Globally, there is no terminology like the term ‘Slow Learner’ that exists anymore. Then what exactly do we mean by this term? Unfortunately, when a nomenclature is coined, it often stays around long after its use is over. Who is to blame for this? None other than us. Let me backtrack a little.
Through the discovery and development of mental health over the years, we have made significant progress with the intervention and treatment of various difficulties and disabilities in the sphere of emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. In the area of intelligence too, theories have evolved and have become more and more specific. The term Learning Disability itself has more than one name, and has more than one guise.
Not very long ago, the term Learning Disability was specifically awarded to those individuals who acquired an IQ score (Intelligence Quotient) of 90 or higher points on a test used to measure intelligence. [There are more attributes to warrant the diagnosis of Learning Disability, however, we will refer to this specification for the purpose of the article]. Those individuals who attained a score between 70 to 89 points were referred to as ‘Slow Learners’. The earlier Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), which is a reference bible in the mental health community, was published with the norms of IQ scores and their gradations. For years thereafter, individuals who came under the umbrella term of Learning Disability, received various concessions on the basis of their specific learning issues, namely Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, to name a few.
The exam provisions mandated by the State School Education Board, Government of Maharashtra, for all schools in the State, (Secondary and Higher Secondary Education in the State of Maharashtra, India), regardless of affiliation are:
- 25% Extra time
- Oral Test along with the written examination for Standard I to IX
- Promotion to next class on the basis of the Average
- Writer/ typewriter
- Question papers to be read out
- Exemption from the Second and Third Language
- Physiology-Hygiene and Home Science in place of Science & Arithmetic
- Standard I to IV – errors of interchanging of computation signs and number reversal to be ignored
- Arithmetic of Standard V in Standard V & VI
- Arithmetic of Standard VI in Standard VII & VIII
- Arithmetic of Standard VII in Standard IX & X
- Use of Calculator at Class X Examination
- Spelling errors and incorrect sentence construction to be ignored.
- Errors in respect of showing directions in Geography to be ignored.
- Students between Standard I & IX exempted from drawing diagrams, graphs, and charts.
- Marks for such questions proportionately distributed to the other questions or students to be provided with supplementary questions.
- 20% consolidated grace marks in one or more subjects
- Students are permitted to write in ordinary print
- Exempted from having to write answers in detail during exams
Schools that do not prepare students for the State Board examinations are also covered (i.e. ICSE and CBSE schools). A recent circular from the Dy. Director of Higher and Technical Education extends these provisions to Technical Institutions, Non-agricultural and Agricultural Universities, effectively covering students in under-and post-graduate courses.
Inclusive assessment arrangements (IB Diploma Programme)
- Access to modified papers
- Access to additional time
- Access to writing
- Access to reading
- Access to speech and communication
- Access to calculators, practical assistance and alternative venues
- Access to extensions and exemptions
The intermediary classification of Slow Learners or Borderline Intelligence population were not able to avail of any benefits given to the Learning Disabled, just by virtue of a few points.
In a January 2016 government resolution, the State Board had revised the concessions offered to students with special needs. Under the new rules, two categories of students can avail of writers during an exam; those with IQ below 70 and those with learning disabilities. However, students with an IQ between 70 to 90, usually referred to as slow learners, do not fall in either of these categories, and therefore cannot be given writers. This was a shocking eye-opener to parents and activists!
With the introduction of the latest volume of the DSM V, this disparity has finally seen its end. After a reality check, according to the new norms, the criterion of ‘Slow Learner’ ceases to exist anymore. An individual who fits this bill is now given equal benefits as those awarded to persons with a Specific Learning Disability.
Despite this globally accepted fact, we in India have still to imbibe the meaning of this change to its fullest degree. It is an internationally accepted fact that a child with the earlier diagnosis of ‘Borderline Intelligence’ must be managed and effectively included in the educational environment in the same manner that a child with a Learning Disability is. However, this is seldom the case. We still see children in this bandwidth, who struggle through their school years with no benefits, and are eventually forced to step out of the regular curriculum and move to another educational set-up like the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) or are school dropouts.
Our hope in bridging this gap which has been done across the globe, is to widen our umbrella and be able to educate and include the so-called ‘Slow Learners’ in such a way, that the term ceases to exist altogether. The way forward is to have all teachers further educated and trained across the country and make this dream a reality. The road ahead lies in exposure of the grey area, being not only reactive, but also proactive, to the current scenario, presentation of equalopportunity presented to a larger section of society and effective inclusion in the true sense!
Aysel S. Engineer: Clinical Psychologist and Remedial Educator
Aysel S. Engineer is a Clinical Psychologist and Remedial Educator with 15 years of experience in remediation of children across various difficulties, and has been part of an inclusive set up for ten years. She is an English Language expert with a vast experience of using Sound in Syllables methodology in her teaching. She is also a Pearson Certified Coach for Psychological and Educational Assessments. Her expertise also extends to working with children from the Autism Spectrum Disorder on an individual basis; and she is able to communicate with hearing impaired individuals using the Indian Sign Language. She conducts assessments as part of the Learning Disabilities team at LTMG Hospital, Sion.
She is the co-founder of ‘Leap Ahead Assessment and Learning Centre’ which caters to a population requiring services and support in the field of Special Education.