Hver er lögsaga þroskaþjálfa? : starfsvettvangur, menntun og viðhorf þroskaþjálfa

Translated title of the contribution: The jurisdiction of social educators in Iceland : professional settings, education and perspectives

Kristín Björnsdóttir, Lilja Össurardóttir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social education has been taught in Iceland for about 60 years and is currently offered as an undergraduate course at the University of Iceland. Since the early days of the profession there have been some fundamental and positive changes regarding the rights and accommodations of disabled people in Iceland. These developments have also led to changes in the professional field of social education.
The aim of this research is to examine the professional settings and education of social educators. The findings are based on a survey which was administered to 441 Icelandic social educators in March 2014. The initiative for the survey came from the Research Centre for Social Education at the University of Iceland and the Icelandic Social Educators Association. The article also focuses on public policy, international agreements and the legal and ideological environment in which social educators operate and the varied theoretical foundations of their education.
The findings suggest that women (92%) are the great majority of social educators in Iceland, although only 27% had a graduate degree in social education or other related fields of study. Although the social education curriculum is based on a social understanding of disability and human rights, the Directorate of Health certifies the profession, and social educators are considered to be health care workers. There seems to be some discrepancy between working social educators and the issue of certificates, i.e. in numerous cases people who have completed a degree in social education have acquired jobs without being certified by the Directorate of Health.
Social educators work in variety of settings but the largest group of respondents (42%) worked within the school system. The second largest group (19%) worked in residencse of disabled people. The majority of the participants agreed that the most important service provided for disabled people is assistance and support within their homes. However, the number of social educators working in residences of disabled people has gradually decreased over the past ten years.
The diversity of settings in which social educators provide their professional services seems to have interfered with the jurisdictional claim of the profession. During the time when the institutionalization of disabled people was more common, jurisdiction was much clearer, i.e. the jurisdiction was the institutional settings. The participants worked with disabled people of all ages although the largest group receiving services were children and youth with intellectual disabilities.
There seems to be some tension within the profession regarding the services they believe to be important for disabled people. One reason for this tension is the range in age groups they work with, for social educators work with people of all ages. An example of this tension is perspective on inclusive or segregated activities and services. Although inclusive education has been the public policy norm in Iceland for over two decades, about half of the respondents considered segregated school settings most important for disabled students.
The paper concludes by suggesting that the social education profession needs to claim their jurisdiction where their expertise in the field of disability will be of most use
Translated title of the contributionThe jurisdiction of social educators in Iceland : professional settings, education and perspectives
Original languageIcelandic
Pages (from-to)1-28
Journalnetla-veftímarit um uppeldi og menntun. Sérrit 2015 - Hlutverk og menntun þroskaþjálfa
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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