Headlights on full beam: disability
and education in Hong Kong
This chapter explores differences in the ways disability and failure at school are conceptualized in Western and Eastern societies. Particular reference is made to the former British colony of Hong Kong, where strong elements of European and Chinese cultures have converged to influence the shape of public policy responses to disabled people. It is shown how the colonial period installed a conservative mid-twentieth century Western model of special education in Hong Kong, based on notions of personal deficiency, segregation and rehabilitation. Reasons are suggested why Hong Kong's policy makers persist with a 'medical' model of disability and continue to expand segregated schooling at a time when the rest of China has adopted a policy of inclusive education. It is suggested that the postcolonial period will bring opportunities for policy change, and care must be taken that these initiatives are not subverted by traditionally orientated interests.
If the public schools can be considered as a vehicle for the
advancement of a just society, then special education should be
viewed as its headlight.
(Hong Kong's Board of Education 1996: 2)
How segregated schooling is viewed by policy-shaping groups such as the Board of Education is important for Hong Kong, because special education remains the major local education policy response to youngsters identified as disabled. The call for special education to be considered as lighting the path