China's special education needs to catch up with growth of general education, expert says
By Xu Mengqi

China has made great progress in special education development in the past decade, with the number of students attending school growing rapidly especially over the last three years, but when compared with the development of education for healthy kids, the gap has actually widened, said professor Wang Haiping at East China Normal University in Shanghai.

According to official data from the Ministry of Education, 795,000 students with special needs received school lessons in 2019. Of them, 49 percent studied at ordinary schools, 21.5 percent studied from home, 0.48 percent studied at a separate class in ordinary schools, and children with severe disabilities went to special schools.

Wang said that special schools exist because ordinary schools are still not equipped with the expertise or resources necessary to offer students with special needs a quality learning experience, and fixing this would be a move towards the right direction.

On January 5, the Jing'an District government of Shanghai municipality released a framework for action for inclusive education development, which requires every school under its jurisdiction to set up an inclusive education work group, and promises to provide systematic support to them, including training for teachers to be more responsive to students with special needs.

"It is high time that the more economically developed areas in China showed some leadership in education as well," said Wang, who has worked closely with the district government in drafting the framework, which makes clear that it is the responsibility of ordinary schools and of the government to offer quality education to students with special needs. 

"Inclusive education is about realizing one's right to education. Children with special needs have the right to be educated in ordinary schools. If a school is not conditioned to accept them, then it's the school that should be sorry, not the parents," said Wang, while regretting the fact that some ordinary schools unapologetically turn down students with special needs.

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