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Revision of Regulations on Education for Persons with Disabilities: Concept Innovation and System Improvement
September 07,2018   By:CSHRS
Revision of Regulations on Education for Persons with Disabilities: Concept Innovation and System Improvement
 
WANG Jiaqin*
 
Abstract: In January 2017, the State Council of the People’s Republic of China revised and adopted the Regulations on Education for Persons with Disabilities. The revision, which adapts to the new situation brought by the education reform and development in China, highlights the basic and key role of education for persons with disabilities in helping them to integrate into the society and participate in social life. It updates the concept of education for persons with disabilities and improves various systems which ensure the right of persons with disabilities to education. The revision and implementation of the Regulations is important for the promotion of education for persons with disabilities, the improvement of the entire education law system and the innovation of concepts of educational development.
 
Keywords: Regulations on Education for Persons with Disabilities    persons with disabilities    right to education
 
On January 11, 2017, the 161st executive meeting of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China reviewed and adopted the revised Regulations on Education for Persons with Disabilities. It took over six years to complete the process of reviewing and revising the original regulation which was introduced in 1994. The revised Regulations is in line with the new situation and new tasks of education reform and development, and highlights the fundamental and key role of education for persons with disabilities to integrate into the society and be fully and equally involved in social life. It also supplements and improves the system which safeguards the right to education for persons with disabilities and actively responds to the difficult issues encountered in practice. The Regulations are not only considered as a milestone in the development of education for persons with disabilities, but also means a lot to the improvement of the entire legal framework covering education and innovation of edu-cational development.
 
Ⅰ. The Background and Influence of the Regulations
 
The Regulations incorporates major adjustments and changes in education concepts and systems for persons with disabilities. It has not only been revised in line with the development of the education in China, but also in line with promoting and safeguarding the right to education of persons with disabilities. It has been promoted and supported by the continuous development of the education law and system construction.
 
A. Objective needs: significant changes in the status and role of education for persons with disabilities
 
With the development of the Chinese economy and society, the deepening reform of education, and the gradual modernization of the country’s education system, education for persons with disabilities has received increasing attention from the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, which have issued a series of policies, measures, laws and regulations to guarantee education for persons with disabilities. The Regulation on Education for Persons with Disabilities in China was implemented in August 1994. As China’s first special Law on the Education of Persons with Disabilities, it is a pioneer for protecting the right of persons with disabilities to equal access to education. The Outline of the National Medium and Long-term Education Reform and Development Plan (2010-2020), released in 2010, stipulates special education is one of the forms of education. The report of the 18th Communist Party of China National Congress emphasizes the policy orientation “supporting special education”. In 2014, the General Office of the State Council endorsed the Opinions on Further Accelerating the Development of Special Education, jointly formulated by eight ministries and commissions including the Ministry of Education, strengthes the government’s responsibility for the development of education for persons with disabilities and further clarifies funding sources, policies and measures, and systems for accelerating the development of special education. However, education for persons with disabilities is still relatively undeveloped compared with other forms of education. As the education cause has reached a new stage, education for persons with disabilities has become a short plank for further improvement of the entire edu-cation system. All above measures provided the practical basis for the revision of the Regulations on Education for Persons with Disabilities, with the aim of providing legal guarantee for the development of education for persons with disabilities.
 
B. Basic conditions: the revision of relevant laws which the original regulations are based on
 
Since its revision in 2006, the Compulsory Education Law clearly stipulates that studying in regular schools is an important form of compulsory education for children with disabilities. In 2008, the Law on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities replaced the phrase “pay attention to the development of compulsory education” into “guarantee compulsory education” and further improved the definition and categories of disabilities. In 2007, China signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which stipulates that protecting the right of persons with disabilities to education must also be converted into domestic laws and regulations. In accordance with the principle of unification of the legal system, the adjustment of the law requires adjustment of the lower-level regulations and their refining, so as to be more operable.
 
C. Direct impetus: limited and laggard original regulations
 
The Regulations on Education for Persons with Disabilities enacted in 1994 played an important role in guaranteeing the right of persons with disabilities to education. With gradual deepening of democracy and rule of law, the protection of disadvantaged groups and right of persons with disabilities to education started to draw increasingly more attention from the society. But these original regulations lagged behind the times and had limitations in terms of concept, content, and legislative techniques. First, the design of the system laid stress on management, but failed to provide enough guarantees for the right of persons with disabilities to education and to lay proper responsibility on the government. Second, the regulations emphasized education at school and failed to pay enough attention to lifelong learning, social education and family education for persons with disabilities. Third, the regulations stipulated the right to compulsory education for people with the three types of disabilities, but failed to include people with other types of disabilities such as autism, brain paralysis, and multiple disabilities. Fourth, there was no corresponding provision for solving practical problems such as lack of teachers, funds, technical support, and government’s responsibilities.
 
Ⅱ. New Concepts Reflected in the Revised Regulations
 
The updating of concepts is the key revision to the Regulations on Education for Persons with Disabilities, which directly influences system design and the formulation of provisions. It also determines the principles and directions of the development of education for persons with disabilities. Based on China’s major policies and measures in the development of education for persons with disabilities, the revision focuses on solving important issues in the development of education for persons with disabilities, and highlights the concept of integrated education.
 
A. Establishing the principle of integrated education
 
China’s legislation on education for persons with disabilities clearly stipulates the mechanism of regular schools and special education schools jointly sharing responsibility, with regular schools shouldering the main responsibility in practice. But still, there is a lack of understanding that responsibility should be taken by regular schools. It’s commonly regarded by the public, even those working in education departments, that education for persons with disabilities should be fully or mainly undertaken by special needs schools. The prevailing concepts and mainstream theoretical views in international disability protection laws emphasize that the integration of students with disabilities into regular schools can better enable them to integrate into the society, comprehensive development and educational equality. The concept is explicitly defined in Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The reviseded Regulations on Education for Persons with Disabilities thus considers the promotion of integrated education an important legislative principle, and highlights the importance of regular schools in education for persons with disabilities in concepts and system design. This is the first time that integrated education is clearly stipulated as a guiding principle since the Compulsory Education Law stated that studying in regular schools should be one of the forms of education for persons with disabilities. According to the principle, the revised Regulations on Education for Persons with Disabilities stipulates the responsibilities of regular schools and special education schools, and further clarifies the functions of the two types schools. It points out that education for persons with disabilities should center on integrated education. Between regular education and special education, priority should be given to the former.
 
B. Emphasizing protection of equal right of persons with disabilities to education
 
The revised Regulations on Education for Persons with Disabilities stipulates as a general principle that “the State guarantees the equal rights of persons with disabilities to education and prohibits any educational discrimination based on disability.” Based on the legislative principle of protection of the equal right to education, the revised Regulations, in terms of condition and mechanism,bclearly stipulates that persons with disabilities should be assisted in overcoming the difficulties they encounter in fulfilling their right to equal education, so that they can enjoy their right to education. Meanwhile, more attention is to be paid to the protection of right of students with disabilities to equal education, from providing special channels, conditions and assistance to creating an environment of equal participation and fair competition for them. If students with visual disability take university entrance exam, they can enjoy special accommodation and have the right to choose their own schools and majors as well.
 
C. Promoting “zero rejection” of admissions to schools
 
In order to solve the problem of attending schools faced by children with disabilities , especially attending regular schools, the revised Regulations clearly stipulates that kindergartens and schools of all levels and types “must not reject the applications of students with disabilities that meet the requirements of the relevant law and regulations.” In the stage of compulsory education, the following measures are taken. The first is targeted and individual guarantee of admission. For students with general physical and mental disabilities, they go to a nearby school. For students with special support, they are assigned to regular schools which have the required qualifications. For those children who can not accept regular education due to their disabilities, they should attend special education schools. For students who need care from specialists, they should be taught at home by teachers sent from schools. Through these different ways of schooling, full access to schooling for school age children with disabilities are provided. The second is to establish a professional support system. The Committee of Experts on Education for Persons with disabilities has been set up to conduct profes-sional assessments of the educational capabilities of children with disabilities and to provide admission advice and guidance. The third is to strengthen the admission guarantee, to strictly limit regular schools rejecting the admission of children with disabilities, to clarify the responsibilities of the government and administrative departments for education. They should not only build special education schools, but also prepare classrooms with special education resources in regular schools, so as to ensure qualifi-cations for the admission of children with disabilities.
 
D. To achieve full coverage of education for persons with disabilities
 
As for defining the scope of disability, besides the visually, hearing and mentally disabled, the revised Regulations incorporates other types of disability, such as brain paralysis, autism, infantile autism and multiple disabilities, in order to be consistent with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In terms of the stage and level of education for persons with disabilities, the revised Regulations improves the system of education for persons with disabilities throughout every academic stage and level. On the basis of admission protection, education for persons with disabilities also covers preschool education, vocational education, higher education, and lifelong education, realizing all-round and full-time support for education for persons with disabilities.
 
E. Building a joint responsibility system
 
The new revised Regulations further emphasizes that caring and supporting education for persons with disabilities is the common responsibility of the government, society, families, and schools. It is necessary to stimulate enthusiasm and activeness of all major participants to build a comprehensive education system. On the basis of further strengthening the government’s guarantee mechanism and responsibility to lead, new provisions have been added, such as the obligations of parents of children with disabilities to respect their children, to protect their right to education and carry out family education, the responsibility of relevant social organizations and enterprises to support and assist persons with disabilities to receive education and to integrate into the society, the responsibility of the Disabled Persons’ Federation to provide support and assistance for persons with disabilities to receive education, and the responsibility of education supervision agencies in supervising the implementation of education for persons with disabilities.
 
Ⅲ. Important Institutional Innovation and Implementation of the Revised Regulations
 
Only with the establishment of scientific and effective systems can the implementation of ideas be ensured and the legal right of persons with disabilities to education be realized. The revised Regulations places special attention on system innovation, which improves a series of key mechanisms by drawing on international experience, based on actual needs of China’s education practice for persons with disabilities.
 
A. Registration system for children with disabilities
 
The revised Regulations stipulates that county-level education departments must, together with relevant departments, conduct pre-school registration of school age children with disabilities according to information such as neonatal screening, preschool children’s disability screening and statistics on persons with disabilities. The administrative departments for education should adopt information-based management to fully grasp information of school age children with disabilities in their jurisdictions. According to the information, they are supposed to pre-arrange admission quota, designedly increase resources, establish archives for each student with disabilities and provide them proper support and assistance.
 
B. System of expert committee for education of persons with disabilities
 
In order to deal with lack of professional support for education of persons with disabilities and lack of scientific standards for judging the ability of children with disabilities to accept regular education, the revised Regulations stipulates that an expert committee for education of persons with disabilities, made up of experts in education, psychology, rehabilitation, and social work, must be established in each county. These committees are responsible for professionally assessing the ability of students with disabilities to accept regular education, and providing admission advice and counsel-ing. As a legal organization, the committees should play an important role in promoting the level of education for persons with disabilities in local districts.
 
C. Admission dispute resolution system
 
In the past, when there was a dispute about admission between parents of children with disabilities and regular schools, there was no smooth channel to solve the problem. The children were usually at disadvantage and their rights could not be effectively protected. In response to the prominent problem, the new revised Regulations has specifically formulated the institutional mechanisms for dispute resolution. County-level education departments are responsible for accepting applications and deciding admission arrangements of children with disabilities according to profession-al assessment, school’s qualifications, and the will of the children and their parents. Such decisions are administrative and in principle, reconsideration or administrative lawsuits may also be filed, which provides more supervision channels for the implementation of the revised Regulations.
 
D. Individualized and targeted education system
 
In order to improve the quality of education for persons with disabilities, the new revised Regulations emphasizes the establishment and implementation of individualized and targeted education based on the actual conditions of students with disabilities. For those studying in regular classes, learning requirements could be more flexible. Classified teaching must be introduced according to the condition and compensation of students with disabilities. Schools and parents are encouraged and supported to cooperate and communicate with each other to work out individualized education programs in accordance with physical and mental features of students. Targeted and individualized teaching enables students to obtain more suitable education.
 
E. Special education resource center system
 
In accordance with the principle of integrated education, the revised regulations adjust the status and role of special education schools, and rebalance the development orientation and the goal positioning. The revised Regulations stipulates that the government supports special education schools to expand their functions and become regional special education resource centers that provide guidance and support for special education in the region. Their specific functions include guiding and evaluating students’ performance in regular classes, providing special education training to teachers from regular schools and sending out professional teachers to support students with disabilities who attend regular classes. It means that special education schools will assume the dual functions of teaching and professional guidance, which further highlights the professionalism of special education schools and improves their status in the education system.
 
F. Preschool education system for children with disabilities combined with childcare and rehabilitation
 
Practice has shown that early detection and intervention of children with disabilities, implementation of effective family education, preschool education and rehabilitation training are important for improving the effectiveness of education for persons with disabilities. The revised regulations clarify support from and the responsibilities of public services, requiring health administrative departments provide guidance and support of early detection, early rehabilitation, and early education for families and kindergartens to children with disabilities. At the same time, it is emphasized that preschool education for children with disabilities should be combined with childcare and rehabilitation. Pre-school education institutions must be equipped with necessary rehabilitation facilities, equipment and professional rehabilitation personnel. Qualified rehabilitation institutions for children with disabilities can be used as pre-school education institutions to promote the implementation of pre-school education as well.
 
G. Special education teacher system
 
To accelerate the development of education for persons with disabilities, improving the faculty of special education is the key. The revised Regulations expands the connotation of special education teachers, which not only includes teachers in special education schools, but also professional teachers engaged in teaching regular classes with students with disabilities, and relevant professionals engaged in special education from regular schools. The revised Regulations also comprehensively improves provisions concerning sources, training, employment, and treatment of teachers, focusing on ensuring and improving the status and salary of special education teachers. At the same time, it is determined that mechanisms, such as compensation, rewards, and sub-sidies for special education teachers are to be established to favor university graduates engaged in special education.
 
H. Investment guarantee system for education for persons with disabilities
 
To safeguard the right to education of persons with disabilities, increasing financial support is the basis. The revised Regulations further clarifies the obligations of governments at all levels to support the education of persons with disabilities, in particular compulsory education in terms of funding. It requires improvement of construction standards, expenditure standards, teaching equipment and facilities standards, and public funding standards. It also requires expanded funding sources. Provisions are added to ensure that employment protection funds for persons with disabilities should be used by special education schools to carry out vocational education for students with disabilities, a certain percentage of fiscal appropriation for compulsory education by local governments at all levels and collected education fees shall be used for compulsory education for children with disabilities. The revised Regulations stipulates that regular schools which recruit students with disabilities should get funds in accordance with the average expenditure of special education schools.
 
I. Aid system for students with disabilities
 
It’s an important starting and foothold for the revised Regulations to attach im-portance to protecting the rights of students with disabilities. The revised Regulations, on the basis of guaranteeing the admission of students with disabilities and their access to equal opportunities of education, also pays attention to financial support for them and their families by establishing the principle of preferential subsidies according to China’s Student Financial Assistance Policy. On the basis of free compulsory education, for free preschool education and junior high school education, priority is given to financially disadvantaged students with disabilities. Free senior high school education for them will be gradually implemented.
 
J. Reasonable convenient examination system
 
Protecting the right to take examinations is an essential prerequisite for protect-ing the equal right to education for students with disabilities. The revised Regulations requires examination organizations to provide necessary support and assistance for persons with disabilities to participate in national educational examinations based on the principle of reasonableness and convenience. This revision directly promotes the perfection of supporting facilities for the National Higher Education Entrance Exam-ination, measures such as special exam papers, special exam rooms and reasonable extension of test time for examinees with disabilities are adopted.
 
In addition to these major institutional innovations, the revised Regulations inherits and improves many of the rules and regulations of the original one, giving them new connotations and requirements.
 
Ⅳ. Implementation of the Revised Regulations
 
The newly revised Regulations on Education for Persons with Disabilities has been implemented since May 1, 2017. It’s the common responsibility of governments at all levels, administrative departments for education, schools at all levels and of all types, and the society to implement the new concepts, new systems, and new requirements of the revised Regulations to guarantee the right to education for persons with disabilities. To achieve the goal, the following tasks must be clarified:
 
First, we must change our concept, increase our awareness, and update our ideas. We must pay attention to education for persons with disabilities from the perspective of overall stability of economic and social development, especially education reform and development. To fully recognize that protecting the right of persons with disabilities to education is related to the equality of the education system as a whole is an important symbol and necessary condition for realizing the modernization of education.
 
Second, we must strictly adhere to administration by law, fulfill the duties and responsibilities stipulated in the regulations, improve and implement its systems and requirements. The rule of law lies in implementation, so all the statutory obligations must be implemented in strict accordance with the provisions of the revised regulations to ensure their operation and effectiveness in practice.
 
Third, we must strengthen supervision. One of the important indicators that the revised Regulations is an administrative regulation that is different from other normative documents and policies is the rigidness of its obligations and the operability, supervision, and accountability for its norms of conduct. In accordance with the requirements of the revised regulations, we must strengthen education supervision, inter-level supervision and social supervision while introducing judicial supervision to ensure the implementation of the regulations, so as to promote the sustainable and healthy development of education for persons with disabilities, and improve education modernization and rule of law.
 
(Translated by CHEN Yunqing)
 
* WANG Jiaqin ( 王家勤 ), Inspector of Department of Policies and Laws of Ministry of Education.
 
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