Impressions from Croatia by Metin Sabancı Special Education Schools

  • The 4th visit of the Erasmus + I.D.E.A Together We Can Project was held in Zagreb-Croatia between 10.11.2019 and 16.11.2019.



    On the first day of the program 11.11.2019 Monday,  we have visited the school OS Otona Ivekovica. After the little students of the school welcomed us, they have performed plays and choir shows with different contents. The dolls representing each country were exchanged among the project partners. While leaving Basia behind, we have brought Francesco, Italy's doll, to our country with us. A presentation was made about the special education system and mainstreaming practices for students with special needs. Classroom visits were made to the First and Second graders. We had the opportunity to get information about the three practices  in regular education schools,: inclusion practices involving students with mild special needs with shadow teachers, special education classes for those with moderate special needs, and special education schools where special curricula were applied and compared with the system in our country. It was stated that the education curriculum was gathered under four different headings. (Individualized general program, systematic program with individualization and content change, individualized special curriculum, special program including learning skills and competences for daily life)

    The educational environment; general and special education classes in general schools, special classes in special education schools and special education schools. In the assessment of students with special needs; health documents, tests and family consents were taken into consideration by the committee. Shadow teachers are assigned to schools and non-governmental organizations (with fixed-term work, student and voluntary agreement) and they continue their duties during the education period. Teachers who are university graduates in different branches of four years can work as shadow teachers with 2-day or approximately 6-month courses. The summer holiday is a disadvantage for them because of the obligatory gap in their payment period.

    While us teachers participated in informational activities related to the education system, students with special needs participated in different workshops with their peers. We had the opportunity to see and learn the historical sites of Zagreb's old town. Then we visited the Illusion Museum. We experienced the illusions within the assumptions about the world we perceive in the museum with examples such as proximity, similarity, integrity, magnitude invariance in perception, observing the areas where depth perception and selectivity are used in perception and having fun with the whole project team.


    On 12.11.2019 the program started in the same school on Tuesday. We attended the presentation of the school doctor about the working system. Similar to the school health program in our country. Parents are informed about the general health status of the students in certain periods and they are followed up from pre-school to the end of school period. It was stated that the families were directed to the students who needed follow-up for different reasons to continue out-of-school monitoring. Guidance service; learning difficulties, risky behaviors, mental health, reproductive health and chronic diseases.

    Besides the teacher who guided the Brain Gym workshop, the students helped their teachers during the activities and guided us. In the Brain Gym activity, they mentioned that it helps coordination between right and left brain and body in learning, that these previously unreachable parts of the brain are reached with these exercises, and that new neuron connections connect the back and front parts of the brain. They showed physical exercises to improve their reading, writing, thinking and learning skills. We have enriched our repertoire of activities in our school, especially for those with mild mentally handicapped students.

    Then we participated in the Tolerance Day event with students and teachers. We divided the groups into a series of joint painting activities including tolerance and acceptance messages. In the structured part of the study, the matched couples (teacher-student) harmonized with each other and experienced acting together to achieve a common message. It was also an empathic activity that showed areas where they could stretch and tolerate ideas, wishes, tendencies of others outside of yourself.


    On the same day we went to the Typhlological museum which was about visually impaired people. While the Croatian group told us about the country's historical sites, education system and activities, they also presented a rich program of special education from past to present. We had the opportunity to see the tools used and sculptures created by visually impaired people.


    After the visit to the museum, we visited the OS Duvage school which had special education classes. They explained how they used different sensory stimuli (such as various aromatic oils) for health purposes. (Headache, depressive mood, concentration, etc.) We have learned that students who are included in special education classes continue with an inclusion model with their peers in some applications. We noticed that the classes were among the classes of their peers, who had grown up in an accessible space.


    We started on Wednesday, 13.11.2019 with a visit to OS Nad Lipom, one of the oldest schools in Croatia. It was a school for students with mild, moderate, severe mental retardation and other needs (such as autism, motor disorders, social and emotional domains, speech and language disorders, etc.). Studies focusing on developing skills for daily life, student interests and needs, and developing positive self-perception of students are carried out. In the school program; Individualized private curriculum between 7-14 years, curricula with individualized methods that provide competence in daily living activities between 7-17 years and 17-21 years, programs including free time activities and creative workshops, speech therapy, sensory integration and extracurricular activities programs (school) sports club, dance and music groups). The classroom environments in the school were arranged for the needs of the students. The visual art products made by the students added a different color to the school corridors.

    Later on, we visited Suvag, which conducts studies on hearing impaired people. Rehabilitation center working in the field of hearing and speech; conducting studies on counseling, hearing and speech training, research according to the verbotonal system, training for the application of the method, teaching foreign languages ​​to children and adults. There are 35 employees in the center where the diagnosis and hearing therapy is applied and there are doctors, physiotherapists, phonetic professors, nurses and technicians. Between 2007 and 2017, it was learned that 5984 teachers and educators in Croatia organized trainings by mobile teams. We had the opportunity to see some parts of the rehabilitation center and kindergarten.

    When we returned to OS Otona Ivekovica school, all teachers and students involved in the project played the game Labyrinth with the guidance of the school students. Focusing on the senses, the game was a fun activity that brought students and adults together and raised awareness.

    As the last event of the day, all teachers attended the Mindfulness event. This awareness that directs individuals to present time awareness during the event; It was emphasized that the stimuli coming from the environment, the person's own feelings and thoughts with a non-judgmental gentle focus to meet the situation. We can say that this activity can improve one's competencies against stress and emotion management throughout life and it is a different experience in terms of individual awareness.

    On Thursday, 14.11.2019 we went to Split, Croatia. We were visiting the Museum of Senses. There were separate sensory activities in the spaces structured for different senses, but also in areas requiring coordination. After seeing the historical sites of Split, we returned to Zagreb.


    On Friday, 15.11.2019, a visit was made at Zagreb's Town Hall. We talked about the general and special education system topics that we had the opportunity to observe during the week. Then Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences was visited. There are approximately 900 students in undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs. educational rehabilitation, social pedagogy and speech and language pathology. They stated that the students studying at the faculty work in coordination with a center within their own bodies where they can do their applications.


    As a result,

    The special education model of Croatia, in the special education class applications in special education schools and general education schools; It is seen that it shows parallelism with the practices in our country. It has been observed that shadow teachers apply the working system in a functional way in the mainstreaming programs in general and general education schools in which students with medium and heavy special needs attend. In the general education schools of students with mild developmental retardation and those in need of special education, medium and heavy students with special needs should continue their education in classes or schools where special curriculum is applied.