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Calls For Disability-Tailored Assessments Intensify :: Uganda Radionetwork

Calls For Disability-Tailored Assessments Intensify

A Special Needs Child sitting his PLE at Kamwokya Primary School today

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Experts and advocates championing inclusive education have significantly amplified their demands for the implementation of Disability-Tailored Assessments.          

They argue that despite Uganda's recent strides made towards promoting inclusivity within its education system, the current assessment methods do not  consider the diverse needs and abilities of learners with disabilities, thereby placing them at a significant disadvantage.       

Esther Kyozira, Chief Executive Officer of the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU), emphasized that due to the lack of disability-tailored assessments, students with disabilities often encounter standardized tests that may not precisely gauge their knowledge, competences, skills and abilities.        

"The absence of disability-tailored assessments means that students with disabilities frequently face standardized tests that may not accurately reflect their knowledge and skills. The risk of dropping out of school goes up, especially if they can't pass a high-stakes test that is required for them to move on to the next grade level. This situation exacerbates the pre-existing educational disparities and raises serious concerns about the fairness and inclusivity of Uganda's education system,” said  Kyozira.           

The sentiment expressed was nearly unanimous among all the speakers who participated in the recently concluded Third National Inclusive Education Symposium. Their collective call was resolute: to institute reforms that would put an end to this inequity.          

Kyozira added that the existing assessments act as a barrier for learners with special needs, constraining their advancement from one educational level to another. Her statements are firmly grounded in data-supported evidence, which indicates a significant presence of special needs learners at lower education levels, with a notable decline in their numbers as you move up the educational ladder.           

An analysis of UNEB data demonstrates that a majority of special needs students are labeled as "failed" at the Primary Leaving Examination (PLE), presenting a formidable obstacle to their educational progression to the Senior Four level or the pursuit of alternative learning avenues.        

For example, when examining the data pertaining to students with hearing impairments who took the 2022 examination, a clear pattern emerges, indicating that a substantial number of deaf students encountered difficulties in obtaining higher grades or even pass.         

Specifically, out of the 263 deaf candidates who participated, not a single one managed to attain a first-grade result. Instead, the results demonstrate that 50 candidates succeeded in securing a division two outcome, 41 achieved division three status, and 56 reached division four. Furthermore, the data also highlights that deaf candidates constituted the second-largest group among ungraded candidates, with a total of 116 individuals falling into this category.        

In a recent interview, Christine Atim, a teacher at the Wakiso School for the Deaf, revealed that some of these learners and their parents have found ways to bypass the system and continue to secondary education despite receiving ungraded results.         

"When they reach Senior Four, we register them as mature students, allowing them to take the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) examination. Some pass, while others face another round of failure at this level," explained Atim.        

Sarah Ayesiga, the assistant commissioner for inclusive and non-formal education, also delved into the issue at hand, emphasizing that while UNEB has made efforts in recent years to provide support for these learners there is a clear need for more comprehensive measures. She raised a valid question about the assessment of deaf students, pointing out the challenge they face when answering questions in English, a language they often find difficult to communicate in effectively.      

//Cue in; “UNEB has done... Cue out...is sign language.”//  

Ayesiga added a troubling trend where the majority of special needs learners consistently score zero in the assessments designed for them. She noted that the pattern has persisted year after year, resulting in a significant number of these learners being unable to progress from primary to post-primary institutions.       //Cue in; “You know, these... Cue out...these competences.”//  

To her, this highlights the urgent need for reforms and support tailored to the unique needs of special needs learners to ensure their educational advancement.       //Cue in; “There are things....

Cue out...and say; oh!”//         

Daniel Alenyo, the Examinations Officer in charge of Special Needs Education, emphasizes the dedicated efforts made to support these learners. He points out that they have worked diligently to provide the necessary assistance, including sign language interpreters for the deaf, large-print materials for those with visual impairments, braille materials for the blind, and assistants for students who may struggle with writing.         //Cue in; “As much as... Cue out...at school level.”//           

Alenyo clarifies that the responsibility for addressing challenges faced by special needs learners is not solely on the assessment process itself.     He explains that UNEB assesses students based on the established education system and curriculum. He urges advocates for students with special needs not to blame the messengers, emphasizing that there are numerous interconnected factors that need consideration when striving for inclusive education.      

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However, he expressed optimism that the ongoing reforms in the curriculum, which now prioritize competency-based assessment, may ultimately address the challenges faced by special needs learners.         //Cue in; “Actually, the new... Cue out...awarded accordingly.”//  

Uganda's struggle to implement disability-tailored assessments is not unique, as educators and inclusive advocates across the globe have pointed to this pressing issue. The implications of this challenge extend far beyond Uganda's borders, affecting countless students with disabilities worldwide who face barriers to fair and equitable education assessments.    

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