Children are considered to have special educational needs if they cannot benefit fully from the curriculum provided for children of their age or if they cannot be catered for adequately in an ordinary educational setting. Children with one or more of the following characteristics can be considered as children with special educational needs (SEN children):
- hearing impairment
- visual impairment
- physical handicap
- mental handicap
- learning difficulties
All children, whether or not requiring special educational services, have basically the same needs and should not be distinguished from each other. Therefore, the aims of the special education curriculum should basically be the same as those of the mainstream curriculum in that great emphasis is put on the development of children's potential to the full. Accordingly, children should be exposed to similar experiences, skills, concepts, values, etc. However, the means to achieve these aims may be different and the rate at which to achieve them may also vary according to the abilities of individual children.
1.2.1 General Aims
The general aims of the special education curriculum are:
(1) To help the children achieve personal development according to their individual differences.
(2) To prepare the children for living and functioning in their homes, the neighbourhood and the community.
(3) To develop in the children study skills, a positive study attitude and good study habits for self-learning or for further studies.
(4) To develop in the children work skills, a positive work attitude and good work habits for vocational training or for work.
(5) To help the children achieve as much independence as possible and become contributing members of the community.
1.2.2 Specific Aims
For purposes of practical curriculum planning, these general aims may be broken down into the following specific aims:
(1) Aims Related to Intellectual Development
(a) To help the children make sense of their environment and construct within their minds a framework of knowledge.
(b) To develop in the children a positive attitude towards learning.
(c) To develop in the children lively, enquiring minds and to encourage in them independent thinking and rational judgements.
(d) To help the children acquire, generalize and apply knowledge and skills in daily life and to train them in habits of rational thinking with all its components, e.g. observation, systematic information gathering, analysis, synthesis, deduction and induction.
(2) Aims Related to Communicative Development(3) Aims Related to Social and Moral Developments
To develop in the children the ability to express their thoughts and feelings through speech or other modes of expression.
(a) To help the children acquire social skills, learn to make friends and co-operate with others.
(b) To help the children acquire social and moral values and to develop in them a sense of responsibility, respect and tolerance for others, including their views, beliefs and ways of life.
(c) To help the children understand the interdependent nature of individuals and the world.
(d) To encourage the children to participate actively in different kinds of activities and to contribute to the school and to society.
(4) Aims Related to Personal and Physical Developments
(a) To foster in the children self-esteem, self-confidence and a positive, realistic self-image.
(b) To provideperceptual motor training for the children.
(c) To encourage the children to pursue physical and recreational activities.
(5) Aims Related to Aesthetic Development
To foster in the children imagination and creativity and to develop in them an appreciation for beauty.
This Guide aims to provide heads and teachers of special schools and special classes with a general curriculum framework to accommodate the learning needs of SEN children and is written with the majority of these children in mind. As schools differ in terms of the abilities and learning needs of their children as well as resources available, they should tailor the centrally designed curriculum to meet the abilities and learning needs of their children, taking into account the givencurriculum aims and
broad areas of learning. One way to adapt thecentrally designed curriculum is through the development of a school-based curriculum. To facilitate this development, support from the head of school and co-operation among the staff are indispensable for sharing of knowledge and experience. Regular channels of communication such as case conferences, staff seminars, bulletins, informal discussions, etc. should be established to facilitate such sharing. It is also important that initiative and participation should be encouraged at all levels, whether at the level of the head of school, panel co-ordinators, teachers, or other professional staff concerned, to develop curriculum materials to supplement the centrally designed curriculum. Another way to adapt the centrally designed curriculum is through the development of Individual Educational Programmes (IEP). Children have individual differences and therefore individual learning needs. To meet these individual learning needs, teachers are encouraged to design, where feasible, IEPs for their children, based on assessment given by all those working with these children and in collaboration with their parents. An IEP ensures that a child receives teaching materials specifically tailored to meet his individual learning needs. It is a programme whereby he can work on appropriate tasks over a period of time at his own pace under motivating conditions. In designing an IEP for a child, a number of factors should be considered: his level of development in the ,motor cognitive,psychological andeducational aspects, his previous learning experience, his special environmental needs,his special educational needs, etc.
The Special Education Co-ordinating Committee (SECC) was established in September 1988 under the Curriculum Development Council (CDC). It comprises of representatives from the Education Department, the University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Institute of Education, the Vocational Training Council, heads and teachers of special schools and a head of school with intensive remedial services. In effect, the SECC taps the expertise and experience of a cross-section of the special education sector in Hong Kong so that comprehensive and objective views can be ensured. Various working groups and subgroups with co-opted members from related professions have also been formed to assist in curriculum development.
(Curriculum Development Council was restructured in September,1999 and the Special Education Co-ordinating Committee is renamed as Committee on Special Educational Needs.)
The first task of the SECC is to formulate and review educational aims for SEN children. The next task is to design a series of curriculum guides for specific categories of SEN children. Heads and teachers of special schools and special classes and all those concerned with the education of these children may refer to these guides for specific advice on the teaching of different categories of SEN children.