Vocational schools introduce special classes

Updated: 2013-10-15 00:30

By Li Wenfang in Guangzhou (China Daily)

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Vocational schools introduce special classes

 Teachers, students and parents take part on the first day of an arts and craft class for mentally challenged students at Guangzhou Haizhu Business Vocational School on Monday. Ye Weibao / For China Daily

Sixteen-year-old Hou Qiren, who has autism, had a new choice this year for continuing his education after graduating from a junior high school of special education in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

He enrolled in a special arts and crafts class with five other students with learning disabilities at Guangzhou Haizhu Business Vocational School, a regular secondary vocational school, where they attended their first class on Monday.

Previously, Hou would have had to apply for a regular class at a secondary vocational school or a vocational class at a special education school.

The first option would mean he had the pressure of a regular curriculum and trying to keep up with his fellow students. As for the second option, only two special schools were certified last year to provide vocational classes in the city, so not many places were available for applicants, according to Qiu Jubiao of the Guangzhou Education Bureau.

Guangzhou is taking the lead among cities on the Chinese mainland in opening special classes at vocational schools to train more students with learning disabilities and enable them to better adapt to society, said Qiu, who works in special education research.

Such a practice is already prevalent in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Qiu said.

Guangzhou Haizhu Business Vocational School is one of three secondary vocational schools in Guangzhou that enrolled enough children with learning disabilities to launch special classes last month.

Thirteen special classes at these vocational schools for children with slight disabilities in Guangzhou called for applications in September, with nine majors including baking, false-teeth making, computer science, community service and management, car care and gardening. The city government provides 100,000 yuan ($16,370) toward launching each special class.

For three years, students in the special class at Guangzhou Haizhu Business Vocational School will take classes on professional skills such as drawing, pottery, cartooning and packaging.

They will also have classes on living skills and applied knowledge, such as social skills, math, computer science and vocational understanding.

Optional classes include knitting, sewing, photography and beading.

The goal is to enable them to better integrate into society and to be able to live independently in the future, said Qu Shaobing, director of Guangzhou Education Bureau.

Each student will have an individual teaching plan because they vary significantly, said Lu Xiaoming, dean of the Visual Communication Department, adding that three of the students are autistic and three have mental health disabilities.

Hou, for example, is skilled at figuring the square roots of numbers, the day of the week of any given date and remembering license plate numbers.

"He is very sensitive to numbers," his mother said.

Chen Tianxing, another student with autism, paints well and his pictures were given to foreign athletes during the Asian Games in Guangzhou in 2010.

After three years, these students should be able to shop at a supermarket on their own, buy products online and process simple graphics on computers when they graduate, Lu said.

The school will work with the civil affairs bureau and disabled persons’ federation in recommending the students for jobs after they graduate, said Yu Shibing, president of the school.

However, even after completing the three years at school, they may still need further vocational training provided by the bureau or the federation to progress into jobs, Qiu said.

A shortage of qualified teachers is the main difficulty in running special classes, Qiu said.

Lu said that since last month, three full-time teachers and some part-time teachers for the class have been receiving training from special education experts, including some from Taiwan.

Lu also sees potential difficulties from the different situations the students experience and their unpredictable emotions.