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Learning and teaching - Estonia

The high drop-out rate of pupils from schools has been a real problem for the state. Because of that the ideas of inclusive teaching gain more and more ground in Estonia and a lot of attention is paid to special needs in classrooms. It needs more flexible systems. This is partly brought about by new legislative acts, described in the first part of the report.

Because of the new demands for teachers it is obligatory for initial teacher training to have subjects in special needs education. The problem lies in preparing teachers already at schools to work with pupils who have special needs. It includes new skills but maybe the more important issue is the change of attitude and mentality. To deal with the problem in Estonia, two universities have special courses for in-service training. Tartu University has detailed descriptions on how and why to use individual educational plans, available for everyone on their webpage:

Below are descriptions of two in-service courses from Tallinn University showing examples about in-service training taking place in Estonia at the moment.

Course name: special education for remedial teaching

Volume: 160 hours (1 year)

Target group: basic school teachers working with pupils who have special needs

Objectives: to understand and notice various learning and behaviour difficulties and based on that to be able to create more favourable learning environments, learning plans and support systems to satisfy pupil’s individual needs; to shape preparedness and skills for remedial teachers.

Session work: 4 sessions of lectures, studying cases (40 hours), writing final paper (15 hours)

  • I session – contemporary approach defining special needs:

Integration and inclusive education. Historical preconditions for inclusive education formation in Estonia. The definition of “special needs education” The nature of special needs education. Formation of special education in Estonia. Different approaches for teaching children with special needs.

Individual work – to write a paper: Inclusive school-what does it mean? Main differences compared to a traditional school.

  • II session – the essence of special needs education

How to determine and classify special needs. The definition and classification of special needs. Special needs diagnostics and treatment – the possibilities for pedagogical rehabilitation. Different approaches for children with special needs diagnostics and classification in the past and now. The essence and use of correction and compensation. Inclusion of children with special needs. Cognitive development and concept of intelligence in context of a learning process. Specific learning difficulties and learning support. Individual work – to prepare materials for developing cognitive skills.

  • III session – The essence of special needs in social and emotional context:

Classification of emotional-behavioural disturbances. Modification of behaviour and appraising education. Monitoring and examination of a child.

Individual work – to monitor a specific child with special needs and to write an analysis.

  • IV session – means working with children with special needs:

Definition of individuality and differentiating actions. Composing individual education plans and individual development plans. The bases and arrangement of remedial teaching.

Individual work – to compose individual educational plan for a certain pupil.

Course name: Supporting children with special needs in a basic school

Volume: 160 hours (1 year)

Target group: basic school teachers who have passed the course “Special education for remedial teaching”, speech therapists and special teachers working in mainstream schools

Objectives: early notice of pupils with learning and behaviour problems; mastering strategies for coping with specific learning difficulties; introduction to support systems outside school; using local resources and teamwork to take responsibility for meeting educational needs of children with special needs

Session work: 4 sessions of lectures, Individual work - portfolios, observation of children, mapping support network, work with literature (60 hours), writing final paper (20 hours)

  • I session – early intervention:

The definition of early intervention and its composition. Possibilities for studying early childhood. Assessment criteria. Social, physical and sensory development. Intervention programmes for development and assessment. Clinical intervention programmes. Drug addict’s alienation programmes. Early intervention services. Identifying and studying special needs, resources within and outside school.

Individual work – working with literature, creating a portfolio about intervening strategies.

  • II session – specific difficulties in learning skills:

The definition and classification of specific learning skills. Possible reasons for specific learning difficulties. The reasons and essence of dyslexia. Phonological awareness. Early identification of dyslexia. First symptoms of dyslexia. Multi sensory teaching. Connections between dyslexia and success in other subjects. Supporting pupils with specific learning difficulties. Teaching strategies.

Individual work – Observation and studying a child, work with literature.

  • III session – using therapy in special education:

The role of music in child’s development. The importance of drama games. Educational values of music, movement and drama, their place in curriculum. Importance of creative activities in forming pupil’s self-esteem and their influence on success in learning. Experiences of different countries in using therapy in education for supporting children with special needs.

Independent work – finding additional materials and creating a portfolio about a therapy.

  • IV session – teamwork and school approach:

Creating unified attitude within a school towards children with special needs. Pupils’ and parents’ attitude towards inclusion of children with special needs. Using resources for school development, supportive network and its possibilities. Teacher teams, supporting each other. Access to information. Co-operation with special schools. Co-operation with parents, involvement of parents.

Independent work – mapping a supportive network based on local resources.

Click here to find an example of the 'Learning skills' assessment procedure

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