The Accra office of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) has mentioned difficulty in reading and understanding test items as some of the challenges faced by hearing-impaired candidates in WAEC examinations.
It said such candidates were also affected by the lack of or inadequate sign language interpreters during examinations, and mixing them with hearing candidates in the examination hall.
These, it said, had left them with unencouraging performances at WAEC examinations.
It said while such candidates performed better in the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), they did not do well in West African Senior Schools Certificate Examinations (WASSCE), especially in English and Mathematics.
An assessment test accommodations conducted by the Accra Section of WAEC from 2016 to 2021 revealed that with the exception of 2019 and 2020 that hearing-impaired candidates did well in their examinations, their performance over the years, especially in English Language, Mathematics and Integrated Science in WASSCE had not been encouraging.
The acting Head of the Accra Section of the Research Department of WAEC, Kwaku Dankwa, who made the disclosure at a virtual seminar to deliver the findings of the assessment, said from the test assessment, the reasons identified for the poor performance of the candidates in their examinations included unsuitable questions, language barrier, limited vocabulary, absence of learning outside the classroom, poor language and poor spelling.
He said the hearing-impaired saw English Language as a barrier because they were taught in sign language although they were examined in English Language.
Furthermore, he said, the hearing-impaired had limited vocabulary because in the sign language, they did not sign every word for which reason they were not familiar with some of the words they met during examination, hence they did not understand them to enable them to answer the questions properly.
“The kind of incidental learning that the hearing child have an advantage of, they don’t have that. At any point in time, somebody has to be with them trying to explain things to them using sign language because that is the mode of learning they are used to,” he added.
Mr Dankwa said WAEC, as the examining body, would engage stakeholders such as the Ministry of Education to reduce the challenges hearing-impaired candidates faced in their examinations in order that they were not left behind.
In 2016 for instance when 158 hearing-impaired candidates sat for the WASSCE, male hearing-impaired candidates who had between grades A1 to C6 in English Language were 11.4 per cent, while the females were 8.1 per cent.
That of Mathematics for the same grades were 9.4 per cent for males and 4.8 per cent for females, while for Integrated Science in the same year, 4.8 per cent females scored grades A1 to C6 and the males had 9.4 per cent.
Mr Dankwa said the respondents suggested that WAEC should make available sign language interpreters during examinations; recruit special education practitioners and sign language experts to mark scripts of hearing-impaired candidates; modify questions for hearing-impaired candidates as alternative papers, and examine sign language as a core subject as an alternative to English Language.
On the way forward, the assessment called on the Ghana Education Service (GES) to train and post more special education experts and teachers who understand sign language to the special and inclusive schools to help hearing-impaired students to build the needed vocabulary.
It further called for WAEC to explore the use of alternative assessment test formats which focused on standard sign language and objective responses such as fill-ins.
During the open discussion segment, some hearing-impaired students said when announcements were made during examinations, there were usually no sign language interpreters to interprete to them, causing them to make mistakes.
The Chairman for the programme, Prof. Samuel Kweku Hayford, of the Department of Special Education, University of Education, Winneba, remarked that sign language was being seriously taken care of in the education review policy.
He called for efforts to develop sign language so that right from kindergarten, children would be introduced to it.
The study population included all hearing-impaired students and their teachers in the 15 public schools for the deaf in Ghana; heads of schools for the deaf; special education coordinators from GES, WAEC officers, special education lecturers, hearing-impaired university undergraduates in Ghana and officials of the Ghana National Association for the Deaf.