Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Sparks fly over special needs kids

DISPUTE Teachers said in response to complaints from parents that they were hampered by a faulty education system for pupils with special needs

By Jenny Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Parents and teachers of students with special needs yesterday exchanged heated words at the second of two public hearings on proposed revisions to the Special Education Act (特殊教育法).

While parents complained that teachers were not properly qualified, special educators said that they were victims of a dilapidated education system.

"The current law only protects the teachers' right to work; it does not guarantee the students' right to an adequate education," said Cheng Shu-yuan (鄭淑媛), a mother of a child with special needs.

Cheng, who is also chief operating officer of the Kaohsiung-based Little Suns Parents of Special Needs Children Association, said that parents have limited channels to voice their dissatisfaction with teachers because the Teachers Review Committee was "made up of their own people."

Another parent said that many children with disabilities were being overlooked under the current system.

"In 2006, only 2,139 students out of 5.2 million school-aged children were identified as having a disability. However, according to the international standard, special needs students usually comprise 3 percent to 12 percent of the total student population. If that's the case, it means that last year alone, more than 120,000 children in Taiwan were completely overlooked," said Tsai Mei-hsin (蔡美馨), the mother of a child diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The massive loophole, Tsai said, was largely the result of having undertrained teachers who have insufficient knowledge of various types of disabilities.

The teachers, while agreeing with parents that the nation's special education system was being mismanaged, said that they were also victims of the poorly run system.

Lily Shieh (謝曼莉), chairwoman of the special education school committee under the National Teachers' Association, said special education teachers were often neglected by the system because Taiwanese society placed more emphasis on cultivating child prodigies than training children with special needs.

"Without adequate support from the administration, special education teachers are forced to do everything on their own, from teaching to cleaning up after their students. On top of that, teachers have to file a tonne of paperwork while trying to communicate with the parents," she said.

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