This article has been published in Enabling Education 7
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Title: Focus on Policy: China
Author: Meng, D
Publisher: EENET
Date: 2003

Focus on Policy: 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:

  • Suggestions on Developing Special Education, 1989
    This gave priority to universal primary education (UPE) for those with mild to moderate impairments.
  • Law on Protection of the Disabled, 1990
    The first law regarding special education passed by the National People’s Congress which emphasised equity and full participation in mainstream society.
  • The Eighth (1991-1996) and Ninth (1996-2000) Five-year Programmes.
    These highlighted school entrance rates and the provision of instructional changes.
  • Trial Measures of Implementing ‘Learning in Regular Classrooms’, 1994
    This emphasised instructional modifications for children with disabilities in general classrooms.

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.