead to co-morbid disorders.
And though the government order states that the percentage of disability should be specified in the certificate, experts say learning disabilities cannot be measured in percentage.