Robson, Colin (2004) Equity in education: students with disabilities, learning difficulties and disadvantages. Project Report. OECD, Paris, France.

In the mid-nineties the OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation published a
collection of data making comparisons in the field of special needs education in a few OECD countries.
This work strengthened the view that a different comparative framework would need to be developed if
reliable and valid comparisons were to be made. Subsequent discussions with participating member
countries identified a resource based definition as the best means of facilitating international comparison.
In fact this helps to overcome different national interpretations of concepts such as special educational
needs which cover very different populations of students who are experiencing difficulties in accessing
the curriculum.
Concurrent work at UNESCO and OECD in revising standards for classifying education systems
(ISCED) updated the definition of special needs education and reformulated it to reflect policy
developments. In doing so, a much wider range of students, in all types of schools were brought into the
frame. In addition, the idea that extra resourcing may be needed to assist schools to help students access
the curriculum more effectively was included in the new description.
In order for policy relevant comparisons to emerge, a resource based approach would require that
the students included under this definition would need to be sub-divided into some form of
straightforward classification scheme. Participating countries agreed on a tri-partite system in which
students are divided into three cross-national categories, A, B and C. Broadly, they cover :
students whose disabilities have clear biological origin (category A) ;
students whose learning and behaviour difficulties are likely to have more of an acquired nature
(category B) ; and
students who have difficulties arising from disadvantages (category C).
The book presents a complete account of the development of the work and an application of this
model in practice, and provides qualitative data to contextualise the quantitative information. It provides
breakdowns by national category systems as well as comparisons using the cross-national framework

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