1. Definitions

2. School Organization

3. Laws, Plans, Policies and Programmes

4. Governance

5. Learning Environments

6. Teachers and Support Personnel

7. Monitoring and Reporting


  1. Definitions

Inclusive education

The 2014 Operational Guidance of the Whole School Approach to Integrated Education endorses the definition of inclusive school provided by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) in the Evaluating Educational Inclusion: Guidance for Inspectors and Schools (235, p.4): “An educationally inclusive school is one in which the learning and teaching achievement, attitudes and well being of every young person matters. Effective schools are educationally inclusive schools. This shows, not only in their performance, but also in their ethos and their willingness to offer new opportunities to pupils who may have experienced previous difficulties.”

The 2008 Self-Assessment Guidance Catering for Student Differences-Indicators for Inclusion specifies that inclusion does not  concern just learners with impairments or those with special educational needs, rather it refers to the learning and participation of all students.

Special education needs

The 2014 Operational Guidance of the Whole School Approach to Integrated Education provides an operational definition of students with special educational needs (SEN), who are. children and youth with specific learning difficulties (SpLD), such as dyslexia, learners with behavioral, emotional and social development needs, namely those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), and students with sensory, communication and physical needs, such as with intellectual, physical disability, visual, hearing, speech and language impairments.


  1. School Organization

Since 1997, education of learners with special education needs has occurred according to a dual-track model: learners with severe or multiple disabilities are enrolled in special education schools, while other learners receive education in regular schools. At present, there are 60 special education institutions, out of which two for learners with visual impairment, one for pupils with hearing impairments, seven for children with physical disabilities and 41 for children with intellectual disabilities, eight schools for social development and one hospital schools providing education in 18 hospitals.

For the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years, a School Partnership Scheme was introduced to adapt 10 Special Schools with Resource Centres and to establish 7 Schools for Social Development and 14 Resource Schools on the Whole School Approach (WSA).

  • Special Schools with Resource Centres provide teaching expertise in supporting pupils with SEN and are expected to collaborate with regular schools and set up support network;
  • Schools for Social Development support learners in their integration in regular schools for the first school year;
  • Resource Schools on Whole School Approach collaborates with partner schools in the district to encourage the adoption of the WSA approach.

All regular schools are requested to adopt the Whole School Approach (WSA) towards inclusion of students with special education needs through the 3-Tier Intervention Model as follows:

  • Tier-1 support is targeted at learners with mild or temporary difficulties by integrating them into regular classrooms,
  • Tier-2 support is based on integrative intervention, such as small group learning and pull-out programmes, for learners with persistent learning difficulties;
  • Tier-3 support refers to individualized support for learners with severe learning difficulties, for whom schools drawn up  onan Individual Education Plan (IEP), regularly reviewed with the parents’ involvement.

Early identification, screening and assessment

Assessment services consist of a psycho-educational assessment, a social adjustment analysis and an attainment testing for learners with learning, emotional and/or behavioural difficulties. Children who present speech and language impairments may be also subject to a speech and language assessment. Identification and assessment services for pre-school children is provided by the Department of Health (DH) and Hospital Authority (HA), under the Developmental Surveillance Scheme.

Based on a pilot scheme started in 2015, consultation services have been integrated into regular rehabilitation starting October 2018. Consisting of, among others, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech therapists, educational psychologists, multi-disciplinary service teams are  trained to apply appropriate intervention models, identification tools and to provide support to educator and childcare workers to identify children with special needs.


  1. Laws, Plans, Policies and Programmes

The 26/1990 Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China permits Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) to formulate policies on the development and administration of the education system, including the language of instruction (Chapter VI, art. 136). Anti-discrimination provisions were regulated in the anti-discrimination ordinances, including Sex Discrimination Ordinance, the Disability Discrimination Ordinance, the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance and the Race Discrimination Ordinance. Equal access to education has been further facilitated by the extension from nine years to 12 years of free education.

At the international level, Hong Kong SAR is committed to the provisions and principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons, ratified by the People's Republic of China in 2008.


The 1996 Disability Discrimination Ordinance (Cap. 487), as amended in 2013, prohibits denying or limiting the education access provided by any education institutions on the grounds of the disability status. Exceptions are admitted if the person is not capable of performing the school activities (art. 24). The enactment of the Ordinance has allowed students with disabilities to be admitted in regular schools from the 1997-1998 school year onward. In conformity with the Ordinance, a Code of Practice on Education was issued by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) in 2001 to assist schools with the development of policies and procedures in accordance with the principle of equal opportunities.

From 1997, the education system has endorsed the Whole School Approach to Integrated Education, whose Operational Guidance was adopted in 2014 to empower regular schools to provide quality education services to learners with SEN. The approach entails a comprehensive framework based on school policies, practices, culture for the establishment of an inclusive school environment, design curriculum accommodation to peer support and teacher collaboration. Particular attention is paid to the promotion of inclusive school values, emphasizing the principle of diversity, and teaching capabilities and attitudes.

In the social sector, the Hong Kong Rehabilitation Programme Plan (RPP) sets out the strategic directions and measures to address the needs of persons with disabilities, including public education (Ch. 14). In line with the 1995 White Paper on Rehabilitation –Equal Opportunities and Full Participation: A Better Tomorrow for All, the RPP intends to foster equal opportunities to persons with disabilities, raising public awareness of their rights and needs. In charge of its review consistently with the principles of the CRPD, the Rehabilitation Advisory Committee (RAC) woks on enhancing cross-sectoral collaboration on the disability issue.

More recently, in conformity to the New Senior Secondary (NSS) academic structure, education for learners with disabilities has been extended to 12 years as for their peers starting with the 2010-2011 school year. Specific guidelines were adopted to support the schools in dealing with the year-extension. Starting with the 2017-2018 school year, the current teacher-to-class ratios for public kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, including special education schools have been raised to foster teachers’ capacity to cater for the diverse needs of students.


The 1996 Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) (Cap. 480), as amended in 2013, regulates the protection against discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status and pregnancy. Part 4, art. 25 prohibits discrimination to access education institutions based on sex grounds, except for single-sex institutions.

Currently, there is no comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender

identity and intersex status. In 2014, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) commissioned a multi-disciplinary research study on legislation against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI Study). The resulting Report has informed the policy agenda, but mostly on awareness publicity and sensitivity training.  

Ethnic and linguistic groups

As established in the 26/1990 Basic Law, English can be used together with Chinese as official language (art. 9). The 2008 Race Discrimination Ordinance (Cap. 602), as amended in 2018, declares unlawful the refusal and/or omitting acceptance, or the expulsion of a student on the grounds of race or his/her belonging to a racial group (art.26).

Admission to school is ensured to all eligible children, including non-Chinese speaking students (NCS children), and notably belonging to ethnic minorities. Their integration into public schools is encouraged through tailored education services, such as induction programmes, after-school language learning support, and placement assistance.


Starting in 2008-2009, primary and secondary special education is free. The School Textbook Assistance Scheme under the Student Financial Assistance Agency (SFAA) provides financial support to children with special education needs, who may apply for fee reduction for boarding schools. The SFAA grants financial assistance and scholarships to students at all education levels based on economic need. Full subvention is guaranteed for full time courses offered by the Vocational Training Council (VTC) for junior secondary school leavers.


  1. Governance

The Education Bureau (EDB) holds the responsibility for planning, development, and monitoring of education policies and programmes from pre-primary to tertiary level, including special education provision. Further, it provides recommendations on curricula, teaching and learning strategies and approaches. EDB is also responsible for rolling out the early identification and intervention programme for children entering the primary education level.

The promotion of equal opportunities for persons with disabilities and other groups traditionally discriminated is encouraged by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). The EOC has mainly an advocacy role, but it also provides guidelines for the support for students with disabilities or special educational needs (SEN).

The Women’s Commission (WoC) is the leading body promoting the interest and rights of women through capacity building and public education. In 2015, for example, it developed a guidebook on gender mainstreaming for public officers.


  1. Learning Environments


In 2012, the Universal Accessibility (UA) Policy intends to enhance the programme for barrier-free access facilities. A Technical Committee was set up in 2014 by the Buildings Department (BD) with the participation of persons with disabilities to promote consultations on the review of the 2008 Design Manual - Barrier Free Access (DM), which contains both mandatory and recommended design requirements for barrier-free access and facilities.


All schools provide tailored support services, including audiological services for children with hearing impairments, school-based speech therapy services for students with speech and language impairments, psychology support for students with learning, emotional and/or behavioural difficulties.  

With the adoption of the New Senior Secondary academic structure in 2009, the new secondary curriculum includes Other Learning Experiences (OLE) and Applied Learning (ApL) courses that deliver a diversified learning programme.

ICTs and learning materials

The EOC and the EDB jointly developed teaching and learning materials and organizing training sessions on ensuring a safe school environment. The EDB is also in charge of providing hearing supportive devices for pre-school and school children with hearing impairments.


  1. Teachers and Support personnel

A teacher professional development framework was developed  to cater for learner diversity. Within it  structured in-service basic and advanced level training courses have been arranged for kindergartens (KG) teachers since the 2015-2016 school year. Each KG is required to have at least one teacher having completed the basic level training by the end of 2020-2021 school year.

Since the 2007-2008 school year, training courses at Basic, Advanced and Thematic levels (BAT Courses) for teachers of regular and special schools have been organized to enhance their professional capacity to cater for students with SEN. Starting with the 2012-2013 school year, an additional training course on education for students with severe or multiple disabilities has been provided for special school teachers. From the 2017-2018 school year onwards, training on how to identify and support students with mental health needs has become part of the professional-development teacher programme.

Since the 2017-2018 school year, 244 public regular school at primary and secondary level are supported by a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) who is in charge of implementing the Whole School Approach (WSA). SENCOs receive professional training on inclusive education. Multi-professional team already work in special schools and include speech therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists  and educational psychologists.


  1. Monitoring and Reporting

The Hong Kong SAR provides regular figures and statistics at different education levels.

With regards to special education, it reports data on the number of special education schools, of ordinary schools with special classes and on the number of teachers in special schools by education attainment.

A school development instrument, was adopted in 2008, with the support of the UK Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE), an Index for Inclusion: Developing Learning and Participation in Schools, to enhance the capacity of schools to identify and provide for the needs of all students. Within the Quality Assurance Framework of School Education, the Index consist of a set of indicators covering Management and Organization; Learning and Teaching; Student Support and School Ethos; and Student Performance.

Last modified:

Tue, 17/03/2020 - 12:12