Attitudes and abilities

Students with Disabilities, Learning Difficulties and Disadvantages: Policies, Statistics and Indicators

©REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

“Attitudes are the real disability”, says Henry Holden, a well-known comedian and advocate for the disabled. Education is clearly important in this respect, but ironically, schools themselves have much to do in how they deal with disabled students.

Whether teenagers are confined to a wheelchair or are struggling with epilepsy, dyslexia or depression, getting an education can be a tough test indeed.For the past few decades, schools have taken on increasing responsibility for educating youth with disabilities and mainstreaming them into regular classrooms. Students with Disabilities, Learning Difficulties and Disadvantages, the fourth report in an ongoing OECD series on disabilities and education, takes a practical look at numbers, measuring how a sample of 17 countries provide for students with special needs.The countries surveyed all have, or are currently preparing, laws that ensure full access to education for all students, although with varying degrees of focus. While many schools have introduced services like remedial instruction, special classrooms and on-site therapists, there are still gaps. Some countries classify special needs as those relating only to students with medical disabilities like blindness or autism, but not those with emotional or learning disorders, or gifted students.This report by the OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) tallies the number of special schools, special classes and how many students get additional resources per class, from pre-primary through to upper-secondary levels. It identifies legal and financial frameworks that encourage inclusion and equity, discusses why more male students seem to get educational resources for disabilities, and takes a look at the participation of students with disabilities in PISA, the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment. By comparing different approaches in a purely objective way, this report helps policymakers and school districts learn how to continue changing attitudes and improve the lives of disabled people too.ISBN 9789264027626©OECD Observer No 266 March 2008

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