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Extra time for slow learners

Students with dyslexia will get an extra 30 minutes to write their papers in the Madhyamik and Higher Secondary exams, education minister Bratya Basu said on Tuesday.

The additional time will be allowed in Madhyamik from 2015 and in HS from 2017, said an education department official. This will gradually be extended to dyslexic candidates of undergraduate and postgraduate exams, too.

“We will work with our secondary education board and HS council to extend academic benefits to dyslexic students both in terms of quantum of study and exam time to bring them on a par with general children of society,” Basu said at the inaugural session of a conference on dyslexia at International Management Institute (IMI).

The minister said on the sidelines of another programme that an extra half an hour would be given to such students in Madhyamik and HS. “A student has to produce a medical certificate issued by a registered specialist to avail himself or herself of the additional time,” the minister added.

The Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations, which conducts ICSE and ISC exams, and the Central Board of Secondary Education, which holds the CBSE Class X and XII exams, allow an extra time of 15 minutes to an hour to dyslexic students, depending on the level of difficulty faced by each.

“The psychologist who certifies a student as dyslexic must mention the degree of disability and how much extra time the child needs to write a paper. The extra time is allotted based on the psychologist’s opinion,” said the principal of an ICSE school.

A clinical psychologist registered by the Rehabilitation Council of India can certify a student as dyslexic, said Aruna Bhaskar, special educator, Breaking through Dyslexia, a non-profit organisation that is hosting the three-day conference at IMI.

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin and characterised by difficulties in accurate and/or fluent word recognition, and poor spelling and decoding abilities.

Experts said dyslexia is “an invisible disability” — a characteristic that is both an advantage as children with the condition look normal and a disadvantage because it delays diagnosis.

“It takes time to explain to parents and others that a child is not lazy or feigning problems to avoid studies but is having a genuine medical condition,” said consultant psychologist J.R. Ram.

Gouri Basu, the vice-principal of Loreto House, said: “Parents need to talk... instead of brushing it under the carpet. Teachers should be trained in identifying the condition and and guiding the parents.”

The principal of Modern High School for Girls, Kaveri Dutt, said: “There is a lot of research in dyslexia and a lot of strategies that can help a student.”