A Brief History Special Education in Iran


The first efforts in the field of special education in Iran dates back to more than a century ago. The first special school was founded for children with visual impairments in Tabriz province in 1920 by Mr Ernest Christophel originally from Germany. The first school started with 5 students.

Later, a kindergarten named “kid’s garden” was established for children with hearing impairment by the late Mr Baghcheban in Tabriz. People like Mr Zabih Behrouz and Dr. Mohammad Khazaeli also did play an important role in providing assistance to the education of children with hearing and visual impairments. The next special needs group that received voluntarily special education support from NGOs was intellectually disabled children so called mentally retarded children in the capital Tehran in those days.

In 1968, the Ministry of Education established an "Office for the Education of Special Needs Children and Students" and began its work in the form of public schools and special classes in public and private sectors. After the Islamic Revolution in 1978, all special schools for hearing impaired children were designated as Baghcheban Schools, under a unified and centralized administrative, financial, and educational complex in Tehran named “Baghcheban Educational Complex for Hearing Impaired Students”. Concurrently, another complex was founded in Tehran for visually impaired students called “Shahid Mohebbi Educational Complex for Visually Impaired Students. These two complexes have been the largest educational bodies for special needs and have continued their activities up to the present.

Due to the importance of recognizing the right of children and adults with special educational needs, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s parliament (the Islamic Parliament) passed a law on establishment of an organization for Special educational needs called “Special Needs Education Organization” (SNEO) in 1991.

SNEO is a subordinate organization to the Ministry of Education, and is responsible to provide educational, rehabilitative, identification and counseling services to the public particularly to pre-primary, primary and secondary students of special needs.  

SNEO is currently committed to achieve its national and international goals aligned with the principles of providing equal and equitable education and development opportunities for all and recognition of the rights of all students with any kind of disabilities, disadvantages and differences in learning and development capacities. 

A copy of SNEO establishment statute can be viewed here.