Living with Dyslexia in Malaysia

STAR Two article – 15 Nov 2007


Thursday November 15, 2007

Dyslexics’ dilemma


THE first batch of four students with dyslexia under SK Taman Tun Dr Ismail’s (in Selangor) pilot project sat for the UPSR examination in September. 

Extra time was given but unfortunately only one reader was provided for these students. The reader was not from the Special Education Unit and was unsure how to read to the dyslexics.  

In developed countries, one reader is allocated to one student as each child is different. It is difficult for the reader to accommodate, simultaneously, four students whose level of speed and achievement varies. Being the pioneer batch, it is only to be expected that there would be teething problems. But hopefully there will be a review of what happened and improvements will be made to ensure a more level playing field for students with dyslexia who take the UPSR exams. 

The readers should be teachers from the Special Education Unit and not from mainstream schools. They need to be briefed on dyslexia and be given guidelines on the role of a reader in assisting the students during the exams. For example, how many times is the reader allowed to read the comprehension passage? Two or three times? Similarly, what about reading out the questions and the answers? Has this procedure been simulated to ensure that the overall objective has been met, that is, to assist the students and not hinder them further? 

Who marks the students’ papers? Are guidelines formulated on how to mark them? With the exception of Bahasa Malaysia and English, marking should be based on content and not spelling and grammar, for the other subjects. Otherwise, this Dyslexia Programme would be considered a failure if the students did not do well because they were not given appropriate assistance during the exams. They are, after all, just as intelligent as the other students without dyslexia.  

No doubt they can still continue their studies in secondary school even if they do not do well in the UPSR exams. But their self-esteem and confidence will suffer and the attendant emotional problems that follow can affect their desire to seek more knowledge and contribute to society. Why do we have a programme that does not take into consideration all this?  

After the UPSR exams, what is next for these pioneer students? That remains a big question. One parent had her child enrolled in SM Taman Tun Dr Ismail – a mainstream school – as she was told this secondary school had been earmarked for the Dyslexia Programme. But to date, there has been no allocation for any dyslexia teacher there.  

In the meantime, the other three students enrolled at SMK Kiara Mas – a school with a Special Education Unit. The parents of these three students do not have any choice and they hope that the Special Education Unit will take care of their dyslexic children’s needs.  

Dyslexia has its own category – Specific Learning difficulties (SpLD) whereby the teaching approach is totally different from that of the General Special Education Programme. The Learning Disabilities (LD) category includes persons with Down syndrome, the blind, the deaf, those with cerebral palsy, slow learners and persons with specific learning disorders – namely autism, dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. There is a need to differentiate between General Learning Disabilities and Specific Learning Disabilities.  

In General Learning Disabilities, the following features are common: their disabilities may be quite apparent; they have below average IQ and are slow in learning and writing. For Specific Learning Disabilities such as dyslexia, the affected person has average or above average IQ, learns skills well, plays well with peers but is slow in learning to read and write. 

Against this background, the parents of these four students are in the dark about what will happen to their children. Will the school continue its dyslexic programme at secondary level? Will there be a trained teacher available for these students? Has the secondary school principal been briefed? The parents’ anxieties are warranted as there had been instances of schools earmarked for the Primary Dyslexia Programme which never got off the ground as there was no support from the principals. 

It is only natural for parents to worry about their children’s future. Therefore it would be appreciated if the Education Ministry can confirm the “What Next” scenario so that these four students will not be left in the lurch. 

The ministry’s decision will also affect the other 96 students nationwide who are under their respective primary schools’ dyslexia programme.  

One Voice is a monthly column which serves as a platform for professionals, parents and careproviders of children with learning difficulties.  

Feedback on the column can be sent to For enquiries of services and support groups, please call Malaysian Care (03-9058 2102) or Dignity & Services (03-7725 5569). 


THE word “dyslexia” is derived from the Greek word “dys” (meaning difficulty) and “lexia” (meaning written words). About 5% to 10% of the population has dyslexia. They find it hard to learn to read and write, even though their level of intelligence is normal. In fact, some are very bright, with an IQ exceeding 100. 

Dyslexia is a neurological-based disorder. It is not a disease, so we do not talk about a “cure”. Although it is a life-long condition, most dyslexics learn to read and write well. Early intervention is advised. 


General: Speed of processing (spoken and/or written language) is slow. Poor concentration. Has difficulty following instructions and is forgetful of words.  

Contact the Dyslexia Association at 03-4025 5109 (8am-1pm).  


November 16, 2007 Posted by | Dyslexia | 1 Comment