What Will Happen To Our Deaf Schools?

from June 2003 Issue of Japanese Deaf News, JFD’s monthly newspaper:

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) Draws Up the Final Report on “Special Needs Education”

On March 28, “The Meeting of Cooperators for Research and Studies on Special Needs Education” drafted its final report on the basic policies concerning education for children with disabilities. The theme of the final report is “(A shift in focus) from places offering education to educational contents to support diversified individual needs”. The report aims to increase educational opportunities within the community, in the context of normalization, giving due respect to the diversified needs arising from severe or combined disabilities and changing situations.

The report aims to maintain the functions of the former specialized education system, while at the same time recommends ways to enable more flexible measures such as the establishment of a consistent counseling system to support children with disabilities and their guardians from infancy until the children graduate from school, the revision of the level of disability for placing children in Deaf schools, etc., provision of a broad range of support to cater for children and students with learning disabilities (LD) and other diversified disabilities. Furthermore, the report stresses the need for education, social welfare, medical, and other related community institutions to offer appropriate support to enable children and students to live independently in the community.

The report also recommends that “special schools for blind, Deaf, physically disabled, and mentally disabled children” be integrated into a single “Special Needs Support School (tentative naming)” to enable children with all sorts of different disabilities to enter school. Also “Special Support Classes” will be established to enable children with disabilities attending regular schools to receive special educational support as well. Under this newly proposed system, Deaf schools and other specialized schools are expected to play a key role in offering “educational support within the community”. The establishment and management of these specialized schools will be the responsibility of local administrations. New projects and undertakings have already been started up in various local communities.

MEXT will present this report for deliberation to the Central Council for Education. It will also propose needed revisions of existing laws at the regular Diet session next year to enable the execution of its contents.

However, some education specialists express fears that the report uses “normalization and community support as an excuse for decreasing the number of special classes for disabled children and decreasing the work force.”

After the announcement of the interim report, the Japanese Federation of the Deaf sent a petition on “The Development of Separate Schools for Different Disabilities”. Specialists on education for disabled children also sent criticisms saying that the interim report “places priority on systematic issues and totally neglects principles and methodologies related to education of children with disabilities.” The final report gives no consideration of such opinions. Those concerned are greatly concerned that the proposed report will lead to the abolition of the Deaf school system and dissolution of the community of Deaf children and students.

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