On August 29, Save the Children and our partners jointly held a conference in Beijing, China to discuss inclusive education. Nearly 200 people gathered to hear stories, share ideas, and watch live art performances by artists with disabilities. Eight speakers, over half of whom are from Save the Children’s inclusive education project areas in Yunnan and Sichuan province, talked about their experience with inclusive education, including students living with disabilities, teachers, a parent, researchers, a journalist and project staff. The event closed with an open discussion chaired by Professor XU Jiacheng, an inclusive education advocate.
One of the speakers was WANG Xingxing, Inclusive Education Project Manager for Save the Children in China. Her talk touched upon the education situation in China now and compared it to 100 years ago. She mentioned, “Nowadays you see how normal and natural it is for boys and girls to learn together in the same school and same class.” But it wasn’t always this way in China.
Before co-ed classes were the norm, many people challenged the idea of boys and girls sharing the same class, let alone the same school. “I hope in the future, as we talked today, the topic of inclusive education will be natural and normal,” said Xingxing, “As long as we work together and form a consensus, inclusive education in China will take root and blossom.”
To quote another speaker from the event, “The more visible and present people with disabilities are in a society, the more inclusive and civilized it is. Children with disabilities should not be hidden at home, nor should they be seen as a social burden,” Professor Liu Shenglin.
All the talks were recorded and will be available to watch online on a platform similar to TED, in mid-September. Also this month, Save the Children in China is launching a cartoon animation about a 6-year-old boy with a mild intellectual disability dreaming to go to a mainstream school.
Save the Children in China started promoting equal rights to quality education for children with disabilities in 2009. Current campaign work focuses on making inclusive education work in practice, including by involving a celebrity and the media to combat negative stereotypes associated with children with disabilities attending mainstream schools.