Definitions of Terms in Vocational Special Education

In the concept of special education there are several definitions that teachers need to be aware of. The value of special education in educational institutions is strong when the meaning of definitions and reasons for provision are understood by all personnel.

Special needs teaching

  • Special needs teaching is one of the elements of special education. Special needs teaching is provided through specific teaching or student support services to those who due to disability, illness, delayed development, emotional difficulties or other reasons need such support

Additional teaching support (tukiopetus) and extra teaching (lisäopetus)

  • Both of these practices are offered to those students who are temporarily behind in their studies. Additional teaching support is not special needs teaching.


  • An Individual Educational Plan will be completed for all students with special educational needs. This will include an individualised curriculum.


Interview with Pekka Laakkonen about IEP (HOJKS) in Finnish.


  • In compulsory education the term”individualization” is used whereas in vocational education the term differentiation is utilized. Education can be differentiated so that students requiring special support would achieve as close as possible identical qualifications as in any other vocational education. The education provider is responsible for designing differentiated assessment criteria for students requiring special support. Those creating the assessment criteria need to be aware of the core skills and competences in each profession and the way how students are able to achieve them. The primary principle is to help students needing special support to achieve the same learning aims as everyone else. If students despite the extra support do not achieve the accepted criteria level (T1), the learning aims and assessment criteria can be differentiated. When such students graduate they will get the certificate of the course and are eligible for further studies. However, differentiation might hinder the access to further education and successful progression in them. The differentiated aims will be recorded in the IEP.



  • Integration of educational provision means the aspiration to fulfil special teaching amidst general education services and to be a seamless part of it. The dimensions of integration in vocational education can be considered to be physical, psychological, social, functional and societal integration


  • The idea of inclusion is that all students from primary school onwards would learn and progress together in the same learning environments. Inclusive education aims to offer equal educational opportunities for all.  This, however, does not mean that educational organizations are not allowed to offer different learning arrangements eg. differentiation according to the individual needs of learners. The special support needed by a student is enabled as part of the learning environment. Inclusion is a way to try to achieve societal normalisation by enabling individual participation.

Inclusive Education in Finland by Timo Saloviita

Inkluusio, Timo Saloviita (in Finnish)



  • In education transition means passing from one stage to another. During the life-long learning process all students will experience several transitions. All transitions, whether within the network of the educational environment, or to the work-life environment need to be part of a planned programme of studies. Any successful transition for students requiring special support will require a pre-transition plan which will be recorded in the student’s IEP. Transition planning can have an affect on students’ progress through their studies and subsequently their joining the workforce.


Selective addmission by the educational organiser

  • Educational institutions can select maximum of 30% of students into vocational and post 16 education (6th form colleges) based on the special admission criteria (i.e. regardless of application grades achieved). Through selective admission a study place can be applied for if the applicant has, for example, learning difficulties, social reasons, no certificate from compulsory education or difficulties to compare the certification.

Strategy for special education

  • The strategy for special education is a document that clarifies how special education and support for learning is delivered within educational institutions.