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Nine-year schooling to be offered to more disabled kids

By ZOU SHUO | China Daily | Updated: 2022-02-14

The move is part of a plan to ensure all children have equal access to education

More than 97 percent of China's disabled children will receive schooling from first to ninth grade by 2025, up from 95 percent last year, according to a new plan designed to ensure such students have equal access to education and the opportunity to shine.

The action plan for special education development for 2021-25, issued last month by the Ministry of Education and six other departments, aims to further expand the coverage of compulsory education for disabled children.

County-level governments should conduct comprehensive evaluations of school-aged disabled children and make sure they can receive compulsory education at regular schools, special education schools, social welfare organizations or through homeschooling, the plan said.

More efforts will be made to set up a system of shadow teachers for children with autism so they can better fit in at regular schools, it said.

The average government expenditure on disabled children in compulsory education will be raised to 7,000 yuan ($1,100) per student per year by 2025, up from 6,000 yuan currently, and regions with better financial conditions will be encouraged to contribute more, it said.

The plan also called for more efforts to promote preschool education, vocational education, higher education and adult education for disabled people.

Each city should have more than one secondary vocational class for disabled children, and each provincial region should have at least one secondary vocational school for them, it said.

Regions with the financial means will be encouraged to set up special education schools from kindergarten to high school.

The country will also facilitate the pursuit of higher education by disabled children and encourage universities to set up more majors suitable for disabled students, it added.

Lin Heping, director of the Fujian Provincial Education Department, said special education is one of the most urgent needs for children with disabilities, and the level of special education reflects the development and civilization of society.

Internationally, integrated education is the mainstream approach to achieving the high-quality development of special education, he said, as integrating children with special needs in regular schools helps them fully achieve their potential and fit into society.

Qi Yonggang, the father of a 10-year-old girl with autism in Beijing, said hiring a shadow teacher for his daughter cost the family up to 15,000 yuan a month.

Families that cannot afford such teachers usually need to have a parent or grandparent accompany the children at school or send their children to special education schools, he said.

Qi said he was not willing to send his daughter to a special education school because he wants her to experience regular schooling, believing that will help her learn skills and abilities that can be used in everyday life.

He said he was glad to see the government pay more attention to integrated education for children with autism, and he wants to send his daughter to a secondary vocational school, so that she can learn a trade and find a job.

"If she just stays at home after middle school, all the things and skills she has learned will gradually be forgotten," he said.

To help children with disabilities attend universities, China has been providing them with greater assistance, especially by ensuring they are given convenient and equal access to the national college entrance exam.

A guideline issued by the Ministry of Education and the China Disabled Persons' Federation in 2015 required examining bodies nationwide to offer "reasonable" assistance to students with disabilities taking the test, based on their needs.

Reports of disabled children overcoming great difficulties and winning places at the country's top universities have warmed the hearts of many people.

Zhu Lingjun made headlines recently when she became the first visually-impaired student admitted to a postgraduate course at Fudan University in Shanghai.

The 22-year-old was born blind but recovered a limited sense of sight after surgery when she was 4 months old.

She enrolled at East China Normal University in 2018, and it recommended she pursue a master's degree at Fudan without having to take an enrollment test due to her good academic performance.

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