Organisation of education, objectives and curriculum

Key terms: Legal framework conditions in special needs education / Day-care facilities

In Switzerland, the adequate schooling of children and adolescents with special education needs and disabilities is laid down in law. Since 2008, special needs education has solely been the task of the cantons. This means that the cantons are responsible for the content, legalities and financing of special needs schooling. Due to this new task allocation, each canton is obliged to define the special needs education that it offers, along with the corresponding measures, in a special needs education concept. In the cantons, the following types of special needs schooling are offered.

Types of special needs schooling

  • Early childhood special needs education

    Early childhood special needs education attends to children with disabilities or whose development is delayed, impaired or threatened. The supportive measures can be realised within a family context from the birth of the child until up to two years after entry into school.

  • Integrative schooling

    In integrative schooling, children or adolescents with special education needs are integrated into a class at a normal school, on either a full-time or part-time basis:
    - by using the special education measures offered by the school and / or
    - by arranging enhanced measures according to the standardised evaluation procedure (integrative special needs schooling).

  • Special needs classes

    In special needs classes, only a reduced number of pupils are admitted, whose development is threatened or who, because of their difficulties (e.g. behavioural or learning difficulties) are likely to be unable to follow the lessons in a normal school. Special needs classes represent a type of schooling between normal and special needs schooling. However, special needs classes are only held in individual cantons.

  • Special needs school

    A special needs school is part of the compulsory education level and specialises in certain types of disability or learning difficulties and behavioural difficulties. Special needs schools only admit children and adolescents who have a need for enhanced measures, as established in the standardised evaluation procedure. They are subject to a cantonal approval procedure. They can also be combined with the provision of residential accommodation or with the provision of care in school-based day-care facilities.

  • Educational therapeutic services such as language therapy and psychomotor therapy

    Linguistic disorders, speech disorders, voice disorders and communication disorders are diagnosed and treated in language therapy. Psychomotor therapy addresses the interplay between perception, feeling, thinking, movement and behaviour, as well as the physical expression thereof. In both of these educational therapeutic services, the therapeutic measures necessary are planned, implemented and evaluated.

Learning objectives and requirements

The learning objectives and requirements pertaining to children and adolescents with special education needs are individually tailored to suit the abilities of the respective pupil. Essentially, they depend on the type of disability: a sensory or physical deficiency does not automatically mean that cognitive learning is also impaired. In such cases, special teaching material and aids are provided in order to facilitate satisfaction of the requirements and objectives of the normal school. In other cases, where the impairment of a pupil's development and learning ability does not allow an orientation based on the normal school's curricula, the set learning objectives are geared towards maximum independence and the best possible social integration in particular. In both types of case, the learning objectives for each child are oriented towards the optimal balance between maximum development of the potential (on the cognitive level and in general) of the child or adolescent and simultaneous promotion of self-realisation. Each school type (special needs school or integrative schooling) strives to achieve this balance.

To an increasing extent, learning content, learning objectives and even development itself are laid down in writing within individual development plans drawn up by an interdisciplinary group of experts considering the respective child or adolescent. This approach requires good coordination and cooperation between the various parties involved, who meet regularly in order to reassess and adapt the objectives.

Assessment of pupils

The preferred assessment method in special needs education is a continual and formative assessment which enables regular feedback for pupils and parents. The development of the child or adolescent is recorded in a report at the end of the school year or half-year. Examinations or grades at the end of the year are rather rare. Those pupils who are integrated into normal schools and who follow the normal curriculum are assessed in the same way as their fellow pupils. Pupils with disabilities can, however, request the compensation of disadvantages (e.g. extension of the time allowed to sit an examination; support from a third person [e.g. sign-language interpreters in oral examinations for pupils with a hearing disability]; adapting examination media or the form of examination).

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Last update of this page: 26.07.2021