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Education reform will help disabled

Li Lei
Updated: Oct 13,2021 07:00    China Daily

Authorities will continue to reform higher education and improve employment services in the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period to bolster the presence of disabled people on mainstream campuses and in workplaces, an official said.

The decision came after a "notably greater number" of such students passed the grueling national college entrance exam, known as the gaokao, during the last five-year plan and enrolled at mainstream universities, including prestigious ones, said Xie Hongde, deputy director of the China Disabled Persons' Federation's education and employment division.

A total of 57,477 special needs students enrolled at universities between 2016 and last year, a 50 percent increase compared with the 2011-2015 period, he said.

"We will further strengthen employment services and encourage Party and government organs, public institutions and State-owned enterprises to take the lead in recruiting disabled graduates," he said at a meeting in Beijing with representatives of freshmen who have disabilities.

China has around 2,700 employment agencies targeting the disabled and about 100 disabled job seekers are employed by central and local government departments each year, Xie said.

He said efforts will be made to make vocational qualifications and college English tests more inclusive for disabled exam-takers and increase the supply of on-campus support.

The presence of special needs students in Chinese colleges dates back to 1985, when a medical college in the eastern province of Shandong spearheaded a campaign to recruit applicants with physical disabilities.

More colleges joined the ranks in the decades that followed and bolstered education opportunities for disabled students.

However, the students were usually recruited through a special exam in parallel with the gaokao and had a limited selection of majors.

Students with impaired vision were mostly admitted to study massage and acupuncture, while those with hearing disabilities were enrolled in majors such as music.

Some had problems finding jobs due to workplace discrimination.
Xie attributed the progress to policies rolled out over the past five years, which have seen breakthroughs on many thorny social issues, ranging from curbing rural poverty to improving air quality.

One was a 2017 regulation that specified the "reasonable conveniences" to be made available to disabled gaokao-takers.

They include test time extensions, access to Braille or large character test papers and exemptions from foreign language listening comprehension tests.

Central authorities also designated six mainstream universities during the period to experiment with inclusive education and moved to unify the country's Braille and sign language, which previously varied from place to place.

Xing Yifan, 18, has congenital muscular dystrophy, which leads to muscle weakness, and has trouble sitting upright. He was admitted this year to study information technology at Beijing's prestigious Beihang University, which specializes in aerospace technologies.

Born in Northeastern China's Jilin province, Xing said Beihang was his dream college because he had wanted to be involved in China's space program since childhood.

"I will cherish this hard-won learning opportunity, and strive to increase my ability, put what I have learned to use, give back to society, and realize the value of my life," he said at the meeting with Xie.