Inclusive Education as a mechanism of promoting Quality and a Baseline in Combating Irregularities and Fraud in EducationWhy incorporating an external assessment programme into the educational continuum is essential

There is a need to supplement the strategies used to combat education irregularities and examination fraud.
A notable unconventional approach to combat education irregularities and examination fraud which is preventative in nature, is one that takes into account the essence of Inclusive Education – supported by the concept of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and the Social Model.
Therefore addressing the challenges of teaching and learning prior to examinations is one of the major catalysts of preventing irregularities and examination fraud.

In order to put this into perspective one can define Inclusive Education as the ability of an education system to:
  • Support all children, youth and adults to explore their potential to learn and/or be assessed fairly and
  • Acknowledge and accommodate diversity in regards to teaching, learning and assessment need in learning institutions. Thus implementing policies and practices that may not only respond but proactively sets a benchmark through Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and the Social Model.
    In rolling out Inclusive Education effectively, its implementation is often supported by two major structures. The technical structure is Universal Design for Learning and the soft skill structure being the Social Model.
Within the South African context, issues surrounding the Inclusive Education can be described as:
  • Mostly reasonable policies and implementation plans accompanied by lack of commitment and/or poor implementation skills.
  • Lack of inclusion when it comes to learning resources and infrastructure. Engelbrecht and de Beer (2014).
    One would, therefore, agree that the successful implementation of Inclusive Education in South Africa does not rest solely on legal and policy frameworks but requires embracement of Universal Design for Learning and an effective Social Model.
    Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is seen as a framework that guides educational practice in addressing a variety of learning needs in a single classroom. Hence, it allows learners with widely varying needs to be included in the learning process.
The core principles of UDL explored by Brand, Favazza & Dalton (2012) are:
  • Providing multiple means of representation i.e. the way information is presented;
  • Providing multiple means of action and expression i.e. the way learners respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills;
  • Providing multiple means of engagement i.e. the way learners are engaged.
In summary Universal Design for Learning advocates for:
  • An inclusive curriculum;
  • Inclusive teaching and learning;
  • And inclusive assessments specific to the various needs of learners.
    One would also agree that the above principles and beliefs are made possible by universal access to all those individuals that want to learn.

The Social Model is a paradigm shift of looking at the limitations of learners by providing them with the conducive environment to perform adequately. Barnes & Mercer 2014 shift the attention from people’s functional limitations – to disabling environments and other external barriers that prevent learners from performing well. It is also imperative to note that the Social Model is an improvement of the Medical Model, and that is why Oliver (2014) explored the common approaches to the Social Model.

These being:
  • Humanitarian Approach;
  • Compliance Approach;
  • And the Citizenship Approach.
Humanitarian Approach
  • Learners are powerless
    and at the mercy of
    assistance was given by
    educators.
  • Learners not valued as
    being capable of
    preparing for examinations on their
    own.
Compliance Approach
  • Educators adhering to all
    checklists to maintain
    standards.
  • No commitment of
    partnering with Learners
    with a vision of
    achieving good
    examination results
Citizenship Approach
  • An ethical, disciplined
    partnership is created –
    with a goal of achieving
    good examination
    results.
  • Learners are
    empowered to explore
    other examination
    preparation skills.
  • Learners are made
    aware of their rights and
    but also responsibilities
    when it comes to writing
    examinations.
Possible Considerations in Combating Irregularities and Examination Fraud through Inclusive Education –

1. Teaching, learning and; assessment policies and practices that integrate the principles of inclusive education. Thus learning institutions challenging the ways of designing, delivering and assessing the curriculum.

2. Creating “Inclusive Education Departments” within learning institutions that are focussed on supporting learners and academic staff. Elaborating on this point, the “Inclusive Education Departments” (IED’s) would be operating on two major platforms.

a) Counselling Services to both Learners/Students and Academic Staff which may entail but not limited to:

  • Awareness and implementation of the Social Model.
  • Time and stress management especially with high stake exams.
  • Fostering self-determination (values, goal-setting, priorities, problem solving, taking risks, dealing with failure and success).

b) Academic Support to both Learners and Academic Staff which may also entail but not limited to:

  • Awareness and implementation of Universal Access to various educational programs offered by the learning institution.
  • Awareness and implementation of Universal Design for Learning.
  • Examination preparation skills to reduce the pressure on high stake exams.

The reality of any education system around the world is that there is no “magic bullet” in resolving all challenges. That is why continued efforts are required in changing mindsets and promoting learning and accessing for all through skilful implementation.

One would, therefore, agree that the pressures associated with high stake examinations result in some irregularities and fraud. These challenges can also be addressed – using the core aspects of Inclusive Education (aided by Universal Design for Learning and the Social Model) by re-modelling institutions of learning to sufficiently support all learners with relevant, generic and also specific resources to adequately learn (i.e. an incentive not to cheat) and prepare for examinations.

  • An Accountability component, where information is fed back into the official channels responsible for the conduct and servicing of education.
  • A Professional development component, where the highlighted areas of teaching and learning needs are catered for.
  • A Formative development component, where teachers/facilitators work closely and reflectively within their classrooms and professional learning communities. (see Bennett & Gitomer, 2009).

From a birds eye point of view national assessments provide essential information that identifies areas in need of intervention; indicates where resources are needed most and develop and monitor appropriate intervention programmes. There is an urgent need for information to identify most vulnerable schools/learning centres and learners and inform interventions to address their needs.

Currently the primary challenges are the relevancy and practicality of current assessment polices as well as availability and maintenance of resources (mechanisms) of implementation. The continuous increase in administrative paper work within the education continuum coupled with frameless performance indicators adds pressure to the system. The examination system is plagued with irregularities, fraudulent certificates/qualifications and innovative irregularities such as the use of cell phones and impersonations. Effective use of information in making appropriate decisions to improve learner achievement is important, especially learners from rural areas and poor backgrounds.

Therefore New Black Boxes need changes such as revised frameworks to policies, regulations and directives. Fosteringpartnerships that consolidate the educational continuum into a full circle will in turn enhance assessment practices. Benchmark is currently debating the idea of establishing an Assessment Specialist Panel (ASP). This panel will be focussed on advising on areas of research as well as ensuring that best practices are shared. Research findings can be shared amongst interested stakeholders and policymakers. The panel would be made up of assessment and curriculum experts as well as training and assessment providers.

Assessments are the single most powerful tool in raising standards and empowering lifelong learners – there needs to be shift from just measuring standards to improving standards. To do this, there needs to be a clear distinction between Assessment of Learning and Assessment for Learning. This can be done with a holistic view of running formative and summative assessments in unison. Assessment Bodies and Quality Councils need to have a solid appreciation of the challenges and successes in the classroom. Assessments are now answering the needs of specific industries and are moving away from paper based to electronic assessments. Learners with disabilities are being accommodated in new assessment methods. Teachers are able to interpret assessment results and take appropriate action. These are all promising signs that integration of external assessment programmes into the education continuum can and will work.

For more information, please contact Benchmark Assessment Agency on:

Tel:
Email:

011 234 9944
Keith@benchmark.co.za

Leave a Reply