BEIJING, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- China will ensure that at least 90 percent of children with visual, hearing and intellectual disabilities get free primary and middle school education by the end of 2016.
According to a plan on improving education for learners with special needs, there will be more investment, more infrastructure, more quality teachers and new special education curricula.
The plan was mapped out by seven departments, including the education, civil affairs and finance ministries, based on nationwide inspections and surveys.
"Despite obvious development in recent years, our special education work in general is still at a low level and suffers from regional imbalance," said an Education Ministry statement accompanying the plan.
Compulsory education only covered 71.9 percent of disabled children by the end of 2012, while 99.5 percent of eligible children without disabilities are in primary education and 98 percent in middle school.
According to the plan, the special education budget for each student will be increased to 6,000 yuan (991 U.S. dollars), or eight times the per capita budget in standard schools over the next three years. The figure currently stands at 2,100 yuan.
The plan also advocates even more financial support for disabled children from impoverished families.
The three-year plan stipulates that children with special needs should attend the nearest possible standard school. Special education skills should be incorporated into standard teacher training and higher education institutes may not refuse admission on the basis of disablity.
According to the document, authorities at county-level should have specific teaching plans for every individual disabled child of school age but who have not yet started schooling -- roughly 80,000 children.
Children with less serious disabilities are encouraged to go to the same schools as their fully able peers. Those with more severe issues will either go to special schools, or, in the most serious cases, be taught at home by professional teachers.
Stressing the dual functions of knowledge and rehabilitation in special education, the plan does not ignore the preschool education for the disabled and encourages special education schools to provide necessary rehab exercises for students.
Fang Junming, professor with the preschool and special education college at East China Normal University, said the preschool period offers the optimal rehabilitation and education chances for disabled children, and improved preschool teaching will help raise the overall level of the country's special education cause.
Fang called for more attention to vocational education to help disabled people blend into society more easily.
According to the Education Ministry, government departments will review the progress of local authorities in improving special education as well as the implementation of related policies.