Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Special Features of the Finnish Education System: Special Needs Education and Student Welfare - Basis for Quality and Equity

Pirjo Koivula, a counselor for education, gave a presentation called Special Needs Education and Student Welfare Services: Basis for Quality and Equity.

Here are the notes from the presentation:

Strong individual support
  • all students have the same objectives and possibilities
Special support
  • difficulties, disorders and disadvantages
  • every student has the right to support
  • support depends on quality and extent of difficulties
  • identification as early as possible
Special Educational Needs (SEN) and pupil welfare in the Basic Education Act and the National Core Curriculum

  • SEN -- inclusiveness
  • inclusion in mainstream classrooms
  • equal opportunities
  • first alternative -- include in mainstream
  • second alternative -- SEN students in a special group, class, or school
Definition of SEN
  • from the Basic Education Act
  • affected by illness, disability, reduced functional ability
  • require mental and social support
  • risk factors in development that affect learning
Right to special support
  • rights to receive (for free)
  • education
  • interpretation
  • assistant e.g. math assistant during lesson
  • special aids
  • provided at all levels of education
Definition of student welfare services from the Basic Education Act
  • good learning
  • good mental, physical and social health
  • good school environment e.g. lunch, transportation
  • basic needs are most important
  • against violence, bullying, and harassment
Right to student welfare
  • in basic education -- free welfare for participation, free school meal
  • in upper-secondary education -- meal, guidance
National core curriculum: student welfare
  • individual support
  • strong community
  • transport and school meals
  • prevention and taking care of problems e.g. absences, bullying, mental health, substance abuse
Teaching pupils with SEN
  • starting point -- pupil's strengths and personal needs
  • education required to promote initiative and self-confidence
  • right time and place for studying
  • decisions made on different activities
  • sufficient resources

remedial teaching --> part-time SEN --> full-time SEN --> individual plan of education --> adjusted syllabi --> individual assessment

Remedial teaching - when?
  • temporary e.g. prolonged absence
  • before student judged as weak
  • immediately after appearance of difficulty
  • often and widely as necessary
  • initiated by teacher
  • organized in cooperation with parents
  • during or out of lessons
Part-time SEN
  • provided when slight difficulties in learning, or need more support for overcoming learning difficulties
  • administered (more commonly as) team teaching, small groups, individually, most often in reading and writing difficulties for young children, for older students, in foreign languages and math
Individual Education Plan (IEP)
  • in the National Core Curriculum
  • decision of SEN is made with changes to the syllabus or teaching arrangements
Multi-professional approach
  • cross-sectoral cooperation
Pre-school education for six-year-olds
  • 96% of six-year-olds attend
  • core curriculum in 2000, reforms in 2003
Core curriculum reforms 2004
  • before and after school core curriculum
  • grades 1 and 2 curricula, SEN
Amount of students in SEN
  • 2006 - 7.7% of students
  • 1998 - 3.8%
  • better diagnosed now?
  • do too many students have SEN?
  • dependent on municipalities -- looking toward more equality in different municipalities
  • more boys in SEN -- 68% boys, 32% girls
  • more and more students in SEN due to dyslexia (better diagnosed)
  • 21.9% in part-time SEN
  • girls in SEN - math, boys in behavioral SEN
  • individualization of syllabus in a single subject more common
Ministry of Education 2006 - long-term project on SEN
  • earlier support and prevention
  • intensified support before a decision to differentiate student e.g. remedial, counseling
  • helps bolster learning and prevent problems with learning
  • move towards more inclusive education
  • education administered where it is most beneficial for the student e.g. deaf pupil may need to move out of municipality
Future challenges
  • equality in education and student welfare
  • municipal autonomy
  • regional differences
  • support to mainstream schools

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