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Why Hong Kong’s millions in extra funding will make little difference to kids with special needs

  • The government is putting greater emphasis on students with special educational needs by pledging more funding, when it should be training more teachers in catering for different learning needs
PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 December, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 December, 2018, 8:03am

I would like to respond to the article, “A third of Hong Kong children have special educational needs – and the city is failing them” (November 2). Jason Li Mau-wah and other special-needs children should never have been placed in such a situation. Although government officials claim to be putting greater emphasis on nurturing special-needs children and providing them with better access to education, their measures are more about financial aid than teacher training. Officials are not deploying resources in the best way, even as more teachers battle frustration when handling special-needs children in their classrooms.

The Education Bureau has set a goal for at least 15 to 25 per cent of teachers in ordinary schools to complete a basic course in catering for diverse learning needs, and the classes are always full. On the Bureau’s website, all the basic classes are full until June 2019. Does the government not notice the high demand for such classes? Teachers with a Bachelor of Education degree or a postgraduate diploma in education have received limited training in special-needs education, but are only told to be patient with special-needs kids. No wonder stories like Li’s happen.

As for the financial aid, sure, the government is supporting schools with students who have special educational needs, while also setting guidelines on curriculum. But are the schools following the policy? While some schools actively employ related coordinators and educational psychologists to oversee kids with special educational needs, and prepare folders about different special needs for teachers, other schools simply receive the subsidies, which may benefit none of the children with special needs.

This is especially true of renowned schools which focus on elite training, and where special-needs children are often ignored by teachers, or even isolated.

In her policy address this year, the Hong Kong chief executive proposed to upgrade the post of “special educational needs coordinator” to promotion rank in ordinary schools in the public sector with a large number of such students. However, there aren’t actually enough well-trained professionals to do the job in Hong Kong, and the quality of such coordinators would definitely be difficult to maintain.

It is foreseeable that the proposed additional funding of HK$800 million (US$102 million) will ultimately make no difference to the kids.

Adrian Tsang, Taikoo Shing