In 1997, the Hong Kong Government rolled out a pilot scheme on inclusive education, which laid the basis for the prevailing policy, whereby children with severe disabilities attend special schools, while other students with special educational needs (SEN) attend ordinary schools. Recognising that in-service teachers in ordinary schools would require support, The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK) set up the Centre of Special Educational Needs and Inclusive Education (CSENIE) in 2000.
Since its founding, the Centre has made a significant contribution to advancing inclusive training, and in recent years, it has propelled the use of technology to enhance the quality of education for SEN students.
Identifying and filling gaps
Over the years, knowledge of SEN has increased in Hong Kong as a result of the rising prevalence, and advocacy by experts such as Professor Kenneth Sin Kuen-fung, Director of CSENIE and Professor at the Department of Special Education and Counselling. His research on equal learning opportunities under the integrated education system has helped change how SEN services are delivered.
“Through research, we are able to evaluate the current situation and identify gaps. We can then refer to best practices, tap into expertise, and explore creative solutions to chart the way forward,” said Professor Sin. This approach has guided the Centre’s operations over the past two decades. The Centre has indeed come a long way since the days when its main focus was on providing inclusive education training for in-service teachers. As the Centre established itself in the field, schools began approaching the team for professional consultancy services and mentor support. “Through our close collaboration with schools, we created a learning circle that encourages exchange and feedback,” he said. “The experience and insights from the field inform teaching. Moreover, pre-service teachers can volunteer and gain experience first-hand.”
Professor Sin spoke about the Centre’s latest e-learning projects, such as an intelligent robot and Hong Kong’s first e-learning platform for parents and teachers to access and share tailor-made digitised content for SEN students. He pointed out that continuous enrichment programmes for teachers are important, but so are tools to support learning and teaching. He added that these knowledge transfer activities allow the Centre to pilot schemes that fill a gap. Once proven successful, these projects can pave the way for policy changes.
With growing expertise and experience, services have expanded from primary and secondary schools to pre-schools. The Centre has also reached out to Macau and the Greater Bay Area. Currently, the Centre is planning lifelong learning opportunities for SEN school leavers by offering courses at EdUHK, fostering an inclusive campus and enabling the students to develop and show their talent.