Ordinary and disabled students can study together under a new scheme
By To Shun Kei
Article from the
When little Lau Chun Hin was proved by doctors to be mentally younger than normal children by 6 months, Mrs. Lau was very worried. Her 2-year-old son did not speak at all.
Three years later, Lau Chun Hin still cannot coordinate his eye and hand movements very well. However, his communication ability has greatly improved since he entered the T.W.G.Hs Chan King Har Kindergarten.
The T.W.G.Hs Chan King Har Kindergarten is one that accommodates children with special educational needs in an ordinary study environment.
In fact, the Education Department had never planned to formulate a long-term strategy on integrated education until 1997. Since then, it has launched a 2-year pilot scheme in seven primary and secondary schools.
The scheme catered to the special educational needs of children with different types of disabilities, including mild mental handicaps, hearing impairments, visual impairments, physical handicaps and autistic disorders in children of average intelligence.
Each school admits a maximum of eight pupils with no more than two types of disabilities in order to keep them to a manageable number.
Most of these students do not have any emotional problems, but their ability in communicating and learning are weaker than that of normal students.
According to Ms Cindy Wong Sin Wan, the headmistress of T.W.G.Hs Chan King Har Kindergarten, each of these students has to be proven by doctors that they can attend normal classes with ordinary students.
When we receive the applications of disabled students, we first interview their parents, said Ms Wong.
We want to rebuild the parents confidence by telling them their children can study well and go to ordinary primary schools in the future, she said.
Moreover, we want to have good communication with their parents so as to help the children recover more quickly.
The kindergarten informs all the students and parents about the scheme but does not announce the names of the disabled students.
She explained, We hope those children can lead a normal life and do not get frustrated by discrimination.
However, Ms Wong said that the response was not good at the very beginning.
Some parents were afraid that the teaching pace would be slowed down.
Nevertheless, according to Ms Wong, the attitudes of both ordinary students and their parents has changed in recent years. Most of them have accepted the students and are willing to help them.
A special teacher helps take care of the disabled children in every kindergarten that joined the scheme. This special teacher keeps records of them and compiles individual teaching schedules according to different educational needs of disabled children.
Miss Michelle Lin Wai Heung, the special teacher at T.W.G.Hs Chan King Har Kindergarten, said that each disabled student needs to attend a half-hour individual class with her every day. They will attend normal classes with ordinary children.
For the primary school students who joined this scheme, they attend all their lessons with the ordinary students.
One of the teachers at the evening section of SKH Kei Oi Primary School, Miss Tsang Hoi Ling, thinks that the scheme benefits both disabled and ordinary students.
Said Miss Tsang: Although participating normal classes could not help rectify hearing injury, it improves the communication skills of the disabled students.
Besides, ordinary students could also learn to get along with the disabled.
To evaluate the overall efficiency of the pilot scheme on integrated education, the Education Department and the Hong Kong Institute of Education jointly conducted a survey in early June of 1999.
Eighty-one percent of parents interviewed support the scheme. All principals and 77 percent of teachers interviewed think that integrated education helps students accept individual differences between people.
What the government is doing is on the right track, said Ms Wong. But the idea is not widespread enough. Many parents are still anxious about the future of their disabled children.
Based on the evaluation of the pilot scheme, the Education Department will formulate a long-term strategy for integrated education in coming years.
Disabled and ordinary students study in the same classroom. (To Shun Kei)