Special Education in Hong Kong

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Brief History of Special Education in Hong Kong

The provision of special education in Hong Kong can be traced back to the 19th century. According to the Board of Education’s sub-committee report on special education, a home for the blind was established by the Canossian sisters in early 1863 (Legislative Council of The Hong Kong SAR, 2008). The first special institute for the deaf was started by the missionaries in 1935. The missionaries and charitable organization have since maintained a special education in Hong Kong and segregated students with special educational needs from the mainstream of schooling (Chen, 1996). Initially, the practice of integrated education in Hong Kong took a form of special classes and special programs in an ordinary school to cater for students with special educational needs (Peters & Forlin, 2011). However, although the government has implemented a policy of inclusion of students with special needs, the system still lacks a clear policy that supports special education needs, especially when compared to other countries in the world (Bray et al., 2010).

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Aims and Objectives

The aims and objectives of the study include:

  1. To conduct a literature analysis on the existing studies of the subject of special education policies in Hong Kong and overseas.
  2. To analyze the relationship between special needs policy and social justice.
  3. To understand the stakeholder understanding of the special education needs policy and attitudes towards students with special education needs in relation to controlled de-segregation and segregation approaches.
  4. To analyze the major problems encountered when an inclusive education policy is implemented.

Research Questions

  1. What are the characteristics and significance of the policy and development of inclusive special education needs in Hong Kong?
  2. What are special education needs policies that relate to social justice?
  3. In relation to controlled segregation and desegregation approaches, how do schools administer these support measures?
  4. What are the major problems encountered when inclusive education is implemented?

Research Approach

The study will apply a descriptive analytical framework that will focus on analyzing the existing policies that relate to special education needs and collecting data from respondents. The study will further explore special education policies in other countries, such as Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, in order to benchmark the existing policies in Hong Kong.

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Expected Outcomes

The study is expected to reveal the true needs of Hong Kong education policies in the field of educational needs. Furthermore, it is expected to evaluate the effectiveness of the education policy for special educational needs in comparison to other countries. The study will also reveal the role of the existing special education policies in the promotion of social justice. The outcome is expected to answer the above research questions.

According to Yung (1997), the first school for the deaf was formally established in 1935; nonetheless, the key milestone to earmark the beginning of special education services in Hong Kong was the forming of the special schools section within the education department (ED) in 1960. The special education grows steadily since then. The newly established special education sections of the ED were later mandated for the development of the special education services in both special and mainstream schools (Yin, 1994). Hong Kong has a population of more than 7 million, among which there are 360,000 people with disabilities, and over the last year, types of disabilities have increased from 8 to 10 (Sin, 2009).

Policy on Integrated Education

According to Shun and Matsumura (2008), the School Education in Hong Kong statement of aim (1993), outlines that every school should help all its students regardless of the level of ability including those with special needs in order to develop the full potential in both academic and non-academic directions (Poon-McBrayer & Lian, 2002). Furthermore, the government has reiterated on the policy of integrated education system in the 1995 White Paper on rehabilitation (Hong Kong Government, 1995). Agreeing to the Reform plan for the education system in Hong Kong inaugurated in 2000, the education sector emphasized on catering for the needs of students with a learning disability, through counselling services and assistance, to provide a special education needs student with an opportunity to maximize their potential (Hong Kong Institute of Education, 2003). Furthermore, Rehabilitation Advisory Committee formulated the professional code of Practice on special education under the Disability Discrimination Decree in 2001 (Rehabilitation Advisory Committee, 2007). This provided guidelines for the public and private education institution in preventing and eliminating disability discrimination thus enhancing universal equal opportunities (Education Bureau, 2007).

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According to the Office of the Ombudsman Hong Kong (2009), the institution offering pre-service teacher training before year 2009, only one institution included special education as one of the courses of the education program (Office of the Ombudsman Hong Kong, 2009). However, presently all the pre-service training programs incorporated the content of the special educational needs (Hart, 2006). In term of in-service training, teachers who taught special educational needs were mandated to undergo training in special education, and received subsidies for the training (Tsui et al., 2007).

Other Relevant Studies

According to the Education Commission (2010) reports on the investigation of the issue related to the provision of education services for a learner with distinctive educational wants, the 2008 reports revealed an existing problem of the development of special education and integrated education in Hong Kong and overseas nations (Hong Kong, 2007). Social reception of individuals with incapacities has been the key factor for them to embrace equal opportunities (Forlin & Lian, 2008). According to a study piloted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2002, revealed that approximately 70 percent of the respondent believed that people with different types of disability were discriminated, and 50 percent believed that the existing policy failed to respond to the issue of discrimination in the education sector (Phillipson, 2007). According to the Baseline survey on public attitudes towards the person with a disability conducted by the Equal Opportunities Commission in 2010, it was shown that more than 53 percent of the subjects perceived that the person with distinctive disabilities implied having some forms of inability or dependence on others (Equal Opportunities Commission, 2010). Furthermore, approximately 30 percent believed that they were unlikely to lead a happy and fulfilling life (Labour & Welfare Bureau, 2009)

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Special Education Needs from Global Perspectives

According to the book titled “Approaches of inclusive education” edited by Sin and Chui (2010), different authors have compiled an analysis of the inclusive education policy in different countries. The analysis points outs the obstacles faced in implementing inclusive education that provides equal opportunities to the special education needs students (Avramidis, 2001). Nonetheless, there are key issues that cut across impeding the effective implementation of a comprehensive SEN policy. Such difficulties include resources, manpower, equal opportunities and discrimination among others. In Taiwan, the policy of inclusive education has been chosen as their policy for special education (Chou & Ching, 2011). The purpose of the plan is to place special education needs students in mainstream schools. The education report by the Ministry of Education revealed that the inclusive education leads to zero rejection of the special education needs (Riddell et al., 2011). Furthermore, 2009 special education act indicates that school examination authority should not reject the admission of students or attendance of examination by SEN students because of their disabilities (Winzer & Mazurek, 2011).

Macau followed the global revolution education policy, the concepts of special education and inclusive education have already been implemented. In 1991, integration of special education needs students in public schools was started in Macau (Liu, 2009). In 1996, an act of special education was issued in order to emphasize equal opportunities and appropriate education for persons with disabilities (Westwood, 1999). The Act further encourages and assists SEN students to be integrated into the school and society. In 2006, the law related to non-tertiary education system clearly pointed out the mode and direction of development (Poole & Chen, 2009). For instance, the act suggests special education needs to be the first priority in implementation of an inclusive education. According to Poon-McBrayer (2002), the Disability Act has pushed forward inclusive education for special education needs students. The country education program has fulfilled the requirement of the Disability Act. The Act outlines that people with disabilities need to be provided with equal opportunity choices as regular people receive education. Furthermore, the special education policy in Singapore emphasizes the elimination of discrimination and harassment of SEN students from the entire education system (Forlin & Lian, 2008). In some instances, an educational institution makes special arraignment so people with disabilities can receive appropriate education. As a result, different countries have significantly replicated the model in their country in order to enhance equal opportunities for persons with special needs (Forlin & Sin, 2010).

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Research Design and Methodology

The methods of data collection and resources to be used in the investigation will be sketched in this sections. Since the major aim of the study is to get the factual needs of the SEN policy on integration an inclusive education, the required facts will be collected through interviews. According to Seale (2004), using a combination of different approaches is considered appropriate in order to get a complete perspective of the case under study and accurate description of the research findings. The author argues that both methods conceptually use a dimension approach to conceive the question raised (Bickman, 2000).

Application of Qualitative-Quantitative Research Approaches

Since the words and the number will be essential to understand the concerned studies, the research methodology will apply both interviews and questionnaires. The use of questionnaires is considered important in the collection of descriptive information from a large sample size (Check & Schutt, 2011). On the other hand, interviews are useful in making follow up in depth with smaller samples (Creswell, 2003). The use of qualitative research alone in the educational setting is considered inadequate. Although the techniques, methodical process and minimum knowledge of statistics are regarded as essential to constitute good research, elements of the quantitative approach are usually useful because they permit confirmation and corroboration, provide richer details and initiate a new line of thinking (Creswell et al., 2007).

According to Sankhala (2007), general methodology involves both qualitative and quantitative methods with various interactive techniques that ensure that each data set added to the credibility and significance of each other. This view is consistent in line with Billig et al. (2003), as he points out that the two paradigms are regarded as complementary and that many researchers are supportive in using both of them in research studies. Menter (2011) elaborates further that the qualitative approach needs to be codified in order to turn observation into numbers. The coding may comprise of the source of data, such as school or informant or a particular data source (Dwyer et al., 2012). Nonetheless, it is essential to understand that coding the qualitative data usually involves significant subjective judgment (Fraenkel et al., 2011).

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This study entails two parts, namely questionnaire surveys and case study. Based on the research questions, the content and the items of the research instruments include questionnaires as focus group discussion will be constructed. In respect to the literature analysis and the existing scales of inclusive education, the questionnaire will be constructed. Stakeholders, which includes the teachers, parents, principals and other specialists, will be requested to participate in the focus group. Questionnaires will be designed for different stakeholders, such as principals, students, parents of the SEN students, teachers and parents of the regular students. The review of the questionnaire will be essential to certify the correctness of the questionnaire and identification of problems, such as use of uncommon terms, clarity and the sequence of the questions are appropriate (Hartas, 2010).

The target population of this survey will be the stakeholders of the integrated education, and they will comprise of approximately 1.096 schools including over 300 primary schools and 213 secondary schools, excluding special and international schools. Although it is not a random sampling method, the context is comparable to some large-scale international studies. The selected school will be invited to have different stakeholders to fill in different questionnaires versions. This will include principals, teachers, professional, and parents of the SEN students, the SEN student and parents of the regular students. This study will focus on the research problems and the feasibility and desirability of implementing the integration and inclusive education policy for the SEN in Hong Kong context.

Data Collection Instruments

Questionnaire, interviews and document analysis will be used in the collection of the required data. The questionnaire provides a good way to collect information quickly and cheaply provided that the researcher abandons questions that are superfluous to the main task. The questionnaires will be distributed to the targeted population sample in Hong Kong. Furthermore, interviewing will be used to collect context-based data. Interviewing of key informants, such as professionals, educators, principals and government department workers, will provide invaluable data regarding the policy issue of SEN students. It is apparent that interviews yield a wide range of responses hence forms an important instrument of data collection. In addition, document analysis will be essential in order to obtain documented evidence regarding the topic of study. The documents include government green and white papers, commission reports and pamphlet used in promotional of vocational training for the disabled.

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Data Analysis and Interpretation

The analysis and interpretation of the data demands care and a very sophisticated analysis method. Nonetheless, since the scientific observation needs to be objective without personal bias, the research will be objective with the use of interviews, questionnaire, case studies and rating scales. For simplicity purposes, the use of statistics in the study will be limited to a few simple measures, such as average, mean and percentages. The outcomes of the study will be interpreted in respect to the defined objectives and research questions, as well as international publication on the SEN policy issues in other countries.

Significance and Possible Outcomes

There has been a steady trend in exploring, forming concepts and trying out applicable strategies and policy framework in an attempt to enhance inclusive education for students with special educational needs. The policy makers and the frontline professionals have significantly increased their awareness of the requirement to fulfill individualized needs of all learners in Hong Kong. However, Hong Kong has received massive complaints from the UNCRC and the media due to poor support and policy in special needs education systems, especially in comparison to other Asian countries. This study will significantly point out weaknesses and needs for intervention in the Hong Kong SEN education policies. The study will provide Hong Kong with a reflective tool that paves the way for changes and reforms in the integration policies being implemented in Hong Kong. Furthermore, it will provide evidence based recommendation derived from the views expressed by the affected stakeholders regarding the factual needs of integration in the presence of diversified special education needs.

This research study will reveal that integration may be unpopular in Hong Kong context under the existing full education system. Furthermore, unlike other developed and developing nations, Hong Kong does not face nay poor provision of education, racial abuse and ethnic minority. Furthermore, it is expected that integration may fail to become accepted by the mainstream school in Hong Kong due to inadequate provision of resources and facilities and appropriate prior SEN training for teachers. Furthermore, the number of qualified principals and teachers in the institution of inclusive education is unsatisfactory. It is also expected that the teachers and other professionals lack adequate knowledge about inclusion of SEN students in the mainstream education system.

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