Children in need of special attention in Australia are those with learning difficulties, disabilities and health related conditions. As discussed in one of our blogs earlier, disability is a broad term that includes people, in this case, children, with physical disability, hearing and/or vision impairment, mental health conditions, intellectual disability and language disorder – or a combination of more than one of said conditions.
Now, special education is a form of education that is designed to cater for students with various forms of learning needs that cannot be fully met by the conventional Australian school curriculum. More often than not, it involves application of special techniques and exercises by teachers with a view to improving the quality of education for the student.
In the recent past, Australia has been trying to adopt an inclusive form of education where students with special needs are afforded education services in mainstream schools and classes. The idea behind this is to spare the students of having to feel like they are different from other students by segregating. The term, ‘inclusive education’, can therefore be described as a form of education that ensures all students are educated in a mainstream environment that meets their individual needs.
In certain severe cases of special needs or attention required, a separate education institution for meeting these students’ needs is often advocated for. This is a trend that has been steadily gaining pace in Australia’s education scene. For instance, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recorded that the number of schools in Australia increased by 3% from 1999 to 2013. Now, this statistic in isolation doesn’t mean much but when you factor in that the number of special schools increased by 17% during the same period, it starts to make a lot more sense.
Inclusion vs Quality
Australia’s Disability Standards for Education, 2005, intended to give students with disabilities the same rights as other students. The standards state that “all students should be able to enjoy their education and be treated with dignity”. The spirit of the standards is to overcome discrimination based on stereotypes of the abilities of students with disabilities. On the other hand, the increase in number of special schools across the country can be attributed to the need to provide quality education and supports that some students need. The foundation of this shift is a desire to see that ALL Australian students are availed to the best possible education.
The aim of the NDIS with regards to special education is to work with schools and other providers to work out a plan that ensures the students receive all the support they need for their education and general development.