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Allocation to Special Educational Day Schools in Canton Zurich

Background and aims

In Canton Zurich, children with mental disabilities usually attend special educational day schools. Between 1989 and 2000, the number of these schools increased by around 40 percent, whereas the number of pupils increased by only about 13 percent.


This fact induced the education directors of Canton Zurich to commission an investigation to pursue the following questions:

  • Who are in fact the pupils of the special educational day schools?
  • What are the causes of the over-proportional increase?
  • What are the prospects of children who change from a regular school to a special day school?


The answers of the research team to these questions are based on secondary analyses of school statistics, on the analysis of documents, and on interviews with persons in charge of schools, and the allocating institutions.


The complete final report contains information that is classified as confidential on the basis of personality protection and will probably not be published; a summary with the most important results is, however, available. It is evident from the report that schools develop in very different directions, including in terms of role conception, courses on offer, and especially the target clientele. These differences are remarkable in view of the fact that it is the aim of the relevant cantonal policies to create the same, or at least comparable, educational provision through decentralisation. The proportion of migrants in special educational day schools has been almost constant for some years; the supposition that more children of foreign origin were being allocated to these schools has not been confirmed. It would also appear that the proportion of children with mental disabilities as compared to the total number of pupils has not increased. The increase of pupils seems to be primarily caused by the broader concept of responsibility adopted by the schools, which are opening up to new sections of the public, for example to developmentally retarded children and children with concentration, perceptual and behavioural disorders or socio-emotional problems. The children who are primarily causing the growth of the schools are thus children on the borderline of mental disability. The complete final report also proposes possible measures; these have not, at least not yet, been published.

For PDF-Documents in German see German homepage


  • Lienhard, Peter; Boveland, Brigitte; Forrer, Esther; Tarnutzer, Rupert (2002). Wissenschaftliche Evaluation über die Zuweisung zu Heilpädagogischen Tagessonderschulen im Kanton Zürich. Schlussbericht, Kurzversion. Zürich: Hochschule für Heilpädagogik (HfH), 44 S.
  • Lienhard-Tuggener, Peter (2002): Unaufhaltsam mehr geistig behindert Kinder im Kanton Zürich? Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Heilpädagogik, 10/2002, 13-16.



Project Management

Prof. Dr.  Lienhard


Project team


Forschung und Entwicklung
Tel: +41 44 317 11 81

zfe[at] zfe