This is the second post in a three-part series on special education in China. You can read part one here.
China is a huge country with a diverse population and a wide variety of situations and circumstances. Making summaries of any kind can easily be misleading. Mr. J wrote this post to give a general idea of the options that might be available in China to parents of children with special needs. Any additions, clarifications, or corrections are welcome and highly appreciated. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward them to Mr. J.
China’s current culture with respect to disabilities has come a long way but is still quite negative. Even though the government has official foundations for the deaf and blind, there is a great need for understanding the potential of a child with learning disabilities. Physical deformities are looked down upon, but intellectual disabilities often lead to punishment at home because the families can’t understand the children’s behavior, much less their low grades.
China has five main service groups currently helping children up to age 20 who have learning disabilities: government organizations, families, private schools and education companies, foreign workers, and local churches.
Government schools are vocationally focused and, for those who are able to go to the well-managed government schools, those students have the hope of becoming part of society after graduation. Birth defects are increasing in China as a whole,1 and so resources are increasing too. The government schools are centrally run by the education bureau in Beijing. Money moves through the government system from Beijing’s office to provinces, provinces to cities, cities to districts, and districts to local schools. Depending on the integrity of these different layers, the quality of special education can vary drastically in government schools.
Due to the varying quality of government schools or the parents’ belief that their children can learn and don’t need a special school (mild to moderate needs), parents start their own schools or home-school networks. The family groups often do not have educators involved, but the parents provide a loving environment. The parents do not always think long term, and so families often need to fully support their children for the rest of their lives. Another reason for the birth of these family-run groups is that private and public schools all require a parent to join their child while in school if the child has any visible disability. It is easier if a parent is not working to try to do school on their own.
Private Schools and Education Companies
When students are forced to leave public schools, the families might choose to go to a private school or a private education consultant. Private schools are often expensive and might not have quality education. For example, one private company in China has one foreign expert whose credentials include just four certificates, each certificate representing the completion of a 12- to 48-hour conference or course. This private company received a government award.
China has no regulatory organization for special education, creating a precarious world for parents as they make choices for their children.
The foreign workers range from short term to long term and include doctors as well as teachers. Foreigners often help according to their skill sets, and their presence creates a higher level of interest in their place of employment. Sadly, such workers can be disconnected or in competing companies, so the families don’t receive the highest level of service and support possible. Furthermore, foreigners come associated with a variety of organizations. In southern China, there are some successful non-profit organizations that have been working for over 15 years. However, with the current situation in China, they are struggling to keep their visas to stay. On the other hand, there are some who have been able to partner effectively with the Chinese government in support of students with moderate to severe special needs.
Finally, though members of local churches actively visit widows and the hospitalized, they don’t know what to do for those with special education needs. Most local leaders have so many responsibilities that this topic has rarely crossed their minds, and some simply don’t believe such disabilities exist. There is a great need for educating leaders and congregations about different types of learning disabilities, so that they understand that families need support to deal with the challenges of educating children with disabilities.
Check out Barbara’s next post to read about some of the children and families Mr. J has been blessed to know.
- For examples of studies on this see: “Birth Defects Data From Population-Based Birth Defects Surveillance System in a District of Southern Jiangsu, China, 2014-2018″ or “Epidemiology of Birth Defects Based on a Birth Defect Surveillance System from 2005 to 2014 in Hunan Province, China,” both available from the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Barbara Kindschi has been privileged and challenged to teach English in China, Myanmar, Laos, and most recently, Mongolia. Her classes have been filled with undergrads, professors, accountants, hotel employees, monks, government workers, and beauty pageant contestants. They continue to be both her students and teachers. Barbara is also part of a …View Full Bio
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