August 24, 2013
Professor Kirsten Sandberg
Committee on the Rights of the Child
United Nations

Dear Professor Sandberg,

It was indeed a privilege to have the opportunity to meet with you and Dr. Maria Herczog on August 22, 2013 to talk about the problems of education faced by the children with special educational needs and disabilities in Hong Kong. I hope the meeting has helped you and your colleague to better understand the real situation faced by the special needs children and their families in Hong Kong.

Our organization, SEN Rights, is a newly formed NGO by a group of parents and family members of children with SEN and disabilities. We are not only part of the SEN communities, but we also come from a range of professions: law, education, educational psychology, social work, architecture and services. Our aim is to promote the equal rights of SEN and disabled students to quality education. One of the purposes is to monitor the implementation of the relevant UN Conventions in Hong Kong, in particular, Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), as well as Articles 23, 28 and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). To this end, we put forward concrete legislative, policy and educational reform proposals.

We understand that the Hong Kong SAR Government has given its own account of the education policy for SEN and disabled children in paragraphs 455-467 of the Second Periodic Report (May 2012) to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. However, SEN Rights is not convinced that the Government has already fulfilled its obligations under UNCRC in this regard. We already made our verbal representation in the meeting on August 22. We feel obliged to reiterate our recommendations in writing.

In response to the Hong Kong SAR Government’s Report, we urge the Committee to consider the followings:

1. Measures should be taken by the Hong Kong SAR Government to establish a proper personality of SEN and disabled children in law and policy, as the basis of provision of assistance, aids and care to ensure effective access to education and training as stipulated in Article 23 UNCRC.
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2. The Government, in making policy, shall give due consideration to the needs of SEN and disabled students so that education is directed to the development of the child’s fullest potentials, regardless of having special needs or not. (Article 29 UNCRC) Depending on the situation, the right to education protected by UNCRC shall be read in association with the provisions in UNCRPD to give flexibility (e.g. age limit) so as to serve the higher purpose of individual development.

3. The Government shall make a right-based, child-centred, Comprehensive Inclusive Education Policy to replace the present ill-conceived and problematic “Integrated Education Policy”. The ultimate purpose is gear towards the spirit and purposes of UNCRC. Such policy shall include, but not limit to, these components: timely diagnostic identification of special educational needs; provision of adequate support services; a curriculum framework aiming at developing the full potentials of the all children (including those with SEN); a comprehensive summative assessment system that fairly indicates the achievements of a child with SEN; information dissemination and updating for the child, parents, carers, teachers and related parties; ensuring mechanism of parents’ participation; effective resources allocation and coordination; sufficient training for teachers; and equitable and parallel life-long learning opportunities. A policy as such will serve the purpose and provisions of Article 28 UNCRC and Article 24 of UNCRPD.
We sincerely hope that our views can be brought to the Committee on the Rights of the Child for consideration in reviewing the Hong Kong SAR Government’s Second Periodic Report and making recommendations.

Yours sincerely,
Maria Wong
SEN Rights, Hong Kong