Report slams China’s educational system

Photo of China on a world globe.
Segregated education system

Human Rights Watch released an extensive new report July 15, documenting the substantial hurdles faced by Chinese students with disabilities in their state-run schools.

“Human Rights Watch calls on the Chinese government to make an explicit commitment towards a truly inclusive education system by revising existing laws and regulations and by drawing up a clear strategic plan towards such a goal…Failure to ensure access to inclusive and quality education is not only a violation of human rights, but also increases burden on families and incurs economic, social, and welfare costs,” HRW stated in the report, titled “China: End Discrimination, Exclusion of Children with Disabilities.”

Despite China’s widely herald success in mandating universal primary education, the report estimates that 28 percent of children with disabilities in the country are not receiving proper services.

The report highlighted the country’s failure to establish uniform standards for providing reasonable accommodations, leading to widespread variability in the quality of services. Though HRW said the nation’s special education schools, which provide for the vast majority of the nation’s students with disabilities, are generally generally well-resourced for both teachers and equipment,” many of these students would develop far more proficiently if integrated with classmates without disabilities.

Of particular concern for HRW is the nation’s application system for secondary schools. The Chinese government mandates a system of physical examinations, forcing students to declare their disabilities and send their medical examinations directly to universities. As a result, most students with disabilities are ushered into vocational programs, even though they are often capable, or desire, other professional opportunities.

“By ratifying the (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) in 2008, the Chinese government made a commitment to ‘the goal of full inclusion.’ Yet it has no clear and consistent strategy to achieve that goal,” the report states. “It continues to devote too few resources to the education of students with disabilities in mainstream schools while at the same time actively developing a parallel system of segregated special education schools.

“Inclusive education is not just a legal obligation, and it benefits not only students with disabilities — a system that meets the diverse needs of all students benefits all learners and is a means to achieve high-quality education and more inclusive society. While an inclusive education system cannot be achieved overnight, the Chinese government’s current policies and practices raise questions about the extent of its commitment to do so.”