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Estonia:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

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Overview Estonia

Contents

Estonia:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Estonia:Historical Development

Estonia:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

Estonia:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

Estonia:Political and Economic Situation

Estonia:Organisation and Governance

Estonia:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Estonia:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Estonia:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Estonia:Organisation of Private Education

Estonia:National Qualifications Framework

Estonia:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Estonia:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Estonia:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Estonia:Funding in Education

Estonia:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Estonia:Higher Education Funding

Estonia:Adult Education and Training Funding

Estonia:Early Childhood Education and Care

Estonia:Organisation

Estonia:Teaching and Learning

Estonia:Assessment

Estonia:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Estonia:Single Structure Education (Integrated Primary and Lower Secondary Education)

Estonia:Organisation of Single Structure Education

Estonia:Teaching and Learning in Single Structure Education

Estonia:Assessment in Single Structure Education

Estonia:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Single Structure Education

Estonia:Upper Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Estonia:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Organisation of Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Estonia:Teaching and Learning in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Estonia:Assessment in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Estonia:Higher Education

Estonia:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Estonia:First Cycle Programmes

Estonia:Bachelor

Estonia:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Estonia:Second Cycle Programmes

Estonia:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Estonia:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Estonia:Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Distribution of Responsibilities

Estonia:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Estonia:Main Providers

Estonia:Main Types of Provision

Estonia:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Estonia:Teachers and Education Staff

Estonia:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Estonia:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Estonia:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Estonia:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Management and Other Education Staff

Estonia:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Estonia:Management Staff for Higher Education

Estonia:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Estonia:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Quality Assurance

Estonia:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Estonia:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Educational Support and Guidance

Estonia:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Estonia:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Estonia:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Estonia:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Estonia:Mobility and Internationalisation

Estonia:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Mobility in Higher Education

Estonia:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Estonia:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Estonia:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Estonia:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Estonia:National Reforms in School Education

Estonia:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Estonia:National Reforms in Higher Education

Estonia:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Estonia:European Perspective

Estonia:Legislation

Estonia:Glossary

 

Definition of the Target Groups

Special education may be considered appropriate with children who need very specific organisation of studies and implementation of resource intensive support measures.

The following special groups may be formed in preschool child care institutions for children with special developmental needs:

  • groups for children with physical disabilities;
  • groups for children with specific developmental disorders;
  • groups for children with moderate, severe and profound mental disabilities;
  • groups for children with multiple disabilities;
  • groups for children with pervasive developmental disorders.

The following classes or groups may be formed in schools for better organisation of study of students with special educational needs:

  • classes for students with speech, vision, hearing or movement disabilities;
  • classes for students with learning difficulties;
  • classes for students with severe somatic diseases;
  • classes for students with intellectual disabilities;
  • classes for students with behavioural and educational problems;
  • classes for students with emotional and behavioural disorders;
  • classes for students with multiple disabilities;
  • classes for students with particular special educational needs acquiring basic education (e.g. students with autistic spectrum disorders, activeness and attention disorders or addiction disorders).

For a student who, due to severe or persistent mental disorder, has been referred to a long-term rehabilitation service, one-to-one teaching is applied.

Admission Requirements and Choice of School

According to the legislation, a preschool/school can be freely chosen; children with special educational needs are admitted to a preschool integration or special group or to a school (class) for children with special educational needs on the basis of a written application from a parent and a decision of the county or national counselling committee. The foundation of counselling committees is established by the Republic of Estonia Education Act and the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Act. A counselling committee shall comprise at least five members. A counselling committee shall include a special education teacher, a speech therapist, a school psychologist, a social worker and a representative of the county government or of the city government accordingly. In general, a child shall be referred to a counselling committee with the approval of the parent after the implementation of support measures of the educational institution has not delivered the expected results for supporting the development of the child and the child has undergone an examination by a clinical psychologist, a speech therapist or a psychologist. A county counselling committee is competent to:

  • decide, at the request of a parent, on postponing the obligation to attend school;
  • recommend an integration or special group for a child with special needs
  • assign to a child with special needs a curriculum suitable for his or her abilities;
  • recommend that a child with special educational needs commence studies in a class of students with special needs, or application of necessary measures for the inclusion of the child in an ordinary class ;
  • recommend that the learning outcomes prescribed in the national curriculum for basic schools be replaced or decreased or exemption be given from studying a compulsory subject;
  • recommend home schooling due to health reasons;
  • give recommendations for creation of conditions necessary for inclusive study at school and for implementation of such study.

For a student whose educational special needs due to the student’s state of health do not enable the student to participate in the studies carried out in the premises of the school, possibilities for acquiring basic or general secondary education outside school (at home, in a day centre, etc.) are created by the rural municipality or the city government of residence of the student. Home educating for health reasons is applied to the students with severe functional impairment, illness or disability, which makes it impossible for the student to participate in the studies carried out in the premises of a school. It is in the competence of the national counselling committee to recommend studies in a small class and to decide on the need to apply one-to-one teaching. It is in the competence of the national counselling committee to recommend studies in a small class and to decide on the need to apply one-to-one teaching.

A student may be admitted to a class for students with severe somatic diseases as well as to a class for students with speech, hearing, vision or movement disabilities by a decision of the head that is based on the request of a parent, a certificate from a specialist doctor and an assessment of the assessment committee of a school

A parent shall participate in the developmental conversation held with his or her child at least once an academic year. During the developmental conversation, the implementation of the support measures necessary for supporting the development of the child and his or her studies are agreed upon.

Age Levels and Grouping of Pupils

Upon implementation of special education for children with developmental and educational special needs, the school is required to make sure that a group or class were homogeneous with regard to both the abilities and age of students. There are upper limits set to the size of the special groups and classes.
In a group for children with special needs of a preschool child care institution, the number of children is as follows:

  • up to 12 children in a group for children with physical disabilities;
  • up to 12 children in an opportunity group for children with specific developmental disorders;
  • up to 7 children in a development group for children with intellectual disabilities;
  • up to 10 children in a group for children with sensory disabilities;
  • up to 4 children in a group for children with multiple disabilities;
  • up to 4 children in a group for children with pervasive developmental disorders.

In an integration group, the maximum number of children is smaller than in other groups of the preschool child care institution, with the calculation that one child with special needs fills three places.

For classes for students with special educational needs, the following maximum limit for the number of students applies:

  • 12 students in a class for students with speech, hearing, vision or movement disabilities, severe somatic diseases, behaviour problems, learning difficulties, for students undergoing simplified study and for students with problems in upbringing;
  • 8 students in a class for students with emotional and behavioural disorders;
  • 6 students in a class for children with multiple disabilities and for students undergoing coping study;
  • 4 students in a small class and a class for children undergoing nursing study.

Two or three classes for children with special educational needs can be combined to form a composite class whose size is determined on the basis of the special educational needs of specific students, but it shall not exceed 12 students.

Curriculum, Subjects

Teaching and schooling in preschool child care institutions is based on the national curriculum for pre-school child care institutions. Children have the right to get assistance from teachers in acquiring the content determined by the curricula. The principles and arrangement of supporting students with special needs are established in the curriculum of a child care institution.

In basic schools the national curriculum for basic schools and in upper secondary schools the national curriculum for upper secondary schools apply to all students (incl. those with educational special needs) as a general framework curriculum. In addition, a regulation of the Government of the Republic has approved the simplified national curriculum for basic schools, which provides the standard of basic education for students with intellectual disability who, by a recommendation of the counselling committee and with the approval of a parent, study pursuant to the simplified national curriculum for basic schools, in classes for students with moderate learning difficulties or in classes of students with severe or profound learning difficulties acquiring basic education.
For students with moderate learning difficulties and students with severe and profound learning difficulties, an individual curriculum is compiled to take into account their abilities and developmental potential.

The following cases have been established in the national curriculum for basic schools where a school has the right to make changes in the duration of study, weekly workload or lessons timetable of a student with special educational needs:

  • In the case of a student for whom study in a class for students with speech impairments has been recommended on the basis of a decision of a specialist doctor, the school may set, using the school curriculum or an individual curriculum, 10 academic years as the nominal period of study in basic school. Whereas, the number of Estonian lessons (with Estonian as the language of instruction) or Russian lessons (with Russian as the language of instruction) has been increased in stages 1-3. Further, a student may decide not to study foreign language B.
  • In the case of a student for whom study in a class for students with hearing impairments has been recommended on the basis of a decision of a specialist doctor, the school may set, using the school curriculum or an individual curriculum, 11 academic years as the nominal period of study in basic school. Whereas, the number of Estonian lessons (with Estonian as the language of instruction) or Russian lessons (with Russian as the language of instruction) has been increased in stages 1-3. The added Estonian language or Russian language lessons may be substituted with sign language study. Further, a student may decide not to study foreign language B.    
  • In the case of a student for whom study in a class for students with a visual impairments has been recommended on the basis of a decision of a specialist doctor, the school may set, using the school curriculum or an individual curriculum, 10 academic years as the nominal period of study in basic school, and manual training, handicraft and home economics shall be taught in the third stage of study for at least 12 lessons weekly, whereby the study may also contain vocational preliminary training.
  • With a student who, on the basis of a recommendation of a counselling committee, is provided with study in classes for students with moderate learning difficulties or in classes for students with severe or profound learning difficulties, an individual curriculum can establish the nominal duration of basic school to be 11 years.
  • With a student who, by a decision of a specialist doctor, has been advised to study in a class for students with physical/motor disabilities nominal study period of 10 academic years in basic school may be established by a school or individual curriculum.   

Students who have finished basic school according to the simplified national curriculum may be offered additional study in basic school, the objective of which is to offer additional preparation and support for smooth continuation of studies or transfer to the labour market. The duration of additional study is one year.

In the case of a class for students with learning difficulties, learning outcomes that have been reduced or replaced in comparison to the learning outcomes set in the national curriculum for basic schools, may be provided for by the school curriculum.

In the case of a small class or study concentrated on one student, it is possible to change, compared to this Regulation, the arrangement of teaching time by the school curriculum, to reduce or replace some of the learning outcomes, as well as to reduce course load, but only up to 20 academic hours per academic week.

Teaching Methods and Materials

In ensuring the availability of education to students with special needs, the individuality of each student is considered. Instruction is ensured in a manner that it corresponds to the individual needs of a student and develops students' physical and mental activity. Students with visual impairments are supplied with books in the Braille system and with other study materials. In teaching deaf students and students with hearing impairments, sign language is used in combination with oral instruction. With both visually impaired and hearing impaired children, IT support and specifically developed study facilities are of importance. In the case of students with movement disabilities, adaptation of the learning environment and provision of support services are used to guarantee the acquisition of education. In the case of students with severe and multiple disabilities, various methods such as imitation learning, modelling, study passes etc. are used.

With regard to students with more severe disabilities implementation of a rehabilitation plan is guaranteed, where possible.

In teaching students with intellectual disabilities, special methodologies and specifically developed study aids are used.

The state is required to provide Braille textbooks, adjusted study material and specific study facilities, all of which are fee for students.

In preschool education, attention is paid to creating a basis of study materials to encourage development (construction games, puzzles, respective games). A methodical handbook has been developed for teachers for assessment of students and offering support for their development.

In vocational education, an educational institution compiles a curriculum for a special group (small study group) and an individual curriculum for a person with special needs who is studying in a mainstream or special group; prior to that, a student evaluation is held where the student's additional needs and strengths are identified. Following the national curriculum for the corresponding vocation or profession, the special needs of the person and his or her rehabilitation plan, communication support (sign language interpreter, speech synthesiser, etc.) and different kinds of study support (ICT support, adapted study materials, individual adapted study materials and study materials in simplified language) are used. For a student with special needs, a transfer plan is developed to support the transfer from vocational school to work. In teaching students with special educational needs, various information technology solutions are used.

Progression of Pupils

If measures have been applied in support of a student  by virtue of his or her special educational needs, at the end of the period of application of these measures the SENCO shall assess the effectiveness of the measures in cooperation with teachers and support specialists and make proposals to the parents and, where necessary, to the head of school for further activities: termination of the application of the measures; continuance of the application of the measures in the same or improved manner; replacement of a measure or addition of another measure; conducting further investigations; recommending that the student see a specialist doctor, a specialist of a particular field or the consulting committee.

The results of the pedagogical-psychological assessment carried out for identification of special educational needs, additional observations and recommendations of teachers regarding the strengths and weaknesses of a student, recommendations of the support specialists of the school, test and examination results, and the recommendations of the counselling committee regarding organisation of studies and the measures applied to the student on the basis thereof shall be documented in a child development observance chart drawn up for the purpose of observance of the development and coping of the student with special educational needs. The head of school shall appoint the persons in charge of drawing up and filling in the individual development observance map.

In case of students with special needs, individual curricula are often used, making it possible to evaluate the acquired knowledge and skills, taking into account the individual characteristics of a student. As a rule, students are not made to repeat a school year, the period of study may be extended to enable the students finish the year or course.

Certification

In the organisation of basic school final examinations with unified questions, a student’s special needs and the objectives set by the curriculum are taken into account.

The head of a school may, by informing in advance the institutions organising examinations, allow the application of one or more of the following special conditions in examining a basic school graduate with special educational needs:

  • allowing extra time of up to 15 minutes per an astronomical hour;
  • carrying out an examination in a separate room;
  • allowing a break of up to 10 minutes per an astronomical hour;
  • allowing use of computer without speller with a student who cannot write or whose handwriting is hard to read due to the special need;
  • an answer to be written down by a support person if the student cannot write;
  • examination questions and text to be read out loud to a visually impaired student or a student with dyslexia;
  • written instructions about the organisation of the examination to be given to a hearing impaired student;
  • use of study materials (dictionaries, formulas) by a students with learning difficulties;
  • specification, restructuring or oral explanation of the instructions and the text of examination tasks to a student with learning difficulties;
  • differentiated assessment of the examination paper in mother tongue taken by a student with dyslexia;
  • use of a sign language translator with a hearing impaired student.

By the consent of the institution organising examinations, the head of a school may decide to implement the following special conditions for basic school graduates with special educational needs:

  • amendment of the font size of the examination paper or drawing up an examination paper in braille with a visually impaired student;
  • preparing and conducting an examination paper without listening and oral section with a hearing impaired student.

Students with mild learning difficulties and students whose learning outcomes prescribed in the national curriculum for basic schools have been reduced by a recommendation of a counselling committee in the examination subjects take the basic school final examinations on the basis of the material prepared by the school.

Students undergoing coping and nursing study do not take final exams.

Irrespective of the curriculum, all students receive an identical final certificate. Students studying according to the national curriculum for basic schools and students undergoing simplified study receive a final certificate if their annual grades are positive and the required final examinations have been passed at least with a satisfactory result. Upon request by a parent, a basic school final certificate may also be given to a student whose annual or final exam grade is “weak” or “unsatisfactory” in up to two subjects. In coping and nursing study, a basic school final certificate is given to a student who has passed the individual curriculum compiled for him or her. The basic school final certificate will specify according to which curriculum the student has studied.

Legislative References

Education Act

Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act

National curriculum for preschool child care institutions

National curriculum for basic schools

Basis and procedure for admission of children to and exclusion from special preschool child care institution or special group

Basis of organisation of teaching and education in classes and groups of students with special educational needs and the conditions of and procedure for admission to, transfer to and exclusion from a class or group, and the conditions of and procedure for teaching one single student

Condition and procedure for submission of applications to counselling committees

Conditions and procedure for home educating and in-hospital teaching

Conditions and procedure for preparing, compiling, conducting and assessment of national standard-determining tests and basic school and upper secondary school final examinations, and for analysing the results of national standard-determining tests, unified basic school final examinations and state examinations