Legal framework conditions in special needs education

The rights of children and young people with special educational requirements are governed within the Federal Constitution and in several federal laws. The right to special education is referred to, for instance, in the Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation, Art. 19 (Right to basic education) and Art. 62 (School education).

Also within national legislation, a number of laws govern responsibilities, requirements for entitlements, and performance entitlements. The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), which has been in force since 1 January 2004, forms a central basis. Art. 20, paragraph 1, reads: «The cantons shall ensure that handicapped children and young people enjoy the benefit of a basic education adapted to their specific needs.» Paragraph 2 reads: «They shall encourage the integration of handicapped children and young people in the regular school system through appropriate forms of schooling to the extent that it is possible and beneficial for the handicapped child or young person concerned.»

Intercantonal Agreement on Special Needs Education

Since 1 January 2008 the Swiss cantons are responsible for the technical, legal and financial matters of special schooling of disabled children and young people, as well as for special needs educational measures. The invalidity insurance has withdrawn from the co-financing aspect and the associated regulative activities. The cantons thus regulate special schooling within the scope of an inter-cantonal agreement concerning collaboration in special educational areas’ in the form of a legally binding state treaty. The cantons that have joined the Agreement undertake to comply with certain framework regulations. The way in which each canton organises the special needs education measures is specified in concrete terms within its cantonal special needs education concept. All cantons are obliged to develop such a concept, regardless of whether or not they have joined the Agreement. The concept is approved by a cantonal authority (government or parliament).

In the Intercantonal Agreement on Special Needs Education, the cantons define a Switzerland-wide framework for the most important measures in the field of special needs education. The key components of this Agreement are Switzerland-wide tools regarding terminology, quality standards for recognition of service providers, and a standardised evaluation procedure for the determination of individual needs.

According to the Agreement, all children and adolescents (0-20) with special education needs who reside in Switzerland have the right to special needs education measures. The range of measures offered is determined by the cantons and includes the following services:

  • Counselling and support

  • Early childhood special needs education, language therapy and psychomotor therapy

  • Special needs education measures in a normal school or in a special needs school

  • Care in school-based day-care facilities or residential accommodation in special needs education institutions (according to requirements)

The Agreement came into effect in 2011.

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Last update of this page: 26.07.2021