Special needs education

Special needs education or special education refers to separate schools, classes, or instruction specifically designed for students categorized as having special educational needs (SEN) (UNESCO, 2017). Special education is defined as an ‘education designed to facilitate the learning of individuals who, for a wide variety of reasons, require additional support and adaptive pedagogical methods in order to participate and meet learning objectives in an educational programme’ (UIS-UNESCO, n.d.). The reasons may include different physical, behavioural, intellectual, emotional, and social capacities. ‘Educational programmes in special needs education may follow a similar curriculum as that offered in the parallel regular education system, however they take individuals’ particular needs into account by providing specific resources (e.g. specially trained personnel, equipment, or space) and, if appropriate, modified educational content or learning objectives.’ (UIS-UNESCO, n.d.).

Traditionally, the vision of ‘special education’ differs from an inclusive education system, since it relies on segregation or integration, instead of inclusion. In inclusive education systems, the physical infrastructure of schools, teaching and learning materials, teachers themselves, among many more, are adapted to meet the needs of everyone.

UIS-UNESCO (UNESCO Institute for Statistics). n.d. ‘Special needs education’. In: Glossary. Accessed 23 August 2021: http://uis.unesco.org/en/glossary-term/special-needs-education

UNESCO. 2017. A guide for ensuring inclusion and equity in education. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002482/248254e.pdf

To explore further
IIEP-UNESCO. 2019. On the road to inclusion: highlights from the UNICEF and IIEP Technical Round Tables on Disability-inclusive Education Sector Planning. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000372193

IIEP-UNESCO; UNICEF; GPE (Global Partnership for Education); UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. 2021.‘Chapter 11 Inclusive Education for Children with Disabilities’. In: Education Sector Analysis Methodological Guidelines – Volume 3. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000377738/PDF/377738eng.pdf.multi

UIS-UNESCO (UNESCO Institute for Statistics). 2012. International standard classification of education: ISCED 2011. Montreal: UIS-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000219109

UNESCO; Leonard Cheshire Disability (UK). 2019. Inclusive education for persons with disabilities – Are we making progress? Background paper prepared for the International Forum on inclusion and equity in Education – Every learner matters, Cali, Colombia, 11-13 September 2019. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000370386?posInSet=11&queryId=8251b10e-fda6-4bf5-a11e-a077d7076fa4