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LCQ 9: Assistance provided to students with special educational needs

    Following is a question by the Hon Leung Kwok-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Professor Arthur K C Li, in the Legislative Council today (November 8):


     In seeking assistance from me, parents of children with Down's Syndrome and handicapped children who go to mainstream schools have pointed out that both the Government and the schools have not provided them and their children with appropriate support. There are even restrictions that discourage them or carers from taking care of their children at school. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council of:

(a) the numbers of children with Down's Syndrome and handicapped children in Hong Kong at present, as well as the respective numbers and age distribution of such children going to mainstream schools and special schools;

(b) the number of complaints received by the authorities about such children being bullied and discriminated against in mainstream schools in each of the past three years; whether schools are required to report such cases to the Government, and whether schools are provided with guidelines for handling such cases; if so, of the details of the guidelines; and

(c) the financial support currently provided by the authorities for such children who study in mainstream schools; whether it will consider requesting schools to allow parents and carers of these children to take care of them at school to help them overcome learning difficulties and minimise cases of them being bullied and discriminated against by their peers; if not, of the reasons for that?


Madam President,

(a) Down's Syndrome is a cause of intellectual disability.  All along, children with Down's Syndrome are put under the category of intellectual disability and no separate figure has been kept particularly for these children.  Based on the enrolment figures in September 2006, the distribution of children with disability (i.e. intellectual disability, hearing impairment, visual impairment or physical disability) in public sector schools is set out in Annex.

(b) The Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) conducts a survey annually to collect from mainstream schools the information on discipline and guidance (including bullying) cases.  Schools were not required to indicate whether the cases involved students with special educational needs in the past surveys.  Starting from the 2005/06 school year, EMB has requested schools to specifically indicate whether the victim is a student with special educational needs when a bullying case is reported in the survey.  The data collection and processing of the 2005/06 survey is in progress.

     In December 2005, EMB conducted a special survey on those primary and secondary schools which had reported bullying (physical) cases in the 2004/05 survey in order to further study the nature of these cases, including whether students with special educational needs were involved.  Four schools reported that the victims were students with special educational needs, involving a total of five students (four secondary and one primary).  The survey did not capture breakdown figures on the types of special educational needs.

     As regards complaint cases about discrimination against students with special educational needs in mainstream schools, only one complaint was received by EMB in the past three years. After investigation, it was found that the complaint was basically due to the parent having different views from the school on the support arrangement of his/her child in the school.

     EMB adopts a "Zero Tolerance" policy on school bullying.  A circular is issued annually to remind schools to adopt positive measures to ensure that students are safe at school.  EMB has also provided guidelines to schools on the prevention and handling of bullying cases - a resource package entitled "Co-creating a Harmonious School" was developed in 2004 to enhance teachers' awareness and knowledge of bullying at school and the skills to prevent it and intervene; and a pamphlet for parents on "Help Your Child Develop a Harmonious Relationship in School" was also published in 2004 to promote harmonious relationships at school.  The resource package and pamphlet were distributed to all primary and secondary schools and had been uploaded onto the EMB website.  

     To enhance school personnel's capability in managing the related problems, EMB has also organised Certificate Courses on guidance and discipline, workshops, seminars and district networking for teachers as well as school guidance and discipline personnel.  These activities cover topics such as "Prevention and strategies in managing school bullying", "Ways in dealing with students' emotional and behavioral difficulties" and "How to collaborate with parents and Police in handling school violence".

     On discrimination against disability, EMB issued EMB Circular No. 33/2003 in December 2003 to remind schools to observe the principle of equal opportunities and comply with the anti-discrimination ordinances.  EMB has also uploaded some common examples and reference materials on adopting the principle of equal opportunities in school administration onto the EMB website. In addition, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has issued a Code of Practice on Education in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Ordinance.  Schools may browse the EOC website to have a better understanding of the frequently encountered problems and important cases.

(c) Under the existing arrangements, should students need financial assistance, their parents may apply to the Student Financial Assistance Agency for school fee remission or financial assistance under the School Textbook Assistance Scheme or the Student Travel Subsidy Scheme. EMB is committed to implementing integrated education and providing adequate education opportunities for students with diverse learning needs to help them develop their potentials.  Schools admitting students with special educational needs are provided with extra resources and manpower so that they may employ additional teachers and support staff.   Professional support in the form of on-site services on assessment and advice from specialists (including educational psychologists and speech therapists), school-based teacher development, networking support from special schools, development of learning resources and experience sharing is also provided for schools so as to help them adopt the whole school approach in catering for students with special educational needs.

     In principle, parents' support and involvement would facilitate the integration of children into their schools and help enhance their learning effectiveness.  We consider that parents accompanying their children with special educational needs to attend school may not necessarily be an effective way to provide educational support. However, we encourage parents to communicate with the school so as to work out the most appropriate arrangement for their children, taking into account the children's individual needs.

Ends/Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Issued at HKT 15:38