Dr. Mona Tawakkul Elsayed

Associate Prof. of Mental Health and Special Education

THE DEVELOPMENT OF SPECIAL

THE DEVELOPMENT OF SPECIAL
EDUCATION IN CHINA



 

Yanhui Pang



 

&



 

Dean Richey



 

Tennessee Technological
University



 



 

This
paper provides an overview of China’s education system and the development of
special education, given the history, current personnel preparation as well as
the special challenges for special education in China. It explores why special
education has lagged behind in terms of the challenges the China’s special
education encounters such as its lack of special educators, and low enrollment
of children with disabilities where the education system has developed so
rapidly.



 



 

The regular education in
China has long and thriving history. Influenced by the Confucian’s theory,
education is more honored than any other vocational training in young children
and young adults. So, education is still put in the center of China’s
administrative policies even though there are several setbacks in the
development of China’s regular education system. For example, the Cultural
Revolution led to tremendous losses for China’s higher education and the
secondary education, since the higher system was shut down and thus a rising
generation of college and graduate students, academicians and technicians,
professionals and teachers were lost, and classes in secondary schools were
closed or stopped for the political scramble. Ten years later in 1978, however,
china’s education system began to gain its vigor. Since then, China has adopted
the education policy of nine-year compulsory schooling system, which
means all children are required to attend school for at least nine years, which
usually means that children can complete primary and three years secondary
education.
The May 1985 National Conference on Education (Education in the People's Republic of China, 2005)
brought a milestone in China’s education as it recognized five fundamental
areas for reform to be discussed in connection with implementing the party
Central Committee's Draft Decision on Reforming the Education System.
The reforms were intended to produce more able people; to make the
localities responsible for developing basic education and systematically
implement a nine-year compulsory education program; to improve secondary
education develop vocational and technical education; to reform and the
graduate-assignment system of institutions of higher education and to expand
their management and decision-making powers; and to give administrators the
necessary encouragement and authority to ensure smooth progress in educational
reform.



 

    



 

Normally, there are five or
six years of primary school education, six years high school education (which
is divided into two parts: three-year junior high and three-year senior high
school education), and higher education, which is provided by universities,
colleges and institutes (it offers four- or five-year undergraduate programs as
well as special two-or three year programs. Students who have completed a first
degree may apply to enter graduate schools). Besides, in order t
o provide for its population in mainland China, there are other vast and
varied school systems available. For example, in addition to the regular
primary, secondary, and higher education, there are preschools,
kindergartens, schools for the deaf and blind, key schools (similar to college
preparatory schools), secondary agricultural and vocational schools, secondary
teachers' schools, secondary technical schools, and secondary professional
schools, and various institutions of higher learning (besides regular colleges
and universities, there are professional colleges, and short-term vocational
universities). The following are a brief introduction to these education
systems including preschool, primary, secondary, vocational, special education,
and higher education.



 

    



 

Preschool education begins at age three and
one-half. Preschool facilities used to be established in buildings made
available by public enterprises, production teams, municipal authorities, local
groups, and families. Since 1985 National Conference on Education (Education in
the People's Republic of China, 2005) the government announced that it depended
on individual organizations to sponsor their own preschool education and that
preschool education was to become a part of the welfare services of various
government organizations, institutes, and state- and collectively operated
enterprises. Costs for preschool education thus vary according to services
rendered. Officials also called for more preschool teachers with more appropriate
training.



 

    



 

The development of primary education in so
vast a country as China is a formidable accomplishment. In contrast to the 20-
percent enrollment rate before 1949 (before the liberation of People’s Republic
of China (PRC)), in 1985 about 96 percent of primary-school-age children were
enrolled in approximately 832,300 primary schools. This enrollment figure
compared favorably with the record figures of the late 1960s and early 1970s,
when enrollment standards were more egalitarian. In 1985 the World Bank
estimated that enrollments in primary schools would decrease from 136 million
in 1983 to 95 million in the late 1990s and that the decreased enrollment would
reduce the number of teachers needed. Qualified teachers, however, would
continue to be in demand (Education in the People's Republic of China, 2005).



 

    



 

Mainland Chinese secondary schools are
called middle schools and are divided into junior and senior levels. In 1985
more than 104,000 middle schools (both regular and vocational) enrolled about
51 million students (Education in the People's Republic of China, 2005).
Junior, or lower, middle schools offered a three year course of study, which
students began at twelve years of age. Senior, or upper, middle schools offered
a two or three year course, which students began at age fifteen.



 

    



 

Basically, there were four kinds of secondary vocational and technical
schools: technical schools that offered a four year, post-junior middle course
and two- to three-year post-senior middle training in such fields as commerce,
legal work, fine arts, and forestry; workers' training schools that accepted
students whose senior-middle-school education consisted of two years of
training in such trades as carpentry and welding; vocational technical schools that
accepted either junior-or senior-middle-school students for one- to three-year
courses in cooking, tailoring, photography, and other services; and
agricultural middle schools that offered basic subjects and agricultural
science.



 

    



 

The 1985 National Conference on Education
(Education in the People's Republic of China, 2005) also recognized the
importance of special education, in the form of programs for gifted children
and for slow learners. Gifted children were allowed to skip grades. Slow learners
were encouraged to reach minimum standards, although those who did not maintain
the pace seldom reached the next stage. For the most part, children with severe
learning problems and those with handicaps and psychological needs were the
responsibilities of their families. Extra provisions were made for blind and
severely hearing-impaired children, although in 1984 special schools enrolled
fewer than 2 percent of all eligible children in those categories. The China
Welfare Fund, established in 1984, received state funding and had the right to
solicit donations within mainland China and from abroad, but special education
remained a low government priority.



 

    



 

The main task of
higher education in China is to train specialists for all the sectors of the
country's development. Universities, colleges and institutes, which make up
China's higher educational system, offer four- or five-year undergraduate
programs as well as special two-or three year programs. Students who have
completed a first degree may apply to enter graduate schools. China's
institutions of higher learning operate on a centralized enrolment system in
which admissions committees at the provincial level operate under the aegis of
the Ministry of Education. As a rule, admission is granted on the basis of
academic, physical and moral qualifications, though allowances are made for
minority nationality and overseas Chinese candidates (See Table 1).



 



 

The History of Special
Education



 

The origin of
special education in China can be traced back 2,000 years, when the Chinese
people began to notice the existence of certain abnormalities and obvious
disabilities in some people. Inscriptions on bronze objects in the Zhongdingwen
period of the Zhou dynasty (800-1100 BC) indicated that blindness could be
caused by physical injuries (Piao, 1992). Other ancient texts advocated
treating people with disabilities with tolerance and encouraged learning about
the causes of disabling conditions. In the early Spring and Autumn period
(770-476 BC), the



 

Table
1. Development of Schools at All Levels and in Various Forms (2002)



 



 





 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

Year


 

 

Institutions of higher
  learning


 

 

Middle schools


 

 

Primary schools


 

 

Number of institutions


 

 

Student body (100,000)


 

 

Full-time teachers
  (100,000)


 

 

Number of schools


 

 

Student body (100,000)


 

 

Full-time teachers
  (100,000)


 

 

Number of schools


 

 

Student body (100,000)


 

 

Full-time teachers
  (100,000)


 

 

1949


 

 

205


 

 

1.17


 

 

0.16


 

 

5,216


 

 

12.68


 

 

8.3


 

 

346.769


 

 

243.91


 

 

8.36


 

 

1978


 

 

598


 

 

8.56


 

 

2.06


 

 

165,105


 

 

663.72


 

 

328.1


 

 

949,323


 

 

1,462.40


 

 

52.26


 

 

1985


 

 

1,016


 

 

17.03


 

 

3.44


 

 

104,848


 

 

509.26


 

 

296.7


 

 

832,309


 

 

1,337.02


 

 

53.77


 

 

1990


 

 

1,075


 

 

20.63


 

 

3.95


 

 

100,777


 

 

510.54


 

 

349.2


 

 

766,072


 

 

1,224.14


 

 

55.82


 

 

1997


 

 

1,020


 

 

31.74


 

 

4.04


 

 

78,642


 

 

601.79


 

 

358.7


 

 

628,840


 

 

1,399.54


 

 

57.94


 




 

Note. Sources provided by China’s National Tourism
Administration (Education, 2002)



 



 

Confucian text Liji (Book of
Rites) pointed out that people should respect others' parents, and treat
others' children like their own: all those who are bachelors, widows, orphans,
single, handicapped and sick should be supported
(Piao, 1992, p. 35). As
the Confucian ideology mainly focused on adjusting human relations and
emphasized benevolence, order, and the doctrine of the mean, it gradually came
to occupy a dominant position in the society. Rulers began to pursue the
political principal of ren zhe wei zhen, xian zheng can ji (the governor
with benevolence ruling the country should support the handicapped first
),
and people lived by the virtues of zunlao, ciyou, furuo, zhucan (respect the
elderly, be kind to children, support the weak, and help the handicapped
)
(Cao, 1988; Ye & Piao, 1995). Influenced by the Confucian’s ideology, the
treatment of people with disabilities in ancient China was kinder, at least in
some instances, than in the Western cultures of the time. Piao (1991) claimed
that the Confucian ideology of respecting human rights of survival and
advocating public concern for disability was more than 10 centuries older than
the practice of equality initiated in the West. Yang and Wang (1994) pointed
out that China has a civilized history of more than 4,000 years. About 2,000
years ago, while Europeans (such as Sparta) still abandoned or killed children
with disabilities, some advanced Chinese scholars recommended that people help
those with disabilities
(p. 94).



 

    



 

However, people with
disabilities occupied the lowest social status under the hierarchic feudal
pyramid of roles that dominated China for 2,000 years under the influence of
Confucianism. And in Confucian texts, explanations of the causes of disability
were incomplete and not widely accepted. Superstition and fatalism were common,
and people believed that some persons with disabilities had magic powers and
could predict fortune or drive out evil spirits (Su, 1993). No matter what
belief was favored, sympathetic attitudes did emerge. Sympathy, but lack of systematic
social concern and education, lasted more than 2,000 years. There is no
evidence that special education existed in China until the late 19th century.
Initial achievements were due to U.S. and European assistance.



 

    



 


The first special schools in
China were founded by U.S. and European missionaries in the late 19th century.
These missionaries introduced Western concepts of Braille and sign language to
China and drew social attention to the educational and humanitarian rights of
children with disabilities (Piao, 1996). The first school for blind students in
China was established in 1874 in Beijing by William Moore, a Scottish
Presbyterian pastor. This school was called the Gu shou tong wen guan (Elementary
School for the Blind and Old People
). It taught students basic knowledge,
living skills, and religion. Moore also created a Chinese word system for blind
students that is similar to Braille. The first school for blind and deaf
students, Qi ying xue guan (Enlightening School), was set up in 1887 in
Dengzhou, Shandong by U.S. missionaries Charles and Annetta Mills, who taught
sign language and wrote the first textbook for deaf students in China. Other
European and U.S. missionaries and charitable organizations followed by
establishing special schools as well (Epstein, 1988; Yang & Wang, 1994). In
early 20th century, the Chinese people also began to establish special schools.



 

    



 

The famous industrialist and
philanthropist Zhang Jian established a training school for teachers of the
blind and deaf in 1912 and a special school for blind and deaf students in
Nantong, Jiangsu, in 1916 (Yu & Zhang, 1994). Zhang advocated training
students to help themselves by placing priority on vocational education and
teaching general knowledge. This goal reflected the Chinese traditions of
self-respect and independence. The academic curriculum included the Chinese
language, morals, geology, and history; the vocational curriculum included
handicrafting, farming, sewing, woodworking, embroidery, typing, haircutting, silkworm-breeding,
proofreading, and gardening (Ye & Piao, 1995). Local material resources
were used in teaching these subjects and skills. In 1927, the Chinese
government joined this movement by establishing Nanjing Municipal School for
the Blind and Deaf. The school's curriculum included junior high, vocational,
and senior normal school levels. Some qualified graduates were able to
pursue advanced training at the Normal College of the National University.
Before World War II, almost 40 schools were based on this model, but most of
them closed during the war (Epstein, 1988). By the end of 1948, only 42 special
schools served the more than 2,000 students who were blind and deaf in China,
and most of these schools were run by religious and charitable organizations.
Education for individuals with mental retardation or other disabilities was
nonexistent.



 

    



 

With the establishment of
the People’s Republic of China in 1949, t
he Chinese government has all along attached great
importance to special education. The state has issued a whole set of laws and
regulations which make explicit stipulations on safeguarding the rights to
education of the disabled, and formulated a series of both general and specific
policies for reforming and developing special education, while earmarking
special funds for this purpose. Consequently, special education has developed
fast.
China’s
special education thrived, however, i
n the late 1970s when economic and social reforms began to be implemented
under Deng Xiaoping's Reform and Opening, and the equal rights of individuals
with disabilities began to be addressed. S
pecial schools for children with mental retardation,
visual impairments, and hearing impairments were opened
in major cities (Chen, 1997). Although education for children with disabilities began to be provided
in the late 1970s, the passage of the 1986
Compulsory
Education Law was the first official
call for this
education. Local governments were to
set up
special schools or classes for
students who were blind, deaf, or had cognitive disabilities (National People's
Congress, 1986). Policies do not mandate that
education be provided to all students, but they do encourage
local governments to provide compulsory
education to children with and without disabilities. Although
in the mid-1980s the majority of students with disabilities were
educated in special schools, new channels of education were beginning to be discussed. This included
integrating children with disabilities into general
education classes. The number of children enrolled in schools
has a big increase. In 1987, statistics from the National Survey on the Status
of Disabilities showed that almost 55% of school-age children with disabilities
were in school.



 

    



 

Furthermore, the most
comprehensive disability laws, the Law of the People's Republic of
China on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities
(National People's Congress, 1990) and the 1994 Regulations on
Education for Persons with Disabilities (State Council,
1994), both of which started at early 1990s, call for compulsory 9 years of
education to be provided to children with disabilities (the
responsibility is given to schools, social groups, families, and all fields of
society).
Education for children with autism or
severe disabilities is not mentioned directly
in these policies, but many articles in these laws call for the education of children with disabilities overall. Although
some
education advocates for children with
autism point out that under these laws children with autism are not explicitly
excluded, and thus are implicitly included (Cai, 1997), others point out that
the lack of a specific legal protection creates a barrier to
educational opportunity for all students with disabilities
(McCabe, 2002).
In the 1990 law, different
types of
educational programs for children with
disabilities were encouraged, including
special schools, special classes, and general education for those children whose disability did not affect
their performance
in the classroom. These
legislations lead to a milestone in china’s special education development (See
Table 2).



 

    



 

Recent efforts have
more directly addressed suiban jiudu (deemed as China’s inclusion) as an option
that may include instructional modifications to better support students.
Beginning with the Compulsory Education Law of 1986, the right of children
(including those specifically identified



 

Table
2.



 

Published
law and established organizations, foundations, and committees; Peoples
Republic of China (PRC)



 



 
 
 


 
 
 


 
 
 


 
 
 


 
 
 


 
 
 


 
 
 


 

Name


 

 

Start Date


 

 

Nature


 

 

China Fund for the Disabled


 

 

3/15/1984


 

 

A national foundation that manages benefits of
  people with disabilities


 

 

Chinese Disabled Persons' Federation


 

 

8/11/1988


 

 

Represents the common needs of Chinese with
  disabilities; advocates for the human rights of people with disabilities;
  educates, serves, and collaborates with the government in the development and
  management of the disability field.


 

 

China Rehabilitation Research Center


 

 

10/28/1988


 

 

A state-owned institution that provides
  rehabilitation and social services to people with disabilities, carries out
  scientific research, offers training, conducts information exchange and
  serves as a technical resource.


 

 

The People's Republic of China Protection of the
  Disabled Persons' Law


 

 

12/28/1990


 

 

The first law in P.R.C. to protect and safeguard
  the rights of people with disabilities.


 

 

National Help the Disabled Day


 

 

5/19/1991


 

 

The first official "National Help the
  Disabled Day" was written into The People's Republic of China Disabled
  Protection Law to launch comprehensive activities that help people with disabilities.
 


 

 

The State Council's Disability Coordination
  Committee


 

 

4/19/1993


 

 

To enhance the leadership of the disability
  undertaking and further develop unique Chinese characteristics within the
  disability rehabilitation movement.


 



 

Note. Table contents were translated & summarized
from Shanghai Books Publisher (1994, pp.90-100).



 



 

with mental retardation, or
hearing or visual impairments) to 9 years of education was promoted (but not
mandated) by the government and educators, leading to suiban jiudu as a solution
for children in areas that did not have, or could not afford, special schools
or programs (Chen, 1996, 1997). The call for special classes attached to
regular schools and suiban jiudu for students with disabilities was first
mentioned in 1988 at the First International Work Conference on Special
Education (Kou, 1996). Since 1988, the China National Institute of Educational
Research Special Education Center has led nationwide experimental projects
focused on including children with disabilities in regular classes. In 1994,
after these projects had been implemented for 5 years, a national meeting was
held to summarize the experiences of the experimental sites. Delegates to this
meeting published State Education Commission Number 16, Methods of Launching
the Work of Suiban Jiudu for Children and Youth,
a document calling for Suiban
Jiudu
(China’s inclusion) to be the main mode of education for children
with disabilities. This document was later sent to each province and city as a
special education guideline (Chen, 1996, 1997).

     



 

Generally speaking, Suiban
jiudu first began in rural and remote areas as a function of providing
compulsory education, and has been adopted as the main mode of educating
children with disabilities in economically poor areas where neither special
schools nor other educational services for children with disabilities were
available. For example, several experimental projects in inclusive education
have been conducted in poor areas. In 1994-1995, fifteen counties were the
sites for the Developing Special Education in Poor Areas (Pinkun Diqu Kaizhan
Teshu Jiaoyu) project, sponsored by the State Education Commission and the
United Nation's Children's Fund (UNICEF). The project focused on increasing
school enrollment and retention, partly by increasing the integration of
students with disabilities in regular schools. A major goal was to contribute
to the universalization of compulsory education (Chen & Hua, 1998). Another
integration project sponsored by UNICEF began in Anhui province in 1994.
Government motivation for this project was to meet the 9-year compulsory
education objective by providing inclusive education opportunities for children
with disabilities. Although Suiban Jiudu first occurred in and thrived
in remote areas as a function of providing compulsory education, and has been
adopted as the main mode of educating children with disabilities in
economically poor areas where neither special schools nor other educational
services for children with disabilities were available (McCabe, 2003), it is
not a formally titled inclusion and children’s with disabilities special needs
are not addressed. No specialists or personnel are available in Suiban Jiudu.
Nor educators in the Suiban Jiudu class are cognizant of basic and
necessary knowledge about the children’s disabilities. Since inclusion is
beneficial for both children with disabilities and their typically developing
peers, it is critically important for China to supervise the implementation of Suiban
Jiudu
and guide it in the way that both children with or without
disabilities can benefit from it (See Table 3).



 



 

Table
3.



 

1987 Census (Sample was
1.5/1000 of the entire population)



 



 
 
 


 
 
 


 
 
 


 
 
 


 
 
 


 
 
 


 
 
 


 
 
 


 

Categories


 

 

Number out of the Total
  Population Surveyed


 

 

Percentage of the Total
  Population Surveyed


 

 

Males with disabilities


 

 

176,888


 

 

11.20%


 

 

Households with members with disabilities


 

 

66,902


 

 

18.11%


 

 

Hearing & linguistically impaired


 

 

26,518


 

 

1.68%


 

 

Physically disabled


 

 

11,305


 

 

0.72%


 

 

Visually impaired


 

 

11,300


 

 

0.72%


 

 

Mentally retarded


 

 

15,235


 

 

0.97%


 

 

Mentally Ill


 

 

2,907


 

 

0.18%


 



 

Note. Table contents were translated and summarized from Shanghai Books
Publisher (1994, pp.89-90).



 



 

Preparation of Teachers



 

General higher teacher
education in China aims mainly at the training of secondary school teachers. In
1998, there were 229 general higher education institutions in China with an
enrollment of 690,000 (
Education in the People's Republic of China, 1985). Normal universities,
teacher-training institutes and teacher training colleges enroll graduates from
senior secondary schools. Four-year programs are offered for training senior
secondary school teachers, 2-year or 3 year programs are mainly to train
teachers for junior secondary schools. The specialties are as follows as
pedagogy, pre-school education, special education, psychology, educational
technology, Chinese language and literature, languages and literature of
minority nationalities, ideological and political education, history, English,
Russian, Japanese, mathematics and applied mathematics, computer science,
physics, chemistry, biology, geography, music, Fine Arts and Physical
Education. Besides, postgraduate programs are offered in general higher teacher
education institutions. At the same time, general higher teacher education
institutions are playing active parts in providing in-service training for
secondary school teachers.



 



Regular secondary teacher education aims mainly at training teachers for
primary schools, kindergartens and special education. In 1998, there were 875
regular secondary colleges of teacher training in China with 920, 000
enrollments. Out of these 875 colleges, there were 811 regular secondary
teacher training schools, 61 for pre-school education and 3 for special
education (Education in People’s Republic of China, 2005). The main task for
regular secondary teacher education is to prepare teachers for primary school
education. The main task of secondary pre-school teacher training schools is to
educate kindergarten teachers. The main task of secondary special teacher-
training schools is to educate special education teachers for primary schools.
As China is a unified multi-ethnic nation with 56 ethnic minority groups and
the population of these minorities is 108 million accounting for 8.98% of the
total, the specific education required for minority ethnic groups constitutes
an important part in the national education undertaking. The country encourages
the expansion of teacher education for minorities to promote the development of
education in the regions where minority peoples reside. A group of higher
teacher training institutions and colleges and secondary teacher training
schools are responsible for teaching and training minority teachers. Teacher
Training Center in the Northwest and English Teacher Training Center in the
Southwest are established in the regions where the minority people concentrate.
Parts of the nation's institutions and comprehensive universities also offer
programs for training minority education teachers. The reform of minority
teacher education is undergoing continuously and it is on the way to train
versatile teachers with practical skills (See Table 4).




 

    



 

Table 4.



 

Basic Statistics of
Specialized Teacher Training Schools in 1998



 



 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 


 

 


 

 

Schools


 

 

Enrollments


 

 

Freshmen


 

 

Graduates


 

 

Teachers


 

 

Normal
  universities and colleges


 

 

229


 

 

693,600


 

 

251,100


 

 

196,800


 

 

76,600


 

 

Secondary
  teacher training schools


 

 

875


 

 

921,100


 

 

319,300


 

 

3,058,000


 

 

6,340


 

 

Educational
  institutes


 

 

190


 

 

212,000


 

 

82,200


 

 

66,200


 

 

18,700


 

 

In-service
  teacher training schools


 

 

2,087


 

 

371,000


 

 

121,600


 

 

168,200


 

 

46,300


 



 

Note. China Education and Research Network



 



 

Basically, some
of teachers working with children with special needs are graduates from
secondary vocational schools aimed for training special educators, some are
graduates from normal secondary vocational schools or two-year colleges and
transfer to work with children with disabilities, and still a small number of
teachers are graduates from four-year universities and institutes and graduate
schools as all over China there is only one institute in Nanjing, Jiangsu
province which specifically aims to train special educators. Although there are
several special education departments, like the special education department in
Beijing Normal University and the East Normal University that train special
educators as well, the number of graduates every year is still limited and thus
limit the special educators and professionals. By 2004, the professionals with
associate professor or higher rank in special education had been fewer than 30
all over the mainland China (Yu, 2004). In some big cities like Beijing and
Shanghai, there are adequate number of special educators, professionals and
specialists compared to some developed countries in this filed. However, in the
vast medium and small cities, and especially the countries, the teachers
working with children with disabilities are far from enough. E.g., by 1998,
there had about 66, 000 children (
Education in the People's
Republic of China, 2005
) with visual impairment been kept out of the school in
rural areas because of lack of special educators. Besides the limited number of
schools and colleges training special educators, there are several other
reasons that impede the development of special educators in China, such as the
worse working situations, higher-intensity working hours and the lower payment
(the payment remains almost the same from 1956 till now) in special schools
than the normal schools. This leads to the lower enrollment in special
education colleges or secondary vocational schools aimed at training special
educators, and what’s more, it is not uncommon for special educators to
transfer to normal schools rather than stay in special schools. 



 




    



 

So, currently the most pressing problems
facing special education is the scarcity of qualified special teachers, which
have led to a serious stunting of educational development. Relatively, those
who receive higher education are more qualified than those that graduate from
secondary vocational schools and those transfer from normal education to
special education. To improve the quality of the special educators who graduate
from the secondary vocational schools and those who transfer to the special
education field, the in-service training is critically important as it provides
a good opportunity for the communication between and among these special
educators and provides them training to improve the ability, update knowledge,
and make them more informed of the legislation of special education. Also, the
normal secondary vocational schools and two-year normal colleges can offer some
special education courses and make the graduates prepared to some extent in
case they are transferred to work for children with disabilities. Still, to
avoid the special educators transfer to normal education, the payment for
special educators should be improved as well as their social recognition (from
the author’s personal view, the public still deem the special educators’ work
as second-class compared to those of normal educators). Finally, in order to
provide quality education to children with disabilities, the teaching resources
such as textbooks, assistive technologies, classroom facilities also need to be
considered.



 



 

Challenges Encountered in
the Development of Special Education



 

Several challenges
for China’s special education have already been mentioned above, for example,
the lack of qualified special educators and special professionals and poverty.
More challenges will be discussed in this section. Deng & Manset (2000)
discuss the challenges to children with learning disabilities in China, which
are also true to children with other special needs. For example, there are
challenges from the instructional quality and accountability. In China, the
achievement of students with disabilities has not been required to be included
in official program evaluations, and no specific evaluation procedures have
been developed.



 



 

Challenge in identification and diagnostic procedures



 

As the Chinese
teachers are under great pressure of improving the academic achievement of the
students, there is a tendency of teachers in normal schools refer the students
with learning disabilities or behavior problems (students with these special
needs are commonly enrolled in normal schools in China) and other special needs
for special education. Generally speaking, after a referral from the child's teacher,
informal evaluations, such as observations, interviews, and portfolios, are
gathered (Cheng, 1994). With permission of local educational authorities,
special school teachers evaluate students using standardized tests to determine
eligibility. Since the instruments used for eligibility test are translated
versions such as Gesell Development Schedule, Denver Developmental Screening
Test (Frankenburg & Dodds, 1967), Draw-a-Person Test (Naglieri, 1988),
Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale IV (Thorndike, Hagen, & Sattler, 1985),
and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-III (Wechsler, 1991), it is
difficult to overcome cultural differences in tests developed outside of China.
Also, most of these instruments are only available in large cities. And Child
find, screening, eligibility evaluation, and appropriate individualized plan
are not possible without adequate personnel with high quality and passion
working with children with disabilities. All of these factors contribute to
inaccurate diagnosis of children. To address this situation, assessment and
identification procedures need to be clearly and officially defined, new
assessment technology should be introduced, and professionals adequately
trained to evaluate students. It is recommended that authorities promote the
development of special education in higher learning, encourage the pre- and
in-service training for special educators, facilitate the international
communication with experts and personnel working for children with
disabilities, and support personnel training in implementing the instrument for
evaluation.



 



 

Challenge in vocational education



 

The development and
success of special education programs is contingent on overcoming historical
and culturally based bias against educating children with disabilities.
Especially in rural areas, where the economy is traditionally agriculturally
based, education is not emphasized by parents. In fact, in the remote and rural
areas of China, even some children who do not have disabilities have been deprived
of education (Wang & Wang, 1994). Liu and Liang (1993) have argued that
parents will never send their children with disabilities to school if after
graduation students will have to stay home just as before. Currently, education
is available and compulsory for students with disabilities only through the
ninth grade. Establishing a vocational education system and postschool services
for children with disabilities will support independent living as well as
encourage parents to send their children to school. However, traditionally, the
vocational education that is available in special schools is limited in scope:
painting for students with hearing impairment, massage and weaving for students
with visual impairments, and sewing for those with mental retardation. Besides
representing limited opportunities, these skills are not necessarily
appropriate for those living in rural areas. Vocational skills, such as
farming, raising poultry, and handicraft work, that reflect the local market,
natural resources, and community are areas that should be explored. In
addition, it is imperative that postschool services, like compulsory education,
be supported by the government and stipulated by laws.



 



 

The scarcity of educational opportunities for students with disabilities



 

The scarcity of educational
opportunities for students with moderate, severe, and multiple disabilities is
another challenge for China’s special education. Although it is difficult
to get a true estimate of the numbers, most Learning in Regular Classrooms programs
are made available for children with sensory impairments and mild mental
retardation. Despite the compulsory education law, children with severe and
multiple disabilities, and some children with moderate disabilities, are still
excluded from the Learning in regular classrooms and do not attend school. In
some Learning in Regular Classrooms schools, students with disabilities have
been observed sitting alone, isolated from classroom activities, or have even
remained at home despite the fact that their names are on the registration
list. This unfortunately common practice has been called drifting in the
regular classroom.
Researchers have pointed out that without close,
professional supervision, students with disabilities could easily be neglected
in general classrooms (Tang, 1993).



 



 

Challenge in establishing the family and professional collaboration



 

Finally, China’s
special education is challenged in the domain of establishing the family and
professional collaboration. It is not an easy job to build up the family and
professional collaboration. For one, Chinese parents deem
educators/professionals as authorities and should be respected, and the parents
feel they are inferior to the professionals/educators, which is impacted by the
Confucian’s philosophy. This is especially true in the vast country of China.
So, parents are afraid to communicate as equal partners with
educators/professionals about the children’s medical history, happenings at
home, family’s priorities and needs. For another, it is not uncommon for
parents to feel shameful of the children’s disabilities. They are reluctant to
talk about the disabilities with outsiders not to mention the
educators/professionals. In this situation, the educators/professionals are
strongly recommended as facilitators of the collaboration and consultant of the
children’s disabilities, help parents relived from fear, stress, shame, and
anxiety, and promote the involvement of the family members in the initiating
education plans for the children with disabilities.



 



 

Conclusion



 

Although the
services and education provided to children with disabilities are not with high
quality or commonly practiced as to those typically developing children, China
has made good progress in education including some aspects of special education
and issued some policies to address the special needs of children with
disabilities. The implementation of Suiban Jiudu (China’s Inclusion) in remote
areas successfully increases children’s with disabilities opportunities to
receive education even though there is a need to supervise the practice and
ensure its healthy development. However, several challenges that china’s
special education encounters cannot be neglects. For example, poverty in vast
rural areas (about 80% of China’s population lives in remote, rural areas) and
lack of quality educators could be two major challenges in that most families
cannot afford specialized services for their children with disabilities and
there are few and low quality schools and educators for children with disabilities
in vast rural areas. The author recommends that special educators position be
improved in terms of social recognition, salary, working situations, their
quality increased by regularly in-service training, the appropriate
identification and diagnostic procedures for children with disabilities be
clearly and officially defined, new assessment technology be introduced and
professionals be trained for evaluation, practical vocational education be
provided for students with disabilities in rural areas, appropriate education
for children with moderate and severe disabilities, and schools/educators work
closely with families of children with disabilities.



 

  



 

References



 

Cai, P. (1997,
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Cao, J. M. (1988). Te jiao
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Chen, Y. Y. (1996). Making
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Chen, Y. Y., & Hua, G.
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