1968 ja 1988, eripedagoogika murranguaastad. 1968 and 1988, the Breakthrough Years in Special Education


  • Jaan Kõrgesaar




In 1968 the first students were admitted to study special education (then defectology) at the University of Tartu upon the initiative of Ester Lepik; the respective chair was established in 1972. Creating the department of special education at the university was supported by compulsory school attendance, the duration of which was prolonged and content intensified during the 20th century, and the educational system that adapted to this obligation—there were examples of learning support and the first groups for children with special needs in regular schools, the quickly expanding network of special schools, the first groups for children with special needs were established in pre-school and vocational education institutions and there was a rudimentary support system across schools in the 1960s that was operated by about twenty specialists who had studied outside Estonia. The need for special education was exacerbated by three factors. Firstly, longer compulsory school attendance (1920–1958: step by step 4/6, 7, 8 years; 1971: 11 years; 1986–1992: 12 years). Secondly, medical aid was becoming better in supporting the survival of neonates and children suffering traumas. Thirdly, the interpretation of human rights was remarkably expanding in the 1970s. As of 1990s, the admission figures of special schools located in the countryside have been decreasing. At the same time it was in the 1990s that new types of educational institutions were created upon the initiative of parents, including ones for children with heavy disabilities. The main breakthrough in the specialty occurred in 1985–1995, when over 400 special education teachers started work corresponding to the needs of the society. Special educators were presented with new opportunities; new schools, including private institutions, were established, etc. Yet, educators’ patience was tried first with an austerity campaign, then with an inclusive education campaign. Special educators who seemed to want to ignore children’s interests and teach children with special needs separately from ordinary pupils—this was said to be unheard of “elsewhere in the world”—were shamed and declared backwards. One could get a negative reputation by protecting any Soviet-time institution or method in general. The Chair of Special Education has been led by Voldemar Vääranen (1972–1977), Karl Karlep (1977–1987), Ants Reinmaa, (1987–1992), the author was the Holder of Chair ad interim (1992–2015). In 1992 the Department of Special Education consisting of two chairs was created and Karl Karlep was elected Professor of Logopedics and Special Methodology in Teaching Estonian. In the years 1971–1993 a total of 11 Estonian special educators received a Candidate degree in Moscow. In addition to being active academically, it is important that lecturers contribute to developing curricula, learning resources and refresher courses. Special education is closely connected to linguistic and cultural space, learning resources in one’s native language are crucially important.


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