Disability Segregation in an Age of Inclusion: Navigating Educational Pathways through Special Education Schools in Contemporary China


Luce/ACLS Early Career Fellowships in China Studies – Long-Term


Educational Leadership and Policy


Children with special needs are by and large judged unfit in mainstream Chinese schools focused on academic performance. While China embraces disability inclusion, segregated special schools continue to exist and gain ever-stronger state support in recent decades. There, children with disabilities are isolated from regular school peers and grow up with stigma and bleak employment outcomes. Pairing archival and ethnographic research in two special schools in Guangdong Province, this study is among the first to empirically evaluate the mechanisms and ramifications of segregation in special education in China. It challenges the global inclusive rhetoric as a one-size-fits-all solution, and illuminates special schools as transient spaces of marginality and potentiality in today’s China.