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Chinese children with disabilities excluded from education

China has over 80 million people with disabilities, yet discrimination against children with special needs is still common.

A new report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) this week highlights the lack of inclusion for children with special needs in China. The Chinese government has ratified the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, which commits the country to providing children with disabilities equal access to education, either in mainstream or special needs schools. However, the authors of the HRW report say that it is still common for children with disabilities to lack the educational services they need.

For the report, 62 interviews were conducted among children with disabilities and their parents. From these interviews it became clear that teachers in some mainstream schools know little about teaching children with disabilities and according to the HRW researchers, operated with “very little support, very few resources [and] very little training”.

In some cases, schools were even found to have expelled disabled students, citing inadequate performance on the part of the child. Examples of youngsters missing out on schooling, illustrated by the Guardian in an article on the HRW report, include a nine year-old boy with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, who was turned away by his state primary and a thirteen year-old disabled girl unable to attend because the school was too far for her to reach on her own. A medical college is also referred to because it refuses to admit “students with disabilities in the torso or the limbs”.

Since colleges and universities take into account physical examinations as part of their admissions process, it is permissible for students with disabilities to be refused on the basis of their test results. So for example, people with visual impairments were being denied admission to a dozen academic fields at university or advised against applying to others.

The report does acknowledge that students with disabilities are given access to special education schools, which are “generally well-equipped”. However, these schools segregate youngsters from the general population and often require children to be removed from their families at a young age. They also rarely offer learning opportunities beyond junior middle school.

Based on the evidence collected, the authors of the HRW report urge the Chinese government to develop a clear strategic plan towards a truly inclusive system in order to ensure every child with a disability has access to education at all levels.

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