International conference
"The Role of 21st Century Learning Environments in Promoting Social Participation and Access to Education for Learners with Special Needs"
Auckland, New Zealand, 17-20 August 2008


Design plays a crucial role in providing an effective learning environment for all students. The role of infrastructure in improving inclusion in education is even more important for learners with special needs. There are significant implications for design in recent policy developments concerning educational provision for these students. In many countries, for example, design must respond to policies that favour the inclusion of students with special needs in regular classrooms, rather than in special schools. In other countries, design must facilitate policies that promote increasing linkages between special educational facilities and regular educational settings. In addition, design must address the needs of students from low-income families, from different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, and those who have suffered as a result of conflict.

In August 2008, the OECD Programme on Educational Building (PEB), in co-operation with the New Zealand Ministry of Education (Property and Special Education), organised an international conference on innovative learning environments for students with special needs. The conference explored how current planning and design of educational facilities contributes to the provision of a quality education for all learners, in a range of regular and special school settings at pre-primary, primary and secondary levels.


The conference addressed three broad themes for learners with special needs:

  • Facilitating access to education.
  • Improving social participation.
  • Working together to create meaningful learning environments.


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