Tapping into Abilities, and not Disabilities

Special needs teacher Cikgu Zulkarnain bin Umar will always remember the day one of his students’ parents asked him in earnest, “What will my child do after completing school?’

He would later contribute to the development of the Secondary School Alternative Assessment (SSAA) for students with Special Needs, a project led by Dr. Khodori Ahmad, founder and chairman of KNK Total Assessment, with his highly able team in collaboration with the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate.

Utilising an Environment-Reaction-Recognition-Acknowledgement (ERRA) model and Environment Based Assessment Instrument (EBAI) instrument, SSAA gauges students’ abilities within their disabilities. 

A more holistic, integrated and student-oriented approach, SSAA is focused on tapping into an individual student’s abilities — a term that Dr. Khodori attributes to Hasanah.

“To force a special needs student to be evaluated in the same way as neurotypical student would be akin to abuse or torture. And at the end of their 11-year schooling journey, they leave school with nothing,” laments Dr. Khodori, who is the lead researcher of this project.

Cikgu Zul applied SSAA at SMK Batu Muda, and points out a unique feature of this assessment — a “live” certificate which can be continuously updated after the student has completed schooling. After all, learning and growing does not stop after graduation.

23rd December 2021 marked a big win for special needs students nationwide when the Malaysian Examinations Board issued a circular introducing SSAM into schools beginning in 2021. Students who opt in will be awarded the Secondary School Alternative Certificate (SASC).

The pilot cohort was a window that shows a world of possibilities for these special needs students, and SSAA could now open doors to a future that will no longer be defined by a mere grade on a piece of paper.