In 1987, Learning in Regular Classrooms, as a form of inclusion, was first put forward in policy document. The Education Law and the Law on Protection of Disabled People also point out that children with mild to moderate disabilities can enter to regular schools and learn together with typically developing children in 1980s. In 1994, procedures was issued to regulate the development of Learning in Regular Classrooms. In recent years, inclusive education has been put considerable emphasis to ensure equal education rights for all children with disabilities.
In the 2017 Regulation on the Education of Persons with Disabilities, inclusive education is defined as the greatest extent of integration of all learners with disabilities into regular education. Similarly, the National Promotion Plan of Special Education 2014-2016 refers to inclusive education as the promotion of equitable and high-quality education for all children with disabilities, and should be practiced all around China.
According to the 2006 Compulsory Education Law, compulsory education for children with disabilities is provided in:
- Special schools and/or classes for school-age children and youth with visual, hearing and/or language impairments, and/or intellectual disabilities (art.19);
- Separate classes in regular schools;
- Same classes with their peers;
- Besides, home-based or distance education is provided for children with severe or multiple disabilities.
According to the official data of Ministry of Education in China, the majority of children with disabilities, especially those with mild to moderate disabilities is educated in inclusive settings. The highest percentage of children with disabilities learning in inclusive settings is nearly 70% in 2001.
For children from other groups, education is provided in
- Boarding schools for school-age children and youth without stable residency (art.17);
- Schools and/or classes for children and youth belonging to ethnic minority groups, set up by the autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government through administrative Department of Education under the State Council and the people's governments of provinces (art.18);
- Specialized schools for juvenile offenders according to the Law on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (art.20).
More recently, the 2017 Regulation on the Education of Persons with Disabilities has prioritized the construction of special education resource classrooms in some regular schools and equipped them with training and resources to cater for the needs of learners with disabilities. The Ministry of Education issued a detailed guideline for regular schools to build special education resource classrooms in 2016, which requires regular schools with more than 5 students with disabilities build a resource classroom. It therefore allows learners with disabilities to receive education with their peers in regular schools. The 2015 Administrative Regulations on the National Unified Examination facilitate students with disabilities to and access to higher education in an equitable way with the support of necessary accessibility provision through College Entrance Exam.
The 2017 Regulation on the Education of Persons with Disabilities mentions the establishment of special education resource centres to provide special education guidance and support services at local level, and lists functions and responsibilities of special education resource centres, including providing professional support for regular schools to implement inclusion in a certain region. In areas where a special education system is not established, districts and county administrations are expected to rely on regular schools to set up special education resource centres.
The establishment of special education schools has been significantly strengthened, as reported in the 2015 Mid-term Evaluation Reports on National Middle and Long-term Development Plan of Education. For example, in Guangdong province, one of the most migrant populous province, and in Chongqing, the most densely populated municipality, children with disabilities who need intensive support attend compulsory education in special schools while those who need fewer support go to regular schools for education. In Guangxi autonomous region, an increasing number of children and youth with disabilities get access to schools. The local plan advocates for an increasing enrolment of learners with disabilities into regular schools and for strengthening the capacity of existing special schools to include students with severe and multiple impairments. To meet the objective, it calls for an increasing cooperation among local departments and disabled people’s organizations.
Within the outline of the National Middle and Long-Term Development Plan of Education, local authorities have carried out various initiatives. For example, the education satellite classes in Zhejiang province consist of integrating learners with disabilities into special classes in regular schools. In Sichuan province, the “1+5+N” education mode aims to integrate learners with special educational needs through a Three-Level Resource Room System.
According to the Constitution of People’s Republic of China, as amended in 2018, the state is committed to developing educational facilities and promoting independent education (art. 19) and the citizens of the Republic have the duty and the right to education (art. 46). The 1995 Education Law, revised in 2015, reaffirms the right to receive equal access to education, regardless of nationality, race, gender, occupation, economic status, and religious beliefs (art. 9).
As specified in the Constitution of People’s Republic of China, education of the blind, deaf, mute and other ‘handicapped citizens’ is ensured by the state (art. 45). The Law on Protection of Disabled People, as revised in 2008, defined that individuals with disabilities refer to those who have not display adequate or normal physiological or psychological functions and fail to engage in specific activities, including those with visual and hearing impairments, physical disability, intellectual disability, speech and language disorder, psychiatric disability or multiple disability. This law lays down the right to equal access to education for persons with disabilities through a regular or special education method according to the type of disability and ability of the learner.
In education, the 1995 Education Law, as revised in 2015, reaffirms the State’s commitment to providing education for the persons with disabilities according to their ‘physical and mental characteristics and requirements’ (art. 10). While higher education institutions admit students who meet the admission criteria (Higher Education Law, art. 9), all school-age children and youth with disabilities have the right to receive compulsory education (Compulsory Education Law, art. 6). The latter also specifies that special and regular education is provided in consideration of the nature of the child’s ability.
To enhance the right to education for the concerned group at all education levels, the 2017 Regulation on the Education of Persons with Disabilities reaffirms the prohibition of any form of educational discrimination (art.2), actively promotes inclusive education and gives priority to the regular education methods over the special one (art.3).
As a matter of policy, the National Promotion Plan of Special Education 2014-2016 and the following National Promotion Plan of Special Education II 2017-2020 aim to expand special education provision by increasing the enrolment and improving educational quality of children with disabilities in compulsory and non-compulsory education. They also plan to enhance the system’s capacity and quality, among others, by strengthening the financial and administrative support and multi-sectoral cooperation, and integrating a medical education approach.
At the province level, Guangdong ensures 12-year free education for learners with disabilities. To promote the completion of compulsory education, One Case Per Person policy has been implemented encouraging learners’ access to special schools, special or regular classes. Education participation has been also supported through specific governmental finance mechanisms, supported by other means such as the Special Lottery Community Chest Fund Programme and the Nanyue Grants, the latter targeted at higher education. On the other hand, Guangxi has prioritized the placement of learners with disabilities into regular schools, whenever possible, increasing in parallel the numbers of special schools admitting multiple disability students and distance learning, as specified in the Guangxi Promotion Plan of Special Education 2017-2020. In the Chongqing Promotion Plan of Special Education 2017-2020, the municipality has planned to establish one special school in every district to foster compulsory education completion. Children with disabilities from disadvantaged households have been particularly taken into account.
The Law on Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests, last amended in 2018, is the main legal document regulating women’s rights and promoting gender equality. As regards education, the state is committed to guaranteeing equal rights to cultural and education opportunities (art.15), including continuing education (art.19) and vocational and training education (art. 20). Effective measures are taken to cater for gender-specific needs and to ensure that women, children and youth in poverty, with disability, or floating complete compulsory education (art. 18).
Particular emphasis is laid on increasing access to pre-school education, also through supportive mechanisms for poor families and girls with disabilities and by establishing preschool education in rural areas in the most recent Development Plan on Chinese Women 2011-2020. In order to prevent school dropouts among girls and women residing in rural areas, tailored measures have been introduced, such as the creation of boarding schools and the provision of financial assistance.
In line with the national framework, the Guangdong authorities have allocated financial support for internal migrant girls and women, and/or with disabilities, and/or from the poorest households to promote their access to and completion of compulsory education. In Guangxi, literacy initiatives have been implemented to foster education of ethnic minority girls and women through flexible class and programme scheduling. As regards gender equality in compulsory education, the Chongqing Women's Development Plan 2011-2020 has adopted specific programmes by level of education, for example the Equalisation of Fundamental Education Programme and the Unification of High School Education Programme.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
As provided by the Constitution of People’s Republic of China, all ethnic groups are equal and their rights and interests are protected by the state. They are entitled to use their own language and cultivate their customs and habits (art.4). As stated in 1995 Education Law, revised in 2015, education is promoted in all ethnic minority areas, according to the needs and characteristics of the ethnic groups (art. 10). While the use of the national common language for education and teaching is encouraged, bilingual education is admitted and supported in education institutions and schools located in ethnic autonomous areas (art.12).
Within this framework, the Law of Ethnic Region Autonomy, as amended in 2001, allows self-governed and autonomous regions to independently establish education for ethnic minorities at all levels. Financial support is expected to be provided in remote areas in the form of school funds, grants or through boarding facilities. School classes and education institutions with students belonging to ethnic groups are encouraged to use textbooks in their native languages and in parallel to arrange courses on Mandarin and Chinese characters (art.37). In order to promote higher education among ethnic students, tertiary education institutions provide ad-hoc classes and preparatory courses, while ethnic schools or ethnic classes within regular schools are established at secondary education level. The Law points out the special situation of students from small minority groups and from a disadvantaged economic background (art.71).
At province levels, specific efforts have been made to financially support students from ethnic groups, such as the National Higher Education Funding System in Guangxi and through the One Thousand Developed Schools Help One Thousand Underdeveloped Schools Programme and Education Resources Delivery Programme in Guangdong. In Chongqing, boarding schools and canteens have been incentivized in ethnic poor areas at the primary and secondary education level.
People living in rural or remote areas
Through the 1995 Education Law, revised in 2015, the state is committed to supporting education development in remote and disadvantaged areas (art. 10). The national Thirteenth Five-year Plan on Development of Education, adopted in 2017, recognizes that the urban-rural gap has been narrowed in terms of education development, also thanks to the compulsory education student nutrition improvement plan. In order to promote a balanced development in the completion of compulsory education, new measures on the management of urban and rural compulsory education subsidies have been adopted, improving the efficient use of fund allocation.
In Guangdong, special attentions have been paid to left-behind children in rural areas and efforts have been made to ensure their enrolment in compulsory education. In Guangxi, the construction of boarding schools have been encouraged to ensure access to education to children and youth from rural and/or remote areas, while in Chongqing, particular emphasis has been laid on the improvement of quality education in rural areas through urban-to-rural supportive programmes.
Shaanxi province, Chongqing municipality and other provinces and cities introduced compulsory education students’ nutrition improvement plan regulation for special students nutrition meal subsidies extended to special students living in urban areas, who meet the requirements for benefitting from the subsidy.
The 1995 Education Law, revised in 2015, the State Council and the local authorities are committed to allocating special funds for education, in particular on supporting compulsory education in remote and poor, and ethnic minority areas (art. 57). The principle of equity in education also informs the 2017 National Thirteenth Five-Year Plan of Education that calls for poverty alleviation assistance, especially in remote and impoverished areas. To incentivize access to high school education and to vocational education and training, profiles for students from poor households have been created.
Along these lines, the Guangdong province has created profiles to exempt poor students from school tuition fees, while Guangxi has provided 15-year free education to all registered students from poor families. Chongqing provides free regular high school education or middle-level vocational education to registered students from poor households.
The hukou registration system, authorizing access to services, including education, on the basis of the place of birth was deeply reformed. Education to migrant children has been allowed since 2006 and public-school fees for rural migrant children abolished in 2008. The system has been further revised in 2014 and in 2016 restrictions to education were requested to be eased to allow certain migrants to obtain urban hukou. According to the 2017 National Thirteenth Five-Year Plan of Education, attention to the right to education for migrant children has increased significantly.
Cooperation across sectors
The State Council has Committee on Persons with Disabilities is in charge of the coordination of relevant affairs across related ministries and commissions. The Ministry of Education has the Office of Special Education, which is anchored to the Division of Basic Education, is responsible for the coordination of relevant affairs across different departments and divisions.
The Ministry of Education is responsible for special education at national level, while country education authorities are in charge for the education of the persons with disabilities in their respective local areas of responsibility, as stated in the 2017 Regulation on the Education of Persons with Disabilities.
The National Promotion Plan of Special Education 2017-2020 aims to strengthen special education multi-sectoral coordination among the Commissions on education, development and reform, civil affairs, finance, human resources and social security, health and family planning, respectively, and with the involvement of the National Disabled People's Federation. It further intends to explore coordination mechanisms to share human resources between schools, hospitals, and rehabilitation institutions.
At the national level, the Women and Children's Working Committee is responsible for the formulation and coordination and supervision of the implementation of gender plans, while the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, Division of Education and Employment, coordinates relevant affairs with Ministry of Education about disability issues.
Cooperation across government levels
The province-level coordination has been planned to be further strengthened. The province authorities are responsible for organizing supervision and inspection of the respective special education systems and for establishing accountability mechanisms. The objectives and tasks of the National Promotion Plan of Special Education are incorporated into local implementation policies and into the assessment systems of local governments at all levels.
Multi-professional committees of experts on the education of people with disabilities are established both at district and county levels, consisting of specialists in education, psychology, rehabilitation, and social work, with the aim to improve the needs assessment of children with disabilities and address them to the most suitable education and resettlement provision.
As established by the Law on Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests, amended in 2018, local authorities are expected to formulate women's development plans and to align them with their national economic and social strategies, in accordance with the Outline of National Chinese Women's Development Programme.
The Law on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities contains provisions on the creation of a barrier-free environment, including barrier-free buildings, roads, transportation, and information and communications. Within this framework, 13 ministries and committees, with the participation of the Ministry of Construction jointly formulated the Implementation Plan for Barrier-Free Construction during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan 2006-2010 to foster the creation of barrier-free cities nationwide, followed by the Regulations on Barrier-Free Construction and the Plan for Barrier-Free Construction Work 2011-2015.
The National Promotion Plan of Special Education II 2017-2020 also aims to strengthen Barrier-Free Construction, to improve special education conditions. The 2012 Barrier-free Environment Construction Regulations also regulates the barrier-free construction of special education institutions.
Run in 2007, Experimental Plans for Establishing a National Compulsory Education Curriculum in Schools for the Blind, for the Deaf, and for Students with Intellectual Disabilities, respectively, were piloted. As a result, the Ministry of Education has elaborated new standards for curriculum in special schools. The Standards on Curricula for Compulsory Education at Special Schools were adopted in 2016. Curriculum guidelines for students with multiple disabilities and autism are planned to be developed.
The 2017 Regulation on the Education of Persons with Disabilities admits the flexible implementation of curriculum standards and teaching materials in the case of students with disabilities receiving compulsory education in regular schools.
ICTs and learning materials
To facilitate learning of persons with disabilities, the use of alternative modes of communication, such as Braille and sign language has been promoted. With this purpose, the State has subsidized Braille publications, provided free Braille and large-print teaching materials, and established sign language education standards for deaf persons.
Particular attention has been paid to eliminating social stereotypes and representation of gendered roles in the compulsory education curriculum.
To promote education in rural, remote, poor and ethnic minority areas, online programmes, such as the ‘Classes by Famous Lecturers’, the ‘Online Courses from Prestigious Schools’, the ‘Special Delivery Courses’ have been carried out as education resources. The use of ICTs has been promoted in all schools, as planned in National Thirteenth Five-Year-Plan of Educational Informatization.
The 1994 Law of Teachers regulates teacher training and qualifications. Teachers in special education are required to obtain a qualification according to the law, with a major in special education, or have attended and passed an examination issued by an education local authority. Special education courses are generally provided in professional and general colleges, but Special Education Resource Centres can also be entrusted by the local education administration to provide training for teachers who have been deployed in the region.
The National Promotion Plan of Special Education 2014-2016 and the 2017 Regulation on the Education of Persons with Disabilities provide special education courses for pre-service teachers in order to train them for inclusion. All teachers are expected to learn special education content in order to get teaching qualification.
As established in the National Promotion Plan of Special Education II 2017-2020, all full-time teachers engaged in special education need to obtain an official qualification by 2020 and regular education teachers involved in inclusive education programs are also requested to attend a special education professional training. The National Professional Standards for Teaching also refers to requirements about inclusive education capacities. Within the Professional Standards for Early Childhood Education Teachers, for example, teachers are required to learn teaching strategies to work with children with disabilities (art 25).
Standards for teaching are established at local level. Within the National Training Programme, teachers are expected to be trained to implement the new curriculum standards for compulsory education in special education adopted in 2016. Local authorities are also responsible for deploying support personnel to special schools, including rehabilitation doctors, rehabilitation therapists, rehabilitation training personnel and other professional and technical personnel.
Teachers pursuing a career in special education as well as teachers and management personnel who have a command of sign language or Braille received subsidies.
At the province level, the Guangxi Special Education Teacher Training Center was established in 2012, providing teacher training for special education schools and professional support for the formulation of special education policies. The Shanghai Municipal Education Commission in cooperation with East China Normal University has been carrying out training for teachers in special education schools and for resource teachers in special classes.
The Law on Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests intends to enhance gender awareness among educators by increasing gender equality content in teacher training programmes. It further aims to promote education managers' training on gender theory and raise the proportion of women in education decision-making and school management at all levels.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
Ethnic autonomous authorities are encouraged to train and recruit teachers of all nationalities, while the State is committed to incentivizing and prioritizing qualified teachers from different ethnic and national backgrounds, who meet the requirements, to be deployed to local autonomous areas. The 2010 National Middle and Long-Term Development Plan of Education aims to increase training of bilingual teachers in ethnic areas.
People living in rural or remote areas
To improve the overall quality of rural primary and secondary education, specific measures have been adopted to boost rural teacher training. For instance, free education of students in regular schools is actively promoted and compensation mechanisms established to bolster college graduates to become teachers in difficult and remote areas. Innovate training modalities are supposed to be integrated into the teacher education reform.
Monitoring the progress and implementation of laws and plans has been highly emphasized in recent years. The Ministry of Education carried out the monitoring programs about the implementation of the 2017 Regulation on the Education of Persons with Disabilities, National Promotion Plan of Special Education 2014-2016 and National Promotion Plan of Special Education II 2017-2020, respectively.
The 2010 National Middle and Long-Term Development Plan of Education intends to introduce a national education management information system, to formulate basic information management requirements for schools and promote a standardization of the school information management. The government education information management process was expected to be strengthened in terms of information availability from all education levels and in terms of efficiency. In order to provide data basis for macro decision-making and improve the modernization of the overall education management, national education quality monitoring and evaluation is also intended to be integrated.
As example of evaluation, the Mid-term Evaluation on the Plan focuses on the special education system, involving representatives of DPOs, representatives of schools and education institutions. Among the quantitative indicators considered, it analysed the enrolment rate of school-aged learners with disabilities, the number of special teachers and schools.
The Plan also advocates for establishing government-led monitoring mechanism detecting, in particular, rural left-behind children, while district and country are engaged in reporting on data on children and adolescents with disabilities who are not enrolled in any education institutions or school.