Focus on Policy: Hong Kong, SAR China
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).
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:
- setting up a school policy on catering for diversity
- systematic record-keeping
- co-ordination and deployment of resources in and out of school
- monitoring and evaluation of school-based programmes
- empowerment of teachers
- peer support and co-operative learning.
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