Finland has proven that the inclusion of the special needs community is feasible.
Special Needs Education: Introducing Jenna Puruunen
Jenna Puurunen, like every 12-year-old, has a passion for pop music. She also has cerebral palsy, which makes it difficult to control the muscles in her body.
She speaks slowly, and sometimes uses an assistive tablet for communication. However, she takes part in games and attends a regular school.
Jenna lives in Vantaa, where the government closed Special Education schools a long time ago and redistributed their resources to mainstream schools so that they could accept students like her.
Special Needs Education: Finland’s Journey to Inclusion
Finland started on the path to special needs inclusion in the 1990s. The Finnish government passed legislation restructuring special education and allowing students with unique needs to attend mainstream schools. At present, more than 95% of students with special needs do so. The number of students in SEN schools has fallen by half.
Professionals like Dr Markku Hahnukainen, a professor of special education at the University of Helsinki, reveals that the Finnish school system aims to provide equal opportunities for all children.
.At least 12% of them get special support, while another 10% receive intensified support. Finnish parents spend a significant amount on their children’s education. They believe in raising their kids to be as open-minded as they are book smart.
An example of how the Finnish system works
Merilathi Comprehensive School is an example of how the Finnish special needs education system works. It aims to integrate Special Needs students into regular classes for some subjects. It has 800 students, 140 of whom have disabilities.
Mainstream children and their parents don’t feel slowed down by special needs kids. That’s because Finnish teachers, most of whom have a Master’s degree in Education, are highly respected and have the autonomy to teach.
2. Employment Opportunities
However, there are challenges beyond school for those with disabilities. Employment opportunities are, sadly, limited. Organisations like Oma Polku equip youth with the necessary skills to integrate into society.
The most valuable lesson Singaporeans can learn from the Finnish is embracing diversity.
Source: The Straits Times