RAJENDRA SEWPERSADSING

The Extended Programme (EP) students are failures in the waiting (See Forum – Le Mauricien, 19 January 2021 Edition) because practically all of them will not be able to make it at the National Certificate of Education (NCE) exams. To pass the NCE exams, and be awarded a Level 2 on the National Qualification Framework, the EP students should, at one sitting, obtain at least a Grade 6 (35 marks or above) in ALL the EIGHT subjects (six core and two non-core). And, this is practically impossible taking into account their ability and their learning difficulties.

Despite the fact that the authorities have been alerted, they appear to remain unconcerned and unresponsive; and they are moving forward with EP students sitting for the same NCE exams as the mainstream students.

The Ministry of Education is obstinate in its purely political decision, paying neither heed to pedagogical reasoning nor to the future of the upcoming generation. This can be understood. But, what about independent institutions like the MIE and the MES?  How can they support the Ministry of Education in such an irrational decision? Both the MIE and the MES are fully acquainted and conversant with “fair assessments”.

For an assessment to be fair, it should, (https://www.oxfordaqaexams.org.uk/)

(i)Measure the candidates’ ability in the subjects they have studied.  Do the MIE and the MES agree to the fact that the EP students have been adequately (not to say, fully) exposed to the syllabus of the different subjects they are to be evaluated by the NCE exams?

(ii)Ensure that no candidate is disadvantaged, including those having big reading and writing difficulties. (English is the 3rd language)

(iii)Give all the candidates the SAME opportunity to achieve the right grade.

(iv)Give an equitable opportunity to all candidates to demonstrate what they have learnt. Have the EP students been provided with the same equitable opportunity as the mainstream students? For the end-of-term evaluation, educators have been instructed to set test papers according to the level of the EP class and different from the mainstream paper (See notes of meeting for EP Educators). Yet, those EP students are to write the same NCE exams as the mainstream students.

Without any doubt, NCE exams will NOT be fair assessments to the EP students. How can the MIE and the MES stay silent and be in complicity with the Ministry’s unreasonable decision?

In the design (The 4-year Extended Programme – Inspiring Every Child, MoE, Nov 2017) of the Extended Programme, while targeting pupils of primary schools who have not attained the required level to be admitted in the mainstream for secondary education, an “adapted curriculum” was proposed with no mention of what the adapted curriculum would consist of. Textbooks different from those of the mainstream were prescribed for the EP students; and those textbooks are found NOT leading to NCE exams.

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The 4-year Extended Programme – Inspiring every child, MoE, Nov 2017

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For assessments to be fair to EP students, materials on the assessments should match what has been taught. The assessments should provide opportunities to demonstrate understanding of the EP students to the best of their ability.  Assessment methods should be suited to the backgrounds and prior experiences of students.

To conclude, I suggest an “adapted assessment” for the EP students.  What is an adapted assessment?

It consists of assessments with “accommodations”.   

•Accommodation in the presentation format with pictures, graphics, charts and other visual aids acting as scaffolds to facilitate reading.

•Accommodation in the mode of evaluation to include practical, oral and project work to lessen the impact of functional limitations of the EP students.

•Accommodation in the exam paper structure with more of Multiple Choice, True/False statements, matching and fill-in-the-blanks questions to reduce the writing difficulty of EP students.

In short, an adapted assessment is proposed taking into consideration the ability of the EP students, their profile and their social background.

I therefore reiterate my appeal to the authorities.  Extended stream and mainstream are two different streams; they cannot be assessed by the SAME mode of evaluation, by the same examination. The issue needs to be given a second thought; it needs to be reconsidered.