Focus on Policy

Hong Kong, SAR China

Hong Kong, SAR China

Vivian Heung

In 1997 Hong Kong reverted to being a Special Administrative Region of China, after over 140 years of being a British Crown Colony. The vibrant education reforms introduced after 1997, according to Vivian Heung, are leading to some comprehensive changes in the education system that will facilitate the implementation of inclusive education.

The policy statement of Hong Kong's Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Tung Chi-Hwa, in 1997, claimed that education was one of the three major concerns for the new government. The new education reforms, outlined in the Education Commission of 2000, are inclusive. They aim to secure high quality, inclusive education for all students, including students with difficulties in learning. The Commission has recommended that schools "adopt diversified teaching and evaluation methods so as to cater for different learning needs of students and develop their multiple abilities."

The post-1997 education reform climate of Hong Kong has helped to activate the official policy of integrating students with a disability into mainstream education, which had been in place since the 1970s. The May 1995 White Paper on Rehabilitation, 'Equal Opportunities and Full Participation', reiterated the need to develop the potential of the students to the full.

The past twenty years have shown that Hong Kong needs an official policy on inclusion, but also support for schools in moving towards inclusive education, to help implement the policy. Support is needed for the improvement of facilities, changes in curriculum design and teaching strategies, and the introduction of assessment methods to cater for the diverse needs of students. In this regard, the two-year pilot project on integration launched by the Government in 1997 has been strategic. From an initial group of nine schools, which joined the project in 1997, there are now 116 out of a total of 1300 primary and secondary schools practising integrated education. (Hong Kong has a population of 7.3 million).

Operation Guide

As a way forward, the Government will continue to promote a whole-school approach. Schools will be encouraged to operate School Support Teams. These comprise the school head, or designated representative; teacher representatives; the curriculum leader; student guidance personnel; and parent representatives. These teams meet the individual needs of students through:

The Education and Manpower Bureau is developing a self-evaluative tool, the Hong Kong Indicators for Inclusion, to assist mainstream schools to reflect on their needs and plan for future improvement. This tool is based on the Index for Inclusion (originally developed in the UK) and requires a collaborative team approach.

Vivian Heung is the Head of the Centre for Special Needs and Studies in Inclusive Education.
CSNSIE, Hong Kong Institute of Education,
10, Lo Ping Road,
Tai Po, New Territories,
Hong Kong, SAR China


Deng Meng

The enrolment rates of China's 6.3 million disabled children of school age increased from six per cent in 1987 to eighty per cent in 2000, it is estimated. In this short article, Deng Meng gives a brief overview of the development of educational policy in China, where the total population is 1.28 billion, and the population between the ages of 0-14 is 292 million.

The first document related to education in the People's Republic of China was the 'Resolutions on the Reform of the School System' of 1951. This envisaged provision of education for persons with disabilities in special schools. The 1986 'Compulsory Education Law' made compulsory education a right for all children. Consequently, public schools began to accept children with disabilities, and this became one of the important criteria for official district inspections. Since then, many laws and regulations have been issued, for example:

General classroom placement, together with special classes attached to general schools, was developed as the main strategy to enrol into school those children with disabilities (mainly those with the three categories of disabilities mentioned above) who had been denied any education. Students with physical disabilities who can help themselves are allowed to enter general schools, while those who cannot are regarded as the responsibility of social welfare organisations such as federations of disabled people. A few separate schools in the local areas act as resource centres and provide support to teachers in general classrooms.

Despite the impressive increase in disabled children's enrolment rates, most children with severe or multiple disabilities still remain out of school. Most schools are not prepared with either material resources, teaching methods, or favourable attitudes. More effort is needed to promote positive social attitudes toward disability.

Dr Deng Meng is Associate Professor of the Centre for Special Education,
College of Education Science,
Central China Normal University,

He is currently doing collaborative research at the Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, and can be reached by email:

Modernising Education in Britain and China: Comparative perspectives on excellence and social inclusion (2003). This new book is by Patricia Potts and is published by Routledge-Falmer. ISBN: 0-415-29807-5.


M. Mahruf Chowdhury Shohel

Almost half of Bangladesh's population of 130 million people lives below the poverty line. In this article Shohel outlines the Government's plans to eradicate illiteracy through basic education. He focuses on the particular role of non-formal education as a complimentary system to that of the formal sector.

Primary education receives about half of the education sector budget in Bangladesh. Yet of the 20 million primary school aged children, four million are out of school, and another four million or more drop out because of poverty, while others complete primary school barely able to read and write. The Directorate of Non-Formal Education was established in 1995 to co-ordinate government and private initiatives to deliver basic education.

The Fifth Five-Year Plan (1997-2002) states that: "The purpose of non-formal education, besides empowering the learners with skills related to literacy, numeracy…should extend to such areas as emotional and physical well-being…and leadership skills." It also refers to the expansion of non-formal education through mass literacy centres and by mobilising the income-generating efforts of agencies outside the Ministry of Education.

The National Education Policy 2000 states that more literacy programmes will be conducted through distance education methods, using radio, television and other mass media; and that the Directorate will be turned into an institution of continuing education and skills development.

Community based non-formal schools, with their flexible hours, are very effective for working children and for adult education. The objectives of non-formal education programmes run by non-governmental organisations are to reduce mass illiteracy; contribute to the basic education of children, especially those from the poorest families; promote the participation of girls in education; empower women; and support the government's universal primary education programme.

After completing non-formal courses children are able to continue their education by enrolling in formal primary or high schools at the appropriate level. However the links between the formal and non-formal education system need to be more firmly established.

The rigid approach of the formal system has a great deal to learn from the innovative approach of non-formal education, which is more learner-centred and emphasises active learning. Non-formal education is complementary to the formal education system in providing basic education for under-privileged and vulnerable groups - in this way education flourishes in Bangladesh!

M. Mahruf Chowdhury Shohel is currently studying at the University of Manchester and can be contacted through EENET, or through email: or

"Non-formal education system caters to those children who cannot or do not get enrolled in primary schools, those who drop out of schools, the adolescents who relapse into illiteracy or those young and adult people who have never benefited from any schooling". Government's Primary and Mass Education Division



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