Implementation of Inclusive Education in Hong Kong: Effective or Ineffective at This Stage

Implementation of Inclusive Education in Hong Kong: Effective or Ineffective at This Stage

The 1995 White Paper on Rehabilitation Policies and Services is an important milestone for an increasing awareness of equality among persons with disabilities and ordinary people. The White Paper strengthened rights for persons with disabilities to share equal opportunities with ordinary people in the education sector and reinforced the importance of launching inclusive education (Hong Kong Information Services Department, 2011). Since then, there has been a greater concern and demand of inclusive education. According to the Office for Standards Education in the United Kingdom (2000), an inclusive school is defined in this way,:

‘An educationally inclusive school is one in which the teaching and learning
achievements, attitudes and well being of every young person matters.
Effective schools are educationally inclusive schools.’ (reference no.235, p.4)

Inclusive education has been carried out in Hong Kong since 1997(HKEDB, 2010). Although inclusive education has been launched for 14 years, it is likely that inclusive education is carried out ineffectively in Hong Kong at this stage due to its incomprehensive corresponding means. This essay will focus on students which suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and inappropriate classroom organizations, the lack of special education teachers, and school cultures that hinder inclusion will be discussed.

The size of classrooms and the teacher to student ratio are not suitable for inclusive education in Hong Kong. Under the small class teaching policy, a class size of at most 25 pupils can be adopted for those primary schools participating in small class teaching, while for the rest of the government-funded primary schools, a class size of at most 30 pupils can be adopted starting from 2009 (LegCo Panel on Education,2008). Although the class size is contracted, the teaching environment is still unfavorable to inclusive classroom as it is hard for a teacher to take care such a large number of students, in which includes one or more students with disabilities. Alexander and Hunter (2004) also suggested that there should be fewer than 20 pupils in each inclusive classroom (as cited in Scruggs and Mastropieri, 1999). A survey conducted by Pearman et al. (1997) to investigate the appropriate class size suggested by teachers and the results revealed that a class with 19 or fewer number of students was most preferable (Alexander and Hunter, 2004). The data collected reveals that a great class size creates a discouraging learning environment to both teachers and students, as a great class size increases difficulties for teachers to control the class and students cannot receive the best education.

Teachers equipped for teaching students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are insufficient, and this is another enormous barrier that obstructs the implement of inclusion. Migyanka (2006) suggested that special education teachers should be designated to each inclusive classroom at any time. However, there are not enough trained teachers as it is not compulsory for teachers to attain professional development courses. Under the 5-year teacher professional development framework formulated by Hong Kong Education Bureau, only one teacher with specialized skills in teaching students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is required for Chinese and English subjects respectively in each school (HKEDB, 2007). The Education Bureau overlooks the fact that it is possible for a school to enroll more than one special needs student in different grades or classes. In this case, the problem of insufficient special education teachers arises. Teachers without special training may find it difficult to handle mixed-ability classes so the overall teaching quality may hence drop due to inappropriate teaching approaches or methods. This is unfavorable to both the ordinary and special needs students.
Academic performance orients school policies, and hence the acceptance of inclusive education decreases since some schools believe that inclusive education lowers teaching qualities. Education in Hong Kong is exam-oriented, so quite a number of schools are more likely to allocate more resources to improving students’ academic performance rather than arranging special services to students with special needs (Dowson, 2000). Dowson (2000) also suggested that since some schools have such a culture, teachers’ anxieties increase once there are students with special needs in their classes as they worry that this may lower the general academic performance of whole classes. Teachers tend to concentrate on middle achievers in the class but not the students with special needs (as cited in Poon-McBrayer, 2004). Schools resist spending times and resources on students with special needs under the exam-oriented cultures, and are less likely to provide students with special needs the same quality of education as ordinary students. This violates the aim of inclusive education- offering general education to students with special needs.

Students with special educational needs have the right and equal opportunity to receive high quality education in regular schools, yet there is some objective factors that hinder the practice of inclusive education. Although inclusive education has been promoted for over 10 years in Hong Kong, government policies, schools and teachers are still not ready for it because the corresponding environment is not suitable for the implementation of inclusive education. Countries such as the United States and Canada have certain experiences in putting inclusive education in practice. It is possible for Hong Kong government to learn from them. Effective inclusive education can be carried out one day once the government eliminates major problems and obstacles.

Alexander, K. & Hunter, R. C. (2004). Inclusion of children with disabilities in general education classrooms. In W. A. Harriott Administering special education: In pursuit of dignity and autonomy (p. 153). Bradford: Emerald Group Publishing.
The Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Education Bureau (2008). Catering for student differencs - Indicators for inclusion. Retrieved from
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Education Bureau (2011). In-service Teacher Training Courses on Special Educational Needs. Retrieved from
Legco Panel On Education (2008, February 29). Small Class Teaching in Public Sector Primary Schools. Legislative Council Paper No. CB(2)1180/07-08(01) , p.2-3.
Migyanka, J. M. (2006). Summary, discussion and recommendation. In Migyanka, J. M. (Ed.), Teachers' beliefs toward inclusion of students with special needs in regular classrooms: A school district case study (pp.184-185). Pittsburgh : Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Education Bureau (2010). Operation Guide on The Whole School Approach to Integrated Education. Retrieved from:
Poon-Mcbrayer, K. F. (2004). To Integrate or not to integrate: Systemic dilemmas in Hong Kong. The Journal of Special Education, 37 (4), 5-6.
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region: Information
Services Department. (2011). Rehabilitation. In Hong Kong: The Facts (p. 1). The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region: Information Services Department.