China is failing to educate students with disabilities, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, The 75-page report, titled As Long as They Let Us Stay in Class, reveals how children and young people with disabilities in China struggle to be educated in mainstream schools in their communities. The report documents how and what kind of problems are faced by students and their families as they pursue basic education and beyond.
In China, children and young people with disabilities often confront discrimination in schools. The report finds that most mainstream schools deny admission of students with disabilities, ask them to leave, or fail to provide appropriate classroom accommodations to help them overcome barriers related to their disabilities.
Children with mild disabilities in mainstream schools continue to face challenges, while children with more serious disabilities are excluded from the mainstream education system altogether despite a commitment from the country to provide them with appropriate services..
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is the most recent international human rights treaty mandating that state parties “ensure an inclusive education system at all levels.” The Chinese government ratified the CRPD in 2008 and made a commitment to the goal of full inclusion — making mainstream education accessible for children with disabilities.
But still, China has no clear and consistent strategy to achieve that goal, according to report.
The Chinese government also does not have a clear policy on “reasonable accommodation” in mainstream schools — defined in the CRPD as “necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden.”
More than 40% of people with disabilities are illiterate. The government has an impressive record in providing primary education for children without disabilities, achieving near-universal compulsory education for such children. However, the rate for children with disabilities is much lower. About 28% of such children should be receiving compulsory basic education but are not, according to the report.
Some mainstream schools exclude students with disabilities from the examination system, meaning that they are not graded and their progress is not evaluated.
In some rural areas, the government’s policy of consolidating mainstream schools in recent years has had a negative effect on students with disabilities, as schools to which they are assigned are often far away, and the government does not provide transportation.
According to the report, the Chinese government should revise existing laws and regulations for a truly inclusive education system and develop and implement a clear plan to reach that goal. This means that the government must develop a time-bound, strategic plan to move towards an inclusive education system that delivers a quality education to special needs students with specific indicators to measure access to education.
A comprehensive plan would require financial resources and adequately trained staff so schools can ensure the provision of reasonable accommodation to pupils and students with disabilities, the report said.