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Definition: Special needs education

Education - ISCED

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. Reasons may include (but are not limited to) disadvantages in 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. These programmes can be offered for individual students within already existing educational programmes, or be offered as a separate class in the same or separate educational institutions (ISCED 2011).

The term "special needs education" has come into use as a replacement for the term "special education". The older term was mainly understood to refer to the education of children with disabilities that takes place in special schools or institutions distinct from, and outside of, the institutions of the regular school and university system. In many countries today a large proportion of disabled children are in fact educated in institutions of the regular system. Moreover, the concept of 'children with special educational needs' extends beyond those who may be included in handicapped categories to cover those who are failing in school for a wide variety of other reasons that are known to be likely to impede a child's optimal progress. Whether or not this more broadly defined group of children are in need of additional support depends on the extent to which schools need to adapt their curriculum, teaching and organization and/or to provide additional human or material resources so as to stimulate efficient and effective learning for these pupils (ISCED 1997).
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), "International Standard Classification of Education - ISCED 2011", Paris, September 2011