The objects of China’s special education are those children and teenagers with physical or mental defects, such as the blind, deaf, dumb or mental retardation. China has set up schools for the blind, deaf and dumb, schools for imbeciles, classes for subnormal children, classes for mentally handicapped children and reformatory schools. It is clearly stipulated in China’s Constitution, Compulsory Education Law and Regulation on the Education of the Disabled that“the State shall guarantee the right of the disabled to receive education” and “the State, society, schools and families shall provide compulsory education to disabled children and juveniles.”
China has 85 million registered disabled people. According to the second national sample survey for the disabled - the latest available statistics released in 2007 - only 1.13 percent of the disabled aged above six received higher education. The illiteracy rate is 43.9 percent.
As of 2017, there were a total of 2,107 special education schools and 579,000 special education students enrolled, up 17.7 percent year-on-year. And there were 56,000 full-time teachers for special education, 73.3 percent of whom have received professional training.
China has a two-track education system from primary school through university; one track is standard, while the other caters to children with disabilities.
Between 2015 and 2017, more than 28,900 disabled candidates were admitted via gaokao,China's national college entrance exam, to mainstream colleges, compared to 5,464 candidates admitted through special exams to colleges or majors that cater to the group.
The special colleges targeting disabled candidates provide a relatively narrow range of curriculums, mainly for developing skills. For example, the majors available for the visually impaired are limited to massage and music in such institutions, whereas the mainstream colleges provide a wider range of choices, such as law and interpretation studies. Before they can join though, the applicants need to first take the gaokao.
In 2015, the Ministry of Education and the China Disabled Persons' Federation jointly launched Braille versions of the national college exam, and gave disabled students more time to finish the test - with art school candidates given waiver options.
For instance, blind and visually impaired students should be provided with exam papers in Braille or bearing large-print characters, while those with hearing disabilities are allowed to use hearing aids and can be exempted from the aural section of English exams providing they obtain permission. Those with physical disabilities can use wheelchairs and crutches, and the duration of the tests, which usually last two or two and a half hours, can be extended if students have writing difficulties.
In addition to better access at the test, the federation also launched a two-year program in six universities in 2017 to accumulate experience in inclusive higher education. Universities included in the program would provide tailored courses for the disabled students that could substitute courses in their curriculum if they have difficulties attending, and set up volunteer groups to help such students.
The six forerunners include Beijing Union University in the capital, Sichuan University in Sichuan province, Wuhan University of Technology in Hubei, Changchun University in Jilin, Nanjing Normal University of Special Education in Jiangsu, and Zhengzhou Institute of Technology in Henan.