United Kingdom (England)
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) is situated off the north-west coast of continental Europe. It comprises the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and a number of smaller islands, and is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The UK has a population of just under 67 million, almost 55 million live in England.
Education in England
Education in the UK is devolved, with each of its four constituent countries having a separate education system. In England (the country from which both UK partners come). Education in England is overseen by the Department for Education. Local government authorities are responsible for the implementation of education policy and for the management of state-funded schools at local level.
England has a long tradition of independent, fee-paying schools (confusingly known as ‘public schools’) as well as home education, and parents can legally educate their children by any means permitted. State-funded schools consist of selective grammar schools and non-selective comprehensive schools (these include local authority-run schools, academies and free schools). The English Educational system is divided into stages, based on age. These are:
- Early Years Foundation Stage (ages 3-5)
- primary education (ages 5-11)
- secondary education (ages 11-16)
- post-16 education (ages 16-18)
- and further/higher education (age 18+).
Special education and inclusion
Current legislation regarding provision and support for children with special educational needs (SEN) – including those with autism – is set out in the Children and Families Act 2014. An Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan is developed for children and young people (2-25 yrs) who are considered to have complex needs. Every school must have a Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator (SENCO), who is responsible for overseeing the support of pupils with SEN.
Children with SEN in the UK can attend ‘mainstream’ or ‘special’ schools, but legally, local authorities are obliged to educate children in mainstream schools where possible.
In January 2018, the number of pupils with SEN was just under 1.3m (14.6% of the school population), and the number with an EHC plan was just under 259,000 (2.9% of the school population). Just over 28% of children with an EHC plan were on the autism spectrum. Most children with SEN are included in mainstream schools, with fewer than 10% being placed within the special education system. There are over 1250 special schools in the UK (most located in England).
The austerity measures implemented in the UK over the last decade have reduced local authority budgets, with a subsequent impact on education. A number of criticisms are made with regard to special education in England. these include underfunding (the Local Government Association has identified a shortfall of £536 million in local authority education budgets for educating children and young people with SEN) and exclusion – pupils with SEN are more likely than others to be formally excluded from school, or removed from the school’s register of pupils.
Croatia is situated on south of Europe, at northern shores of Adriatic see. It has a population of around 4 200 000 people. Official language is Croatian.
Education in Croatia
Education in Croatia is overseen by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports and local government authorities oversee and implement education policies in preschools and schools at local level. The educational system in Croatia begins with preschools-kindergartens. Primary and secondary education are compulsory. Primary starts from the age of 6 to 7 and lasts for 8 years. After elementary school, students can continue their education in gymnasiums, vocational schools (technical, industrial, trade) and art (music, dance, art) schools. Institutions of higher education offer both university and professional studies. Higher education institutions are divided into polytechnics, colleges, faculties and academies of art. There are only a few private education institutions in the country. Most primary and secondary schools as well as higher education are tuition-free. Students only pay for textbooks, basic equipment, cafeteria food, student dorms and other necessities, although the state also gives thousands of scholarships each year.
Special education and inclusion
Current legislation regarding provision of education for children with disabilities is the Act for primary and secondary education of children with disabilities (NN 24/2015) by Ministry of Science, Education and Sports.
Children with disabilities attend both mainstream and special schools. From all the children in mainstream system, there are 10% of children with disabilities, and only 0,1% are children with ASD. Children with disabilities can be included in mainstream program with individualized procedures, mainstream program with adjustments of content and individualized procedures, special program with individualized procedures, special program for gaining competencies in life skills with individualized procedures. Inclusion of children with ASD is facing many challenges. There is no clear criteria for inclusion in different programs, in most cases there is a lack of structured and systemized transition planning between primary, secondary and higher education or between mainstream and special system. Mainstream teachers are not educated for working with children with ASD. They have no support and supervision and that results in fear and lack of motivation for inclusion of children with ASD. Children with ASD have assistants which have different backgrounds and usually have finished some generic education. They also don’t receive support or supervision and it is often expected that they individualize procedures and programs for children.
On the Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences, Education and Rehabilitation study, there are 5 courses in the field of ASD, and graduates from that study, special education teachers are well educated to support children and adults with ASD. However, lot of professionals already employed have finished their studies before Bologna process when there was only one course on ASD so they need further training and education.
Republic of North Macedonia
Republic of North Macedonia is located in South-East Europe, at the center of the Balkan Peninsula. The country is bounded with Serbia and Kosovo in the North, Bulgaria in the East, Greece in the South and Albania in the West. According to the official data of the 2002 census, there are Republic of Macedonia has a population of 2.022.547, out of which 600.000 live in the capital of Skopje – the political, administrative and economic center of Macedonia. Other major cities are Bitola, Kumanovo, Tetovo, Ohrid, Veles, Gostivar, Shtip, Strumica, etc.
The education system of the Republic of Macedonia comprises a mix of pre-school, primary (6-14 years),secondary (15-17/18 years) and higher education.
Primary education lasts for nine years and is compulsory and free for all pupils (6-14 old years).There are 342 primary mainstream and 5 special primary schools in the country (around 1,100 including satellite schools).
The secondary education, which is also compulsory and free, is divided into four streams: general secondary education (gymnasium), secondary vocational education, art schools, and education for pupils with special educational needs. Secondary vocational education may be of 3-year or 4-year duration. At the end of 3-year vocational education the students take a final exam, without а right for university entrance. Graduates of the 4-year secondary education are allowed to choose between the final exams and state or school Matura depending on whether they wish to continue education, while the gymnasium graduates have to take state or school Matura exams. Among existing 124 secondary schools, 108 are public while the remainder 16 are private. Out of the secondary public schools, 23 are general education schools, 43 are vocational schools, 33 offer both general and vocational education, 4 schools are for pupils with special educational needs and 5 are art schools.
Special education and Inclusion
Pupils with special educational needs can be enrolled in regular schools (in regular or special classes) or in special schools, according to the type and degree of the special education needs. Some teachers are trained to work with those categories of pupils. Block subsidies are foreseen to be provided according with the number of pupils with special educational needs (with disability).
Children with special educational needs are not sufficiently included in regular primary education. Their inclusion in regular schools is not properly regulated and appropriate mechanisms have not been introduced. In addition, there are prejudices toward these children among parents, teachers and students. Teachers also do not possess enough competences to work with this category of learners. Didactic materials and didactic resources for realisation of educational process in all instruction languages (including assistive technologies for pupils with special educational needs) are insufficient, the specialised cabinets of specific subjects are not fully provided with teaching materials.
Physical access (facilities, training and other equipment) and didactic-methodological provision is poor in most of the high schools; conditions for inclusion of children with special educational needs are extremely limited, taking into account that a high number pupils with special educational needs have lower achievements, their opportunities for enrollment in general secondary education are very difficult and limited.
The Republic of Poland (Rzeczpospolita Polska) is one of the largest countries in central Europe. The population of Poland, currently 38.4 million people.
Education in Poland
The education system in Poland is managed by two institutions – the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. It is only the national educational policy that is developed and carried out centrally, while the administration of education and the running of schools are decentralized.
The educational system in Poland begins with one-year’s pre-school preparation for 6-year-olds and may be completed either in nursery schools or pre-school classes in primary schools. The education system in Poland has changed recently. Gimnazja (lower-secondary schools) are gradually phased out. In the 2018/2019 school year, gimnazja will cease to operate as the last cohort of pupils will graduate. According to new educational system children aged between 7 and 15 attend a 8-year primary school (szkoła podstawowa). Primary education is divided into two stages: the first stage (grades 1 to 3) offering integrated early school education, and the second stage (grades 4 to 8). At the end of the 8-year primary school pupils take a compulsory external tests.
Primary school graduates can continue their education in the following types of schools:
- general upper-secondary schools (liceum ogólnokształcące)
- technical upper-secondary schools (technikum)
- basic vocational schools (zasadnicza szkoła zawodowa)
- special schools preparing pupils with disabilities (special educational needs
Higher education offers both public or non-public institutions. Higher education institutions are divided into universities, polytechnics, academies and state higher vocational schools.
Special education and inclusion
Inclusive education in Poland has a short history.The precursor of integrated education in Poland was Aleksander Hulek. Currently, the most common form of integration in Poland is a real integration where both healthy and disabled students study together in the same class.
The group of learners who need special organisation of education includes learners:
- with disabilities: physical disability, including aphasia, intellectual disability, blind, visually impaired, deaf, hearing impaired, autism, including Asperger syndrome;
- with behavioural problems or at risk of behavioural problems.
Special education is provided in:
- special kindergartens;
- mainstream kindergartens and schools
- special schools (primary schools, three-year schools preparing for employment)
According to the ordinance, the number of students in the integrated class should be 15-20, including 3-5 disabled pupils and an additional teacher qualified in special pedagogy is employed.In inclusive schools, teachers with special pedagogical preparation may be additionally employed to co-organize the education process in the integration system and to provide teachers with the choice of program content and methods of working with disabled children. There is extra funding from the state budget for this kind of class. Such classes could be organised in kindergartens and schools at every level of education.