An explicit definition of inclusive education has not been found, despite the use of the term in official documents. Inclusive education in the Macau system can be considered as the placement of students with special education needs within regular classes, as specified in the 2015 consultation document launched by the Directorate of Education and Youth Services to amend the special education system.
Special education needs
The 33/1996 Decree-Law uses the expression ‘pupils with special education needs’ to refer to children with physical, sensorial, mental, emotional or social disorders. The education of pupils with special education needs resulting from physical, sensory, psychic, emotional and social characteristics must respect their differences in order to promote their educational success and social integration (Art. 2).
The 2015 consultation document specifies that students with physical or psychological impairments include those with functional disabilities; hearing, visual, physical and speech impairments; mental disability; autism spectrum disorders; special learning difficulties; and emotional and behavioural disability.
Education for children with severe and multiple disabilities has been provided in segregated settings by religious organizations since the late 1960s. In the early 1990s, special education was officially regulated by law, and children with special education needs were allowed to access the education system. By 1996, education for students with special education needs was promoted in all local schools.
Public schools only account for one-sixth of schools, reaching less than 4% of the student population. Private schools, numbering about 65, enroll most of the student population. Since the 1999 transfer of sovereignty from Portugal, the autonomy of the private education sector has been restructured, and education institutions are demanded to adhere to the government’s standards and regulations. Yet, due to the selection procedure for entry into private schools, access to education for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities may be denied.
In 2015, a debate about special education provision was initiated through a consultation document launched by the Directorate of Education and Youth Services. The document distinguishes three education provisions:
- Full inclusion in regular classrooms, according to an inclusive education approach
- Integration in regular schools but in small, separated classrooms
- Education in special education classes through a separate curriculum according to the degree of disability.
According to the Macao Education and Youth Affairs Bureau, more than 60% of students with special needs were educated in inclusive classrooms in the 2017/18 school year, while others were placed in special education and special needs classes.
Based on the 1993 Basic Law of the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR), which entered into force in 1999, Macao defines its own education policies, including teaching languages and the education system (Art. 121). All residents are free to engage in education, research and cultural activities (Art. 37). At the international level, the People's Republic of China in 2008 ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons, whose provisions are also valid for Macao SAR.
Among the main legal documents regulating Macao’s compulsory education system, the 9/2006 Fundamental Law of Non-Tertiary Education lays down the right to education for all persons regardless of their nationality, descent, race, gender, age, language, religion, political or ideological beliefs, level of instruction, and economic or social status (Art. 3.1). It further mandates the government to create opportunities to access education (Art. 3.4) and guarantees the freedom of teaching and learning (Art. 3.6). Compulsory, free universal regular education has been extended up to age 15 (Art. 20). The Ten Year Plan for the Development of Non-Tertiary Education 2011–20 intended to promote education equity as a general principle for non-tertiary education.
Persons with disabilities are protected by the Basic Law of the Macao SAR (Art. 38). The promotion and protection of disability rights are enshrined in the 33/1996 Decree-Law on Regime of Disability Prevention, Rehabilitation and Social Integration of Persons with Disabilities.
Concerning education, the 33/1996 Decree-Law introduced a twin-track model, specifying in its Article 12 that special education is ‘developed, preferably, integrated in regular schools, but can also take place in institutions of special education, in different forms’. Revising the 11/1991 Law on the Education System, the 9/2006 Fundamental Law of Non-Tertiary Education sets out the provision for learners with special education needs, including gifted and talented students and those with physical and mental impairments, to receive special education with adequate support (Art. 12). Likewise, with the 1996 legislation, the new regulatory framework permits the existence of parallel education paths: regular schools and ‘special education institutions’.
In 2013, a cross-departmental research team was set up to investigate, evaluate and follow up on the development plan for assisting the rehabilitation and integration of the community of persons with disabilities, leading to the adoption of the Ten-Year Rehabilitation Programme Plan 2016–2025. Among its focus areas, the plan outlines preschool training, education and accessibility.
Considering the growing demand for education services, and to better target the needs of pupils in special education, the Macau Government Education and Youth Bureau launched its 2015 consultation document to change the special education system introduced by the 33/1996 Decree-Law. The consultation invited the population to participate in a public debate on special education to set up a more efficient regulatory framework. The Consultation Document proposed placing children with special education needs in inclusive settings according to three distinct categories:
- Full inclusion in regular classrooms
- Education in a ‘small class of special education’, meaning placement in regular schools with a common curriculum but in separate classes
- Education in ‘special education classes’, i.e. in segregated classes with a separate curriculum.
More recently, the 10/2017 Law on the Tertiary Education System mandates the state to create equality in tertiary education, adhering to the principle of non-discrimination (Art. 4). To implement the legal provision, universities have adopted targeted actions, such as the extension of time in examinations, the provision of assistive tools, and information dissemination.
Gender equality is enshrined in 1993 Basic Law of the Macao SAR (Art. 25), and special protection of women’s rights and interests is also explicitly guaranteed (Art. 38). The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women applies to the Macao SAR by virtue of China’s ratification in 1980, with the reservations made by the latter.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
In accordance with the 1993 Basic Law of the Macao SAR, Chinese and Portuguese are the official languages of Macao SAR (Art. 9). As established in the 9/2006 Fundamental Law of Non-Tertiary Education, the education system is required to be flexible and diversified to promote the coexistence and harmonious integration of the different communities (art. 3.3). Public schools can opt for either Chinese or Portuguese as their medium of instruction. While private schools can choose a different language following assessment and authorization by the Education Office, they are required to guarantee the opportunity to learn one of the official languages (Art. 37).
Concerning policy, the Language Education Policy for non-tertiary education aims to transmit and develop Chinese culture and to promote multiculturalism. It encourages schools to create the conditions to use Putonghua alongside Chinese and Portuguese.
Based on the provisions of the 9/2006 Fundamental Law of Non-Tertiary Education, free education was extended to upper secondary education starting from the 2007/08 academic year. Since 2007, the Education Development Fund has supported projects in non-tertiary education, including subsidies provision. Within the free education network, free education subsidies are also allocated to private schools, while learners in schools outside the network are provided with tuition fee subsidies. A meal subsidy and a school supplies subsidy are granted to students from economically disadvantaged households.
Concerning policy, the Ten Year Plan for the Development of Non-Tertiary Education 2011–20 intended to strengthen support to learners from poor households.
Gifted and talented students
As provided in the Administrative Regulation 15/2014, the curriculum for gifted and talented children is expected to be adjusted to increase and enrich the learning process. The Ten Year Plan for the Development of Non-Tertiary Education 2011–20 reaffirms the commitment to promoting education for gifted students.
The Education and Youth Affairs Bureau (EYAB) organizes after-school classes in English and Chinese and supports migrant learners in language learning. Children of illegal migrants are also entitled to education. The 2002 Order of the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture mandates all educational institutions to authorize access to children at non-tertiary education level who reside in Macao SAR for a period exceeding 90 days at their own expense.
The EYAB is responsible for developing, coordinating and implementing non-tertiary education and youth policies. Within the EYAB, the Centre for Psycho-Pedagogical Service and Special Education is responsible for the provision of special education services. The 2015 consultation document invites the government to set up a mechanism of inter-departmental cooperation to review, coordinate and develop policies and services in the sector.
A Commission for Rehabilitation Affairs, composed of 15 representatives of relevant non-government organizations, was set up to monitor the execution of the Ten-Year Rehabilitation Programme Plan 2016–2025. It encourages the establishment of a cross-departmental steering task force to enhance coordination across government departments involved in service provision for persons with disabilities.
In 2005, a Consultative Commission for Women’s Affairs (CCWA) was established to monitor and inform dialogue about policies for women’s rights protection and promotion. Led by the Chief Executive, members of the government and representatives of non-government organizations, the CCWA is divided into sub-committees, including one on women’s education and promotional affairs.
To further enhance barrier-free facilities, a cross-departmental working group was set up in 2016, involving non-government organizations and associations of persons with disabilities in the formulation of the Barrier-free Universal Design Building Guidelines to integrate the 9/1983 Law on the Elimination of Construction Barriers. The guidelines were expected to be implemented in 2018.
In order to operationalize the 9/2006 Fundamental Law, the 2014 Framework of Formal Education Curriculum was introduced by the 15/2014 Administrative Regulation and was implemented starting from the 2014/15 school year. In line with the Basic Academic Skills Requirements for Regular Education under the Local School regime, the curriculum framework was developed to meet the requirement for basic academic skills.
The curriculum for students with physical or psychological impairments is expected to cater for the physical and psychological characteristics and needs of learners. In particular, the curriculum for students in inclusive education settings can be adjusted in terms of content and time, while the curriculum of special education classes can also vary in terms of number of subjects. Special education provides a tailored separate study plan.
In the 2017/18 academic year, the Framework of Formal Education Curriculum was integrated by the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture’s executive orders specifying the basic academic requirements for junior and senior secondary school education. The reform of the secondary education curricula includes a learner-centred approach and balanced and diverse curricular content.
The 2015 consultation document emphasized the need to strengthen the professional capacity of teaching staff, counsellors and therapists, providing them with adequate training based on a learner-centred approach and according to their professional area. It further encouraged the creation of special education teams to coordinate daily work at school.
Pre-service teacher training consists of a generalist four-year bachelor’s degree in education, while training on pedagogy for children with special education needs is provided in post-graduate programmes. The University of Macau provides a course on inclusive education as an elective within the pre-primary education programme.
In addition, the EYAB organizes training sessions for special education professionals on how to deal with students with disabilities, including on inclusive education, for instance through workshops and courses on teaching students with visual impairments, Braille, and orientation and mobility. Since 2003, the EYAB has also organized training opportunities on equal opportunities, sexual education and prevention of violence, targeted at school professionals, students and parents.
The statistical profiles report figures on special education provision, including the number of students, classes and teaching staff, and students’ distribution by age and gender. Data on special education of ‘inclusive students’ are reported separately and disaggregated by gender.