The education ministry announced on Saturday it will proceed with “reasonable adjustments” to the university entrance exams for students with disabilities.
The decision was announced a day after the ministry received a recommendation from the human rights commissioner and ombudswoman Maria Stylianou Lottides to allow a specific student with disabilities undertake the Pancyprian exams with some adjustments.
According to the announcement, the ministry will conduct a special examination procedure with reasonable adjustments according to the candidate’s characteristics and needs, in cooperation with the University of Cyprus.
Such a special examination can be conducted for university entrance exams.
“If successful, a place may be allocated by the university on the basis of the regulations in force, provided that the rules of the university of Cyprus are adapted accordingly”.
The ministry added that it prepared a proposal to amend the relevant legislation and allow people with disabilities to sit a differentiated exam.
“The aim is to provide for the possibility, in addition to reasonable accommodations, to ensure reasonable adjustments for persons with disabilities in the Pancyprian examinations,” the ministry said. It explained this should be done while ensuring the student has the adequate knowledge and without lowering the level of the examination in relation to all candidates.
The issue of discrimination against children with disabilities because they must take the same common exam as other students was brought to light earlier this year in an ombudswoman’s report.
Lottides published a report after the mother of a boy with disabilities complained the education ministry refused to proceed with the “necessary reasonable adjustments” in the Pancyprian exams for her son. The mother had requested different examination essays, exemption from the essay test in modern Greek subject and from the oral English-language test.
Then, the explanation provided by the education ministry was that, according to the relevant laws, “the test material and the test essays of the Pancyprian entrance examinations must have the same degree of difficulty for all candidates and cannot be differentiated for any candidate or group of candidates.”
However, the commissioner said the ministry’s refusal “finds no basis in the law and in UN Convention Article 24, which provides for reasonable adjustments in education, but neither does it find any basis in the UN General Comments on the rights of persons with disabilities”.
The UN notes that “not providing reasonable adjustments and support to students with disabilities and requiring them to pass a common/standardised test as a condition for ensuring their admission to school constitutes indirect discrimination against them.”
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