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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Separate special education needs provision in early childhood and school education


12.Educational support and guidance

12.2Separate special education needs provision in early childhood and school education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Definition of the target group(s)

According to the provisions of law, special education is organised for children and pupils with deficiencies of the following nature: mental, physical, sensorial, language, socio-affective and behavioral, or associated deficiencies. Special education is provided according to the handicap/deficiency degree of the child.

Handicap degrees are defined within a 4-level scale: light, medium, accentuated, and grave. Identification and appreciation of the handicap degree is based on individual evaluation and is performed with reference to the international classification of functioning, disabilities and health ICF 2001 adopted by the OMS. This takes the deficiency, the activity limitations and the social participation restrictions of the child into consideration. The handicap degree is established according to the individual functional deficit and in correlation with the psycho-social functioning corresponding to the age of the evaluated child. The handicap degree is attested through the certificate emitted by the commission for child protection organised within each County Council.

The principles underlying the evaluation of the child with disabilities are as follows:

  • Evaluation has to be subordinated to the superior interest of the child – improvement of the functionality level, of the active implication in the individual and social life.

  • Evaluation has to be based on the development potential of the child.

  • The evaluation needs a complex and complete approach – including all the relevant aspects (health, education, psycho-social adaptation, economic situation, etc.) as well as the interaction between these.

  • Evaluation has to be unitary – following and using the same objectives, criteria and methodology for each and every child.

  • Evaluation has to be multidimensional – meaning that it needs to determine the actual development level in order to offer a prognostic and recommendations on the further development of the child.

  • Evaluation has to be based on teamwork, with the active and responsible participation of all concerned specialists (psychologists, medics, pedagogues, teachers, sociologists, social assistants, etc.).

  • Evaluation has to be based on authentic partnership with the direct beneficiaries: the child and the persons that care for the child.

The evaluation process for children with disabilities envisages 4 major areas: medical, psychological, educational and social.

The types of deficiencies established by the OMS:

  • Intellectual deficiencies

  • Other types of mental deficiencies

  • Language, speech and communication deficiencies

  • Hearing deficiencies

  • Deficiencies of the visual system

  • Deficiencies of other the sensorial organs

  • Deficiencies of the skeleton and sustain system

  • Aesthetic deficiencies

  • Deficiencies of the general sensitive functions

  • Other deficiencies.

The learning capacity, as well as the progresses/regresses in the biological, psychological and educational development of the child/pupil is evaluated through evaluation tests adapted to: the type and degree of the deficiency; the type and form of education.

The evaluation instruments are applied within the following mandatory conditions:

  • The evaluation has to be performed within an adequate psycho-educational and socio-affective environment.

  • The evaluation instruments shall be applied only by attested specialists in the area, as follows: school psychologists, psycho-pedagogues, psycho-diagnosticians, psychologist-counsellors, pedagogues, working in (special) education.

  • The medical diagnosis has to be considered the starting point in the evaluation process.

  • An interpretation grid has to be filled for each evaluation instrument applied.

Evaluation of the knowledge-level and of the learning, school and social adaptation degrees and levels has to be performed only within the educational process, within the learning environment of the pupil.

Admission requirements and choice of school

Special education is organised by the Ministry of National Education for children and pupils with deficiencies of the following nature: mental, physical, sensorial, language, socio-affective and behavioural, or associated deficiencies. Admission into special education units is based on the evaluation of the child. Definition and Diagnosis of the Target Group(s) – acting as a selection criterion – and the agreement of the parent or legally appointed guardian.

The evaluation is performed by the complex evaluation services organised within the public specialised services for child protection subordinated to the County Councils and by the internal continuous evaluation commissions, working in special education institutions. The commissions for child protection have the obligation to assess the reports elaborated by the complex evaluation services. The commissions for child protection, as well as the continuous internal evaluation commissions can recommend, according to the results of the evaluations, re-orientation of the child to or from special education. Evaluation of the children/pupils for re-orientation to or from special education is ensured based on national criteria, methodology and instruments – regulated through specific legislative acts.

The choice of school depends on the condition of the child, due to the fact that special education units are usually organised by type of deficiency or disability, as follows:

  • Schools for mentally handicapped children (organised by severity of the disability)

  • Schools for children with physical disabilities

  • Schools for children with sense deficiencies

  • Schools for children with speech deficiencies

  • Schools for children with emotional and behavioural disturbances

  • Schools for children with multiple disabilities.

The recommendation for special education is flexible, especially for children aged between 3 and 12 years, and depends on the child’s educational progress. The teacher working with the child and the school psychologist may guide the child towards mainstream school. Commissions for child protection make the final decision, subject to the approval of the parent or legally appointed guardian.

Age levels and grouping of pupils

A special education class consists of 8-12 pupils; in case of multiple (associated) and/or severe disabilities, classes are organised with 4-8 pupils. Under exceptional circumstances, classes may be organised with smaller number of pupils, subject to the approval of the Ministry of National Education.

In mainstream education, a class may integrate 2 or 3 pupils with disabilities. The total number of pupils per class is diminished by 3 pupils for each disabled pupil integrated. The entrance age and the duration of studies in all special education units and structures are the same as in mainstream education, except the followings:

  • Entrance age into a special education unit or class may be delayed by 1-3 years as compared to the same education level in mainstream education, if so recommended following the evaluation of the child.

  • The duration of professional qualification of pupils with deficiencies within special VET schools or classes is of 3-4 years, as a general rule.

  • Multiple-level classes may be organised, with aggregated teaching of primary education core-subjects, for pupils with emotional and behavioural deficiencies and other individuals with special educational needs that did not complete compulsory education until the age of 17.

  • Home schooling may be provided for up to 30 years old disabled persons unable to come to school.

Curriculum, subjects

The content of special education is structured in curriculum frameworks, syllabi and textbooks, as well as teaching aids elaborated according to the type and handicap-degree and approved by the Ministry of National Education.

The frame curricula include, for all levels of special education, compulsory and optional subjects, organised in curricular areas. More specifically, the frame curricula establish:

  • the subjects and the corresponding number of classes per week

  • specific intervention activities:

    • psycho-pedagogical

    • socio-professional

    • medical rehabilitation/ recovery activities

  • activities organised for groups of children/pupils or individually and the corresponding time allocation

  • other educational activities depending on the education level, disability, etc.

The syllabi are elaborated by education level and type of deficiency. The frame curricula and the corresponding syllabi and textbooks for mainstream education may also be used.

The syllabi for special education include methodological guidelines for accomplishing the general objectives of the educational institution, distributed over the educational cycles and development levels, as well as modalities to evaluate pupils’ learning progress.

The local experts commissions can recommend adaptation of the frame curricula or syllabi or can establish a certain frame curricula from the ones in-force for special or mainstream education – to be applied to classes/groups or individually for children/pupils with special educational needs.

The Ministry of National Education elaborates through specialised commissions the specific standards for evaluating the content of the educational process adapted to special education.

The frame curricula are structured in 10 curricular areas:

  • Language and Communication

  • Mathematics and Natural Sciences

  • Human being and Society

  • Arts

  • Physical education and sports

  • Technologies and practical activities

  • Counselling and guidance

  • Specific compensatory therapies

  • Psycho-diagnosis

  • Social education.

Teaching methods and materials

The teaching methods applied in special education are carefully chosen so as to meet the purposed objectives and, most of all, to be adapted to the pupils’ disabilities, age and individual particularities.

The teacher is responsible for choosing the methods, taking the concrete situation into consideration, the teaching aids available in the school and following the methodological guidelines provided within the curriculum and specific teachers’ guides.

In pre-primary and primary education, for most of the subjects, a given class works with the same teacher.

During secondary education each subject is taught by a different teacher. According to the principle of continuity, usually the same teacher works with a given class throughout all the grades within a given educational cycle/level. During a given lesson, the class management is the responsibility of the teacher. In consequence, teachers can decide per se to organise the activities with all the pupils (frontal activities), in smaller groups or individually (differentiated activities) – depending on the specific objectives of the lesson and the level of the pupils.

Separated group or individual teaching-learning activities are organised in the afternoon programme in partial or full boarding schools.

Regarding the teaching methods, the following general remarks can be taken into consideration:

  • Integrative and therapeutic activities are used in order to facilitate children’s recovery and rehabilitation.

  • Compensatory and therapeutic activities are organised by specialised teachers in special centers for groups of 2-3 children – depending on their disabilities, and consists of cognitive therapy, training manual skills, occupational therapy and development of individual autonomy.

  • The oral communication methods utilized can be classified as expository methods (description, explanation, etc.) and conversational methods (conversation, heuristic conversation, questioning on a special subject, etc.). Teachers also use exploratory learning methods: direct exploration of objects and phenomena (systematic and independent observation, experiments, practical work, etc.) and indirect exploration (problem solving, demonstration through pictures, films, etc.).

  • For teaching most subjects, teachers use extensively methods based on the pupils’ direct voluntary action (exercises, practical work, etc.) and simulated action (didactic games, learning through dramatisation, etc.).

  • Practical training is a compulsory activity carried on within T/VET and is ensured by engineer-teachers and/or foremen in laboratories and workshops.

Depending on the development level of the pupils, teachers might assign at the end of the lessons homework for the next class – foreseeing both further understanding of the knowledge acquired and exercise of the competences developed. The homework might consist of exercises, activities, etc. chosen either from the textbooks or from other printed teaching aids (pupils’ textbooks, texts anthologies, etc.). In some cases pupils are also requested to perform as their homework small specific practical activities – like measurements, observations, small practical projects, etc. During the afternoon programme or at the beginning of the lesson teachers check with the pupils the homework and, as the case may be, help them in accomplishing it, giving supplementary explanations.

According to the provisions of the law, textbooks are provided free of charge for high, school preparatory group in pre-primary education and for all compulsory education; teachers are allowed to use only textbooks and printed teaching aids that are approved by the Ministry of National Education.

According to the level and condition of the pupils and the recommendations of the expert commissions, each teacher decides and recommend at the beginning of the school year the textbook to be used for each subject. These can be textbooks specifically elaborated for special education or can be chosen from the alternative textbooks provided for mainstream education.

Regarding the auxiliary publications for the teachers, most of the textbooks, especially those published lately, are supplemented by a teacher's book – offering teaching-learning activities examples and broad explanations on the methods to be used so as to cover the educational objectives of the syllabus. An important number of publications have been also made available for supporting teaching activities: general or specific teacher-training publications, methodological guides for specific activities, textbooks for teachers, etc.

Progression of pupils

The evaluation and assessment of the school progress, as well as the progression of pupils to the next class in special education are organised based on the same provisions as for mainstream education for pre-primary education, for primary education and for secondary education.

The evaluation and assessment process is adapted to the disabilities of the pupils.

In order to facilitate disabled pupils’ access to various levels of education (when sitting final examinations, entrance examinations, etc.), the organising institutions have the obligation to ensure equal chances to all candidates and adjust examination procedures to each candidate’s special needs.


Graduates of the special education – whether provided separately or integrated – receive the same certificates as the graduates of mainstream education.

According to the provisions of the in-force legislation, educational institutions have the obligation to ensure for all pupils with special educational needs appropriate conditions in order to facilitate their participation to all final and entrance exams.