Iceland - Article 24

Education systems

Equal access to national education, vocational training and lifelong learning systems

Educational settings - mainstream education
Education settings - special education
Collaboration between both systems

Teaching of compensatory skills made necessary by vision loss

Provision of accessible text books and other educational material

Provision of assistive technology

 

1. Equal access to:

1.1. National education system

The main legislation concerning education are the set of School Acts :

There are no policies or legal frameworks that specifically address the rights and needs of persons with disabilities seeking education or training. The national education system in Iceland operates under the principle of what it refers to as ‘Inclusive education – Education for All.' This, in essence, means that children and youth have the ‘equal opportunity' to attend inclusive education, but the needs of specific students are addressed on a case by case basis, often at the local level. While the School Acts discussed below are state level policies, the responsibility for implementation occurs at the municipal level. As such, at least according to legal statutes and regulations, it is often not clear as to what exactly disabled students have the right to in terms of services and support. Rather than specifying these supports, the laws refer to ‘flexibility' and negotiations between the school administration, parents and specialists (ANED report, to be published in 2010).

For the blind, visually impared and deafblind there is a special legislation : the Law on the Service and Information Center for the Blind, Visually impaired and the Deafblind No. 160/2008. It´s purpose is to increase the possibilities of participation for the blind, visually impared and deafblind in all spheres of society on an equal basis with others, emphasizing support to education, independent living, and active recreational and work participation.

1.2. National vocational training and lifelong learning systems

At adult education level, an independent institution, Hringsjá, a vocational and educational centre, offers job training and preparation for further learning to people with disabilities over the age of 18 as rehabilitation. Their common goal at Hringsjá is to enter mainstream work or continue their studies. The unit is run by the Association of Societies of the Disabled but financed by the Ministry of Social Affairs. In 2008 the programme offered training to approximately 60 people. The curriculum is organised as a three term programme and taught by part-time teachers who come from business, industry and upper secondary schools. The training program consists of courses in basic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic as well as social studies and social skills, but the main emphasis is on teaching and training in skills important for office and service work e.g. bookkeeping, Icelandic, English and the use of computers with emphasis on word processing, spreadsheets and the use of the internet. The centre also runs short courses, mostly about the use of computers, book-keeping, memory training and personal development for about 150 individuals a year.

According Article 4 of the Law on the Service and Information Center for the Blind, Visually impaired and the Deafblind No. 160/2008 the Center is to provide career counselling.

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2. Educational settings

2.1. Mainstream education (please specify what support measures if any)

Education is divided into four levels:

  1. pre-school (leikskóli) up to 6 years of age.
  2. compulsory (primary and lower secondary in a single structure – grunnskóli) 6–16 years of age.
  3. upper secondary (framhaldsskóli) 16–20 years of age.
  4. higher education level (háskóli) from 20 years of age.

Genaral laws and regulations at the level of Ministry of Education pertaining to special needs are quite vague. While assertions are made that students will be supported and every effort is to be made regarding accessibility, the laws—particularly the set of School Acts—say very little about the exact support that is to be made available.

However the Law on the Service and Information Center for the Blind, Visually impaired and the Deafblind No. 160/2008 states more clearly the support available for the blind and visually impaired. According to Article 4 the Center is responsiple for diagnosing, assessing, counselling and the distribution of assistive devices.

A common theme within the various School Acts is the right for individual institutions to refuse certain requests for support if they are considered to be too costly or logistically infeasible for specific institutions, while simultaneously asserting that students have the right to have their needs met. Under the rubric of inclusion, specific references to disability are replaced by the generalizing language of ‘special needs.'

At the preschool level, the local authorities are responsible for administration and general operations, as well as “special solutions” and “specialist services,” from which it may be inferred to refer to disabled students. Article 22 of The Preschool Act stipulates that “Children who need special assistance and training according to evaluation by recognised diagnostic specialists are entitled to such services within the preschool. The service shall be carried out under specialist supervision according to decision by the preschool head teacher and the specialist services, cf. Article 21, with the parents' collaboration.” The local municipal social services are also to be consulted to address these needs if warranted. The preschools are also eligible for additional funding depending upon the number of disabled students who are enrolled.

The Service and Information Center for the Blind, Visually impaired and the Deafblind provides education and counselling to the preeschool staff and other service providers, families and to other students. They work in close collaboration depending on the need in each case. The Center provides training in all age groups for Braille, computer use, daily living skills, mobility and orientation.

2.1.1. Primary

The Compulsory School Act governs grammar school education in Iceland, which is generally inclusive between the ages of 6 to 16. This Act asserts the rights of students with special needs, and complements the Regulation for Special Education (no. 389/1996). Article 17 of the Compulsory School Act stipulates “Pupils have the right to have their special needs met regarding studies in compulsory school, without discrimination and regardless of their physical or mental attainment.” Further, pupils with “specialised study problems” are also entitled to study support based upon an evaluation of their needs. If the parent(s) believe their child is not receiving adequate instruction at a particular school, they have the right to request further specialised instruction within the school or transfer to a specialised school. Disputes regarding these matters are governed by the 1993 Administrative Procedures Act, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister's Office (Forsætisráðuneytið).

In terms of ‘specialised services,' Article 40 of the Compulsory School Act stipulates that the allocations of space and facilities is governed and organised by the local municipalities. The individual schools are required to ‘screen and survey' all pupils at the beginning of their enrolment to ensure that “they get adequate instruction and study support.”

The Center for the Blind, Visually impaired and the Deafblind provides training in all age groups for Braille, computer use, daily living skills, mobility and orientation.

2.1.2. Secondary

Article 32 of the Upper Secondary School Act states: “Any individual who has completed compulsory education, has had equivalent basic education or has reached the age of 16 is entitled to enrol in upper secondary school.” Article 34 refers broadly to “Pupils with special needs.” This includes students with disabilities according to the Act on the Affairs of People with Disabilities, No. 59/1992 as well as students with “emotional or social difficulties”—all of whom shall be provided with specialised instruction, support, assistance and facilities as deemed necessary by the Ministry. Inclusive education is noted as the goal: “Pupils with special needs shall study side by side with other pupils whenever possible,” in addition to the provision of special programmes of study and instructional material. This law also refers to some ongoing work in the Ministry that will be implemented at a future date.

According to another regulation— Regulation concerning the education of disabled students in Upper-Secondary School (Reglugerð um kennslu fatlaðra nemenda í framhaldsskólum)—the state requests each school principal to apply for additional funding for each disabled student in attendance. Students identified as having special educational needs are divided into four groups concerning their educational support (Sérkennsla 1–4) and three groups concerning support for activities for daily living (Athafnir daglegs lífs) (Flokkun sérþarfa í kennslu og ADL). For example, students who are deemed to need the least support are taught in groups of 8–12 for academic studies or groups of 4–6 for workgroups, each of whom are individually allocated 4–10 hours per week for daily support needs. Students who are deemed to need the most support (Sérkennsla 4/ADL 3), are to receive 1 to 1 educational support and 20–26 hours per week for daily support needs. The language implies that these disabled students are taught in segregated groups. The Center for the Blind, Visually impaired and the Deafblind provides training in all age groups for Braille, computer use, daily living skills, mobility and orientation.

2.1.3. University

There is no state level legal framework that ensures that the rights and needs of disabled students are met with regard to higher education. However, some institutions do have internally developed policies and regulations. For example, the University of Iceland—Iceland's largest and oldest higher education institution—implemented a specific set of regulations concerning disabled students and those with special needs: Reglur um sértæk úrræði í námi við Háskóla Íslands in 2002. The University also has a committee (Ráð um málefni fatlaðra) that meets to address issues concerning access, resources, technical matters and any issues that arise concerning the needs of disabled students. There is a high degree of variability regarding other higher education institutions in Iceland concerning these matters, ranging from approaches that mirror the framework devised by the University of Iceland to the other extreme, whereby there is little evidence that the needs of disabled students are addressed to a significant degree.
The Center for the Blind, Visually impaired and the Deafblind provides training in all age groups for Braille, computer use, daily living skills, mobility and orientation.

2.1.4. Vocational training and lifelong learning

There is a regulation that concerns vocational training (Reglugerð um vinnustaðanám og starfsþjálfun á vinnustað). However, this regulation mentions nothing concerning disability, but it does include a remark that the training contract may be severed if the student is unable to pursue his or her training due to health-related reasons. A very recent law from March 2010 concerning additional education (Lög um framhaldsfræðslu) may also be relevant. One educational and training option for disabled people is to take short-term courses in subjects such as computer skills and accounting, often through disabled people's organisations. However, such training was not generally recognised as accredited education. With this new law, such training, as well as work within institutions, can now be valued as upper-secondary school credits.

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2.2. Special education

As of 2002, there were 7 segregated learning institutions in Iceland and this number has dropped to 3 as of 2010. This is suggestive of the overall trend of the movement away from segregated to inclusive education. However, it is important to note that many of these general compulsory schools have segregated units or even entire departments for disabled students. All blind and visually impaired children in Iceland are in mainstream schools.

2.2.1. Primary

There are three segregated learning institutions in Iceland. These schools are compulsory level schools from grades 1 through to 10. While the schools are located in Reykjavík, they serve disabled children from across Iceland. Öskjuhlíðarskóli focuses on children with intellectual disabilities; Safamýrarskóli on children with significant intellectual and physical disabilities; and Brúarskóli, focuses on students with behavioural, psychological, and emotional problems and those considered to engage in ‘high risk behaviour.'

2.2.2. Secondary

There are no segregated learning institutions within the upper-secondary school system. Disabled students take classes either on their own or with the assistance of a support worker within mainstream schools. However, depending upon the individual's learning needs, the students may follow the general curriculum or a special segregated study programme (starfsbraut) but this can also be taught within the general student population, within a mix of mainstream and special groups, or within a special unit within a mainstream school.

2.2.3. University

Not applicable

2.2.4. Vocational training and lifelong learning

The Center for the Blind, Visually impaired and the Deafblind provides assistance in vocational training and lifelong learning.

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2.3. Collaboration between both systems

In addition to the above-mentioned special schools, there are six special units within local schools that have the same role as the schools: three for autistic children, one for the blind, one for the motor impaired and one for children with mental handicap and multiple disabilities. All these units are located in mainstream schools and the pupils are included in regular classes' part of the time.

2.3.1. Primary

2.3.2. Secondary

2.3.3. University

2.3.4. Vocational training and lifelong learning

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3. Teaching of compensatory skills made necessary by vision loss

3.1. Subjects (Braille, computer, daily-living skills, mobility, etc.)

The Center for the Blind, Visually impaired and the Deafblind provides training in all age groups for Braille, computer use, daily living skills, mobility and orientation.

3.2. Training and certificates for visually impaired teachers (Braille, computer, daily-living skills, mobility, etc.)

Not mentioned in Icelandic legislation. However the schools are provided with assistance from teachers advisors from the Center for the Blind, Visually impaired and the Deafblind which are primarily trained in UK. Mobility and orientation officers have been trained in other Nordic countries and Ireland.

3.3. Training and certificates for visually impaired students (Braille, computer, daily-living skills, mobility, etc.)

There are no specific rules concerning certificates for pupils with special educational needs. Pupils in special units at upper secondary schools are evaluated according to their individual curriculum. They are given statements which certify how well they have fulfilled the requirements set forth in their individual educational plan. They have the right to attend a four year course adapted to their personal and educational needs.

All blind and visually impaired children are in mainstream schools and receive their education and certificates from there. However, specific training and education is provided for by the Center for the Blind, Visually impaired and the Deafblind such as mobility and orientation and daily living skills.

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4. Provision of accessible text books and other educational material

4.1. Provision of the basic documents

All provided by the Center for the Blind, Visually impaired and the Deafblind.

4.2. Adaptation and transcription of the documents

All provided by the Center for the Blind, Visually impaired and the Deafblind. However the Icelandic Library for the Blind, a governmental institution under the Ministry of Education, produces talking books intended for leisure reading as well as various educational materials.

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5. Provision of assistive technology

According to a newly adopted Regulation No 233/2010 based on the Law on Service and Information Centre for the Blind, Visually impaired and the Deafblind No. 160/2008 the Centre provides assistive technology for all age groups based on the ISO 9999:2007, a classification of assistive products especially produced, or generally available, for persons with disability.

5.1. Primary

5.2. Secondary

5.3. University

5.4. Vocational training and lifelong learning

(Sources - http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/education/eurydice/eurybase_en.php#iceland
http://www.european-agency.org/country-information/iceland )

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