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Finnish Special Education - System & Trends (part 2)


In Finland, decision to transfer a student to special education is made by municipal administrative bodies with the hearing of experts and parents.


Special needs teacher Minna Lukkari and school psychologist Sari Raninen in Oulu coeducation high school. (Photo by Tapio Maikkola)

If necessary, syllabuses can be individualised and reduced and duration of compulsory education can also be extended if students cannot reach the set goals within 9 years.


6 Grounds for Special Education

In most comprehensive schools in Finland, here are main grounds for transfer to special education

  • Delayed development: from slight, moderate, severe to very severe

  • Neurological disability (e.g. Epilepsy), developmental disorder (e.g. ADHD) or physical disability (e.g. Cerebral Palsy)

  • Emotional disturbance or social maladjustment

  • Learning difficulties due to Autism and Asperger

  • Impaired linguistic development (Dysphasia)

  • Visual & Hearing Impairments

5 Most Common Reasons for Part-Time Special Education

In most comprehensive schools in Finland, here are top grounds for transfer to special education

  • Speech disorder

  • Reading & Writing Difficulty

  • Mathematics Learning Difficulty

  • Foreign languages Learning Difficulty

  • Emotional Disorder and Social Maladjustment

Trends & Statistics

The share of students receiving intensified support, the most advanced form of special education support in comprehensive schools has been growing consistently from 2011 to 2017.
  • In 2017, 43,124 students received special support (7.7%) while 54,280 students received intensified support (9.7%). The share of students receiving intensified support, the most advanced form of special education support in comprehensive schools has been growing consistently from 2011 to 2017.

Share of comprehensive school students having received special support in 2017 (Statistics Finland)

Share of comprehensive school students having received intensified support in 2017 (Statistics Finland)
In 2017, among students in special education, 1 in every 5 (or 20.7%) is fully integrated in general education group, while only 1 in every 10 (9.5%) attends special schools.
  • In 2017, among students in special education, 1 in every 5 (or 20.7%) is fully integrated in general education group, while only 1 in every 10 (9.5%) attends special schools. Between these two extremes, 7 out of 10 (69.8%) study partly in general education groups and partly in special classes or groups.

Place of provision of teaching in special education support students in comprehensive schools, 2017 (Statistics Finland)

Over years, on average 1 in every 5 comprehensive school students receive part-time special education.
  • Over years, on average 1 in every 5 comprehensive school students (21.8%) receive part-time special education. This share has been stable for the last 15 years, meaning about 120,000 students need this support.

Share of comprehensive school students receiving part-time special education, 2001-2017 (Statistics Finland)

Uusimaa has 34% in all the country's students receiving special support, 28% in all the country's students receiving intensified support.
  • Uusimaa has 34% in all the country's students receiving special support, 28% in all the country's students receiving intensified support. The next top regions are Varsinais-Suomi and North Ostrobothnia.

Comprehensive school students receiving intensified or special support, 2017, by region (Statistics Finland)






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