Human rights and inclusive
education in China: a Western
In this chapter I shall discuss the meaning and value of human rights and inclusive education from both Western and Chinese perspectives. Although I shall also refer to international contexts for Western and Chinese perspectives, I shall not look in detail at how far rhetoric and diplomacy filter and refract domestic debates for overseas consumption. There are many relevant issues for whose discussion there is no space here: China's relationship with Tibet, the influence of multinational corporations, the globalization of information technology, the length of time it has taken for the UK to pass the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 or China's rationale of 'One country, two systems' in relation to Hong Kong. I am also aware of the difficulty of portraying the complexities and internal variations of contrasting perspectives, whatever the permitted word length.
I shall argue that concepts of rights and inclusion in education have different meanings in different cultural and political settings but that, despite the significance of recent educational reforms, the stereotypic individualism of the West and collectivism of China both present obstacles to the development of education systems in which all students are valued equally and responded to equitably.
I began with the assumption that human rights are universal. For example, everyone shares an equal right to food and shelter. However, as soon as I extended my list to health, education and justice, my idea of an indisputable 'human right' dissolved, as I realized that there could be an infinity of interpretations. Moreover, not only are health, education and justice inaccessible