Disabled Children Face Challenges in School

A new report from Human Rights Watch looks at discrimination in China’s education system toward children with disabilities. According to the report, 28% of disabled children are not receiving compulsory education, and 40% are illiterate. Children who do go to school are often not provided extra resources they need to participate effectively. From Human Rights Watch:

The Human Rights Watch report is based on more than 60 interviews, mostly with children and young people with disabilities, and their parents, and draws on government data and expert policy assessments. The Chinese government has adopted regulations and rules on the education of people with disabilities, promised to raise the enrollment rate of children with disabilities, and waived miscellaneous school fees for them. Yet the report details the ways schools deny these students admission, pressure them to leave, or fail to provide appropriate classroom accommodations to help them overcome barriers related to their disabilities.

“Children with disabilities have the right to attend regular schools like all other children, and are entitled to support for their particular learning needs,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “But instead, some schools fail – or simply refuse – to provide these students what they need.”

In an important step, the Chinese government ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2008, which obliges it to develop an inclusive education system in which the general education system is fully accessible to children with disabilities, and in which all children benefit from learning and playing together. Research has shown that students with and without disabilities achieve better academic results in inclusive environments, when given adequate support.

Currently, children with disabilities are excluded from mainstream schools unless they can demonstrate the “ability to adapt” to the schools’ physical and learning environment. While inclusion cannot be achieved overnight, the Chinese government lacks a clear and consistent strategy towards this objective, and devotes few resources to educating students with disabilities in the mainstream school system. [Source]

While the Chinese government is obligated to make certain changes to improve accessibility of education according to CRPD, they have failed to comply sufficiently. From the Washington Post:

Prejudice and social stigma run high in this deeply competitive society, driving many parents to abandon children with disabilities to China’s chronically underfunded state orphanage system.

Just days before the Human Rights Watch report was released, China’s Education Ministry issued its own report on the same topic.

The ministry’s report said that 28 percent of Chinese children with disabilities are not enrolled in China’s compulsory nine-year education. But it said the 72 percent enrollment rate represented a jump of nearly 10 percentage points from 2008, and that an increasing number of disabled students were in regular schools with proper accommodations.

Maya Wang, a researcher for the rights group, said the ministry’s report failed to show how it was making mainstream schools more accessible to disabled students, as the government is obligated to do under an international treaty on the rights of disabled people that Beijing ratified in 2008. [Source]

Reuters spoke with an activist for the disabled about the report’s findings:

Cheng Yuan, a disability rights activist in Nanjing, told Reuters that 70 percent of children with disabilities were forced to attend mainstream schools.

“Even if they are sitting in the classroom, they are not getting the education they deserve,” Cheng said.

“The government has claimed that every five years, there will be a development programme for people with disabilities. But according to the previous outlines, they’ve never been implemented.” [Source]

Read more about the disabled in China, via CDT.


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