Malta’s inclusive education system for people with special needs ranks among the best in the EU.
Just 0.3 per cent of children with special needs, or 137 students, last year attended schools specifically designed for the tuition of people with disabilities, according to a study by the European Commission themed Education and Disability – Policies and Practices in Education.
The rest studied in regular classes.
Of the 48,594 pupils in compulsory education last year, 2,645 students, or 5.4 per cent, were considered to have special needs.
In 2006, Malta had overhauled the system, closing many special schools to integrate children with special needs into the regular education system.
The reform, which included a multimillion euro investment, also provided support for students with special needs, including assigning personal, highly-trained facilitators.
“The reform seems to be working, so much so that most of the students with special needs in Malta are fully integrated in mainstream education. In this area, Malta ranks among the best,” a Commission official said. Among the EU 27, Malta has the fourth lowest number of pupils with special needs who still attend segregated special schools.
Italy is in pole position with 0.01 per cent, followed by Sweden (0.06 per cent) and Portugal (0.2 per cent).
On the other end of the scale, the Flemish region in Belgium has the poorest record with 5.2 per cent of pupils still attending segregated schools.
EU member states have committed themselves to provide for the successful inclusion of all learners, including those with special needs.
Despite this commitment, the report shows that children with special educational needs and disabled adults are still getting a raw deal as many are still placed in segregated institutions and those in mainstream settings often receive inadequate support.
About 45 million EU citizens of working age have a disability and 15 million children have special educational needs.
The EU report shows that, in some cases, they are deprived of educational and employment opportunities altogether and they frequently leave school with few or no qualifications.
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