The presence of children with learning disabilities in our classrooms is an opportunity for us to complement, improve and bridge the equity and quality gap between regular students and those with special needs. In the spirit of providing Quality Education for All, the Ministry of Education has taken steps to introduce the Special Education Secondary School Standard Curriculum which outlines educational programmes specifically for children categorised as being less functional. However, developing a syllabus conducive to special needs children is only part of the problem. They also need to be continuously assessed and guided in their learning and development through closely monitoring their progress. In the realm of special education, the assessment processes range from simple observations to complex multi-stage procedures that may involve parents, teachers, specialists and counsellors in order to identify a student’s strengths, areas of improvements and overall progress.
Hasanah believes that there is a need for a more comprehensive measurement of students’ abilities which goes beyond academic benchmarks. In this respect, Hasanah has supported KNK Total Assessment to develop an Alternate Assessment for Students with Learning Difficulties at secondary school levels (PASM – Pentaksiran Alternat Sekolah Menengah). The assessment will be developed and implemented over three phases.
In the first phase (Nov 2017- Nov 2018), KNK led consultations with education specialists, assessment experts from MOE, teachers, NGO partners and parents who collaborated to develop a new conceptual framework for the alternate assessment for students with special needs. At the end of phase 1, the Conceptual Framework (ERRA Model) was presented and approved by the Examinations Syndicate – the model was formulated and introduced specifically for PASM encompasses ‘Environment’, ‘Reaction’, ‘Recognition’ and ‘Acknowledgment’ as an approach that can provide information and meaning to the assessment. According to Dr. Khodori Ahmad, the lead researcher for the project, the aim of the alternate assessment is to create a tool to measure students’ abilities within their disabilities. In this respect, one of the main challenges in assessing students with special needs is the traditional pen and paper examinations, which may not be the most suitable approach given the students’ abilities. Recognising this challenge, this Alternate Assessment Tool collates reports via a digital application to ensure a more effective and fair assessment. The focus for phases two and three will be on design and development of indicators, as well as to pilot the assessment in 12 secondary schools nationwide.
In order to ensure the adoption of the Alternate Assessment Tool by all stakeholders, both parties KNK & MOE will work collaboratively on communication strategies that will focus on teachers, parents and students. It is envisioned that the alternate assessment will become a needle-mover and transform the education landscape, not only for the 53,000+ students with special needs who will directly benefit from the project, but potentially for all students in Malaysia and globally. In Malaysia, the hope it to mainstream the Assessment in the school system by providing it as an alternate to Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) by 2022.