'Integration of special needs students lacking'

State Comptroller doubts Education Ministry's readiness to integrate special needs students into the regular school system.

Children using tablet computer 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
Children using tablet computer 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
report expressed doubts as to the ability of the Education Ministry to tackle the issue of integrating students with special needs into the regular school system.
According to the report, the issue, which has been under debate for over 10 years, has not advanced much since.
As of 2012, out of the 1.9 million children in the Israeli education system, some 160,000 are considered students with special needs. About 73,000 of them study in special education schools, while the remaining 87,000 are enrolled in regular schools across the country.
Such students are entitled to study in special education programs since the implementation of the special education law in 1988. In such schools, pupils receive appropriate physiological or behavioral treatment along with their academic studies.
Back in 2002, the state comptroller pointed out that while the education system allocated appropriate resources to specialeducation schools, students with special needs studying in regular classrooms received much more limited funding, causing the financial burden to fall on their families and primarily harming kids from socioeconomically weaker communities.
Following this observation, the Education Ministry established the Dorner Committee in 2007 to address the issue.
The committee’s report called for children with special needs to receive a set basket of services – one which would accompany them in any educational framework they chose.
In 2012 – ten years after the state comptroller made his initial observations – the number of students with special needs learning in regular schools had not increased, but rather decreased from 66 percent to 44%, Wednesday’s report stated.
The education budget for these pupils remained the same as it was ten years ago, despite the recommendations.
According to the report, another problem remains: educators in regular schools regularly lack the tools to assist children with special needs who have behavioral or emotional disorders.
Research presented in the report argued that only 17% of special-needs children learning in regular schools receive the appropriate and adapted treatment.
The document also observed that according to the Education Ministry’s timetable for making progress with the issue, effective integration – assuming the ministry actually begins the process of implementation – will not be completed before 2020, almost 20 years after the original recommendations.
“The failure to provide for those basic needs [of the students] – along with the schedule established for implementation of the recommendations – raises severe doubts as to the Education Ministry’s ability to make the necessary changes, in order to fulfill the instructions of the law,” the report stated.
“The education minister attaches great importance to the integration of students with special needs in regular education and allocates resources for the benefit of this cause,” the ministry wrote in a statement.
The ministry also said it works to promote a safe school climate and to establish the right conditions for students with behavioral or emotional disorders.
Last month, Education Minister Shai Piron, at the third annual Akim conference on the inclusion of people with disabilities into society, said that in the planning of future schools, the separation between special education schools and regular schools would no longer be made.
The minister also said that he would work to increase the number of teachers with disabilities teaching in regular schools.