Almost 5% of children in Switzerland classed as special needs

More and more, special needs students get tailored treatment alongside normal class structures, rather than in separate classes or schools. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

Latest figures show that 4.8% of schoolchildren in Switzerland receive special needs education in Switzerland, with boys twice as likely as girls to receive support.

This content was published on November 30, 2020 - 11:42

Of a total 950,000 students in compulsory education in the country (up to age 15/16), almost 42,000 benefit from special-needs education, according to figures for 2018/9 publishedExternal link on Monday by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO).

Around half of this number are part of a regular school class, while the other half receives special education only, whether in a dedicated class or a dedicated school, the FSO writes.

Boys are more likely than girls to be classed as having special needs: 6.1% compared to 3.3%, as are foreign pupils: 6.4% compared to 4.1% Swiss pupils.

Inclusive approach

“For around 15 years, students with special needs have been increasingly integrated into regular school classes, where they get special educational support, which means they are less often sent to educated separately,” the FSO said.

Educational policy is the responsibility of the cantons in Switzerland, and so special needs measures vary widely across the country: depending on the region, the number of students receiving special education runs from 0.4% to 6.6%.

Some cantons will more readily accept special needs children into mainstream schools than others, as can be seen in the example of Carmen below.

As for specific schools tailored to special needs, 90% of them are found in urban or relatively urban municipalities, the FSO writes. In terms of staff, special needs education remains mainly a field for women (84%).

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