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6.8 Education of children with disabilities and/or special needs

Inclusion policies: The Ministry of National Education has a policy of including those children who are identified as having special needs in the education system either through special education schools or by integrating them into regular schools. However, definitions used and procedures followed may differ from those in other countries with good practices in this area. Within the Ministry, the Directorate of Special Education, and Counselling Services and its provincial and district units are responsible for managing the education of children with special needs. The Special Education Decree-Law (No. 573) of 1997 emphasises that children with special needs should be educated alongside their peers in regular schools on the basis of personal education plans. The education of those who need to receive education in a separate school or institution alongside other children with similar disabilities, the Decree-Law says, is to be carried out in special education schools and institutions with appropriate arrangements for “mixing”. The Decree-Law also makes preschool education mandatory for children with special needs. Some disabled children receive free school transport, among other forms of social assistance/services.

Policies to prevent the exclusion from education of children with disabilities have so far focused on the school environment, with little reference to socio-cultural barriers. However, it is likely that households themselves contribute to the exclusion of children with disability in their efforts to conceal and/or protect them, and through low expectations. In this context, a study of household decision-making process about the education of disabled children might be enlightening.

Physical Access to Education: Law number 5378 of 2005 requires all buildings belonging to public institutions and agencies, including schools to be made accessible to people with disabilities by May 2012. However, this deadline was later postponed by one year. No administrative data exists about the current situation and outstanding needs regarding the accessibility of classrooms and common spaces In the specific case of boarding education services provided for children living in rural areas, the physical structures where boarding education services are provided were not planned to ensure their accessibility for children with orthopaedic, visual and hearing disability, and no comprehensive renovations have been made to ensure accessibility. In its Concluding Observations, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights urged Turkey to ensure that people with disabilities have physical access to all schools as well as official buildings, parks, hospitals and public services.

Preschool education: According to Special Education Services regulations, mandatory schooling of children with special learning needs starts at the age of 3. Thus the state has the obligation to ensure that 3-to 5-year-old children with special learning needs have access to pre-primary education free of charge. In practice, enrolment in preschool education among children with disabilities appears to be lower than enrolment among the general population of children. The available information may be misleading due to issues of definition and identification. However, it may also reflect issues of access, expectations, hidden costs or the disadvantaged circumstances of their families. Only 890 children were enrolled in pre-primary classrooms in special education schools in the 2011-12 school year, according to the Ministry of National Education Formal Education Statistics. Moreover, the forthcoming country report drawn up under the international Out-Of-School Children (OOSC) initiative, jointly coordinated by UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute of Statistics suggested that only 588 children are enrolled in mainstreamed education at the pre-primary education level, although it is estimated that more than 20,000 of the 1,225,563 5-year-olds in Turkey have one or more disabilities.  Based on these figures, it can be concluded that despite a legislative framework that makes pre-primary education mandatory for 5-year-olds with special learning needs, a high proportion of these children are either excluded from education or are not able to access education that takes their special needs into account.

Primary and secondary education: At primary level, the numbers of children identified as having special needs has been increasing, according to the Ministry’s statistics. The majority (137,893 in the 2011-12 school year) are educated alongside their peers. Others (20,958 in the 2011-12 school year) are educated in special education classes in regular schools, while a significant number (20,813) still attend special education schools of various kinds. Attendance and completion rates are not published but disabled children are among those who have benefited from catch-up education, and it is suspected that disability is a factor causing children to be “out of school”. At secondary level, it seems that a high proportion of children with special needs are unable to continue their formal education. In the 2011-12 academic year, 10,860 boys and girls were mainstreamed in secondary education and 8,099 were enrolled in vocational schools for children with special needs. Education including vocational education is also available for some groups of disabled children in non-formal education, public and private.

Numbers of children in special education schools

 

Schools/ institutions

Total students

Boys

Girls

Teachers

Classrooms

PRIMARY EDUCATION

 

 

 

 

 

 

Public

316

18,141

11,370

6,771

5,558

3,624

Primary school for the mild mentally impaired

53

2,792

1,785

1,007

1,189

671

Primary school for the visually impaired

16

1,362

793

569

445

293

Primary school for the hearing impaired

49

3,804

2,157

1,647

1,121

670

Primary school for the orthopaedic impaired

3

545

294

251

110

56

Autistic children training centre

51

2,066

1,629

437

683

548

Training implementation school for the moderate and severe mentally impaired

143

7,507

4,647

2,860

1,990

1,375

Primary school for children with adaptation problems

1

65

65

0

20

11

Private

111

2,672

1,618

1,054

1,398

1,435

SECONDARY EDUCATION

 

 

 

 

 

 

Public

112

8,099

5,378

2,721

937

430

Special education vocational high school for the hearing impaired

21

2,053

1,282

771

353

148

Special education vocational high school for the orthopedic impaired

2

97

69

28

39

9

Training school for the mild mentally impaired

89

5,949

4,027

1,922

545

273

                   

Source: Ministry of National Education, Formal Education Statistics 2011-12

Quality of integration in general schools: A paper published by the Education Reform Initiative (ERG) based at Sabancı University in Istanbul in 2011 (Türkiye’de Kaynaştirma/Bütünleştirme Yoluyla Eğitimin Durumu [Situation of Education through Mainstreaming/Inclusion in Turkey] finds that more needs to be done to integrate children into regular schools fully and effectively. It notes that the necessary support services are not being provided to children with special needs, that teachers, school administrators, families and students need to be better informed, that the skills of educators and students need to be developed further, and that changes need to be made in the schools with respect to the physical environment and education programmes. Individualised education programmes were not being prepared for most of the children concerned, and there were not enough school counsellors and special needs teachers in the schools. ERG has continued to conduct research and develop policy proposals on inclusive education, with the support of the Sabancı Foundation, and in partnership with the ‘Tohum’ Autism Foundation (See http://erg.sabanciuniv.edu/yayinlar).

Emerging challenges: The law adopted by Parliament in March 2012, restructuring the education system, will significantly increase the number of disabled children and children with special needs within the scope of compulsory education, further adding to the need to find ways of monitoring whether all these children are in school, to take steps to prevent their exclusion form the education system, and to increase capacity, skills and resources for inclusive education. Meanwhile, although there are 53 hospital primary schools, more information is needed on the rights to education of children of all ages and in all parts of the country who suffer from illnesses, especially those with chronic illnesses or who need long-term treatment, and who may therefore have difficulty attending school regularly and/or participating actively in learning processes.

UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org