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Dreams and realities about China's special education

Updated: 2014-10-14 11:10
By Chen Bei (chinadaily.com.cn)

Dreams and realities about China's special education

Students listen to their teacher during a Chinese language class, Sept 18, 2014.[Photo by Chen Bei/chinadaily.com.cn] 

China is also increasing its financial support for special education. The annual educational budget for each disabled student will reach 4,000 yuan in 2014 and rise to 6,000 yuan ($990) by 2016, according to a national three-year plan on special education improvement issued earlier this year.

And, according to a national plan issued in 2013, education officials aim to make sure at least 90 percent of special needs children have access to compulsory education by the end of 2016.

Before that goal is achieved, however, parents like Luo and their special needs children still often fall between the cracks as the special education system develops.

Schools and teachers are still sadly lacking and the percent of children with mental disabilities – perhaps those who need it most – still lags far behind the 99.5 percent of eligible children without disabilities.

A Special School

For Lou and her son, the answer was Pengcheng School in Xuzhou, where 135 students with intellectual and developmental disabilities are able to learn from a small team of specialists.

These students, aged between 6 and 17, are the lucky ones. Many mentally impaired children are denied access to mainstream schools and even some private special education schools that have strict requirements on enrollment.

Special schools have long been classified in accordance with a type of disability. For instance, a school for visually and hearing impaired students is not useful for a child with intellectual and development disabilities.

More than 40 percent of Pencheng students are born outside Xuzhou city, with nearly 30 from other provinces, including Anhui, Shandong, Jiangxi, Sichuan, Henan and Fujian, according to Guo Suyao, the school principal's assistant.

"Some of them came a long way because of our school's fame, while others had no options to choose from," said Guo.

Several years ago, Gu Lingyun and her husband came all the way from Taizhou city, nearly 400 km away, to enroll their two daughters – aged 12 and 16 – at Pengcheng School.

"We tried a dozen schools, including special schools in my hometown, but failed," said the full-time mom in her early 40s.

"My husband and I have rented a house nearby and we pick up my kids every day, though the school provides board and lodging," Gu added.

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