By the numbers - Special educational needs

29th November 2013 at 00:00

The United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities will be held next week. One area of focus for the campaign is universal access to high-quality education.

The way that children with special educational needs (SEN) are educated varies significantly around the world. In countries such as the Netherlands, more than 60 per cent of children with SEN are taught in segregated schools. In Italy, just 1 per cent of SEN children are sent to special schools. Other countries make widespread use of segregated lessons within mainstream education.

The day takes place on 3 December and will this year include the presentation of a biennial $20,000 (#163;12,350) prize. Funded by the state of Kuwait, the prize will be awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to two individuals or centres for their work in promoting inclusive education for people who have learning difficulties.


The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has defined three categories of SEN to enable cross-country comparison.

Disabilities: impairments such as deafness

Difficulties: learning or behavioural problems

Disadvantages: issues resulting from social disadvantage


2.9% - Disabilities

2.4% - Difficulties

2.5% - Disadvantages


5.2% - Disabilities

7.1% - Difficulties

23.1% - Disadvantages


0.5% - Disabilities

1.1% - Difficulties

22.8% - Disadvantages

Source: A Study on the Prevalence of Special Educational Needs (2012), table 3.1, National Council for Special Education. bit.lySENPrevalence.

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