Special education in Cyprus is based on the fundamental principle that every child has a right to an education appropriate to his/her needs and that children with special educational needs should be provided with all opportunities for an equal right to education. The state assumes full responsibility in avoiding any kind of obstacle for children with special needs in the educational environment. The Directorate of Primary Education of the Ministry of Education and Culture is responsible for the administration of the sector of Special Education.
The majority of pupils with special educational needs are integrated into mainstream education with only a very small percentage of them, approximately 5-6%, directed to separate public schools of special education.
Laws 113(I)/1999 and 69(I)/2001 on the Education and Training of Children with Special Needs and Regulations ΚΔΠ 185/2001 and ΚΔΠ 186/2001 based on these Laws, regulate special education providing for the following:
● The establishment of mechanisms for the identification of children with special educational needs;
● The placement of children with special educational needs in the most appropriate educational setting, either in a mainstream classroom, a special unit within a mainstream school or a public school of special education;
● The development of an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each child with special needs;
● The provision of teachers and educational resources to meet the needs of the children;
● The recruitment of coordinating officers to oversee the implementation of the special educational support program recommended for each child;
● The assessment of children with special educational needs;
● The establishment of a Central Committee (Κεντρική Επιτροπή Ειδικής Αγωγής και Εκπαίδευσης), a District Committee (Επαρχιακή Επιτροπή Ειδικής Αγωγής και Εκπαίδευσης), a Board for Special Education and Training (Συμβούλιο Ειδικής Αγωγής και Εκπαίδευσης); and, a ‘Caretaker Committee’ (Υπηρεσιακή Επιτροπή Ειδικής Αγωγής και Εκπαίδευσης);
● The right of parents to appeal against any decision of the committees for special education; and,
● The legal framework for the operation of private schools for special education.
The law specifies that special educational support will be provided by the state free of charge for those identified as having special educational needs between the ages of three and eighteen, with a provision to extend this to twenty-one years of age, if required.
Support measures are also provided for other categories of children, such as children of returnees and foreigners or children of migrant workers. In the Strategic Development Plan 2007-2013 it is stated that among policy measures for preventing the social exclusion of children are the following:
● Providing enhanced and differentiated schemes for teaching the Greek language to the children of returnees and foreigners, for effective communication and their smooth integration in the educational system of Cyprus;
● Promoting Educational Priority Zones (EPZ);
● Providing programs helping illiterate people;
● Promoting programs supporting children with special needs.
The Ministry of Education and Culture has introduced the following measures at primary and secondary level in order to assist the integration of children with special needs and children of migrants in mainstream education and to improve quality of special education provision:
● Increasing the number of special education teaching staff;
● Carrying out public awareness campaigns;
● Organizing in-service training seminars for teaching personnel by the Pedagogical Institute of Cyprus (Παιδαγωγικό Ινστιτούτο Κύπρου);
● Inviting specialists on issues of special education from abroad to share their know-how and practice with their Cypriot counterparts;
● Offering scholarships to teachers of special education for training abroad;
● Increasing the number of special units in mainstream schools;
● Employing new teaching aids and ICT in the teaching of children with special needs;
● Introducing special arrangements for pupils with special needs as regards examinations;
● Introducing new schemes of service and regulations (Regulations Κ.Δ.Π. 35/2008 based on Laws Ν. 10/1969 – Ν. 52(I)/2007) for teaching personnel for students with special needs;
● Offering courses of the Greek language to children whose first language is not Greek, both at the primary and secondary level of education;
● Reducing the number of children for all classes from pre-primary to the upper secondary level of education; with the possibility of further reduction, as regulated, in the case of classes with children with special needs.