Township Community Learning Centre Service for People with Disabilities

Country Profile: China



Poverty (Population living on less than US$2 per day)

27.2% (2013)

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GDP (2006)


Primary School Net Enrolment/Attendance (2005–2010)


Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)

Total: 99.73% (2015)
Male: 99.74%
Female: 99.71%

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over)

Total: 96.38% (2015)
Male: 98.17%
Female: 94.48%

Statistical Sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleTownship Community Learning Centre Service for People with Disabilities
Implementing Organizationthe Lifelong Education and Learning Research Centre of the Chinese Adult Education Association
Language of InstructionMandarin Chinese
FundingCounty/township government of each of the nine community learning centres (CLCs).
Programme PartnersNine community learning centres (Shijiazhuang Luquan Tongye CLC and Pingshan County CLC from Hebei province; Changzhou Chunjiang CLC and Suzhou Wujiang Fenhu CLC from Jiangsu province; Deqing County Zhongguan CLC, Cixi Zhouxiang CLC, Shaoxing Keqiao District Yangxunqiao CLC and Ningbo Jiangbei District Cicheng CLC from Zhejiang province; and Jiading CLC from Shanghai); and local government partners, including the County Education Bureau, the county/township Disabled Persons’ Federation, the County Department of Civil Affairs, and local special education schools.
Annual Programme Costs500 CNY (US $78.10) per learner
Date of Inception2013

Preliminary Note

This case study uses the term, ‘people with disabilities´. However, on occasion – for example in translating the name of a department – the authors have been obliged to use a different term.

Country Context

The Chinese Government has, since the 1990s, introduced a series of policies intended to improve the development of literacy education. The Outline of the Reform and Development of Education, for example, aimed to reduce illiteracy among Chinese adults and young people to 5 per cent by the end of the twentieth century. Indeed, compared with other developing countries, China has achieved a relatively high rate of adult literacy. According to official statistics, by 2013 only 4.6 per cent of adults (aged above 15) in China were without any literacy skills. However, given its total population of over 1.3 billion people, that means there are still more than 63 million people without adequate literacy skills in China, especially in rural, economically under-developed areas and among disadvantaged groups. People with disabilities living in rural areas are among the most vulnerable groups.

Two main reasons explain why people with disabilities living in rural areas are among the most educationally disadvantaged groups in Chinese society. First, many have had limited access to formal education, since most rural communities are not only geographically scattered but also experience living conditions lower than the regional average, which affects people with disabilities more severely than it does the rest of the population. Second, it is difficult for people with disabilities living in these areas to participate in community activities because of the poor quality, or complete absence, of facilities to support their free mobility.

In recent years, the Chinese Government has made additional efforts, in terms of both policy and practice, to recognize and address the educational needs of people with disabilities. For instance, Article 10 and Article 38 of the Educational Law of China state that government and society should provide assistance and convenience for people with disabilities to ensure they have equal access to education.

Programme Overview

To address the needs of young people and adults with disabilities in these communities, and to support the government’s efforts in this regard, the Lifelong Education and Learning Research Centre (LELRC) developed an education programme called the Township Community Learning Centre Service for People with Disabilities. LELRC was created by the Chinese Adult Education Association (CAEA), which has developed long-term partnerships with bilateral and multilateral partners such as UNESCO. Apart from education for people with disabilities, LELRC works in other educational areas, such as adult literacy, women’s development, education for elderly people, education for young migrant workers, education for rural communities, and community development and learning.

A CLC teacher with one of her learnes

A CLC teacher with one of her learnes

In 2011, China’s Disabled Persons' Federation (DPF) undertook a study tour of the living situations of rural residents with disabilities, in which LELRC also participated. LELRC gained a greater understanding of the difficult situation faced by people with disabilities, especially in rural areas, and, in early 2013, introduced the programme in three local community learning centres (CLCs).

LELRC had worked together with these CLCs for the previous ten years and cooperation between the partners was already well-established, giving the new programme a strong foundation and support from local government and communities. . Once LELRC had presented the new programme and the basic implementation requirements, the CLCs analysed their own situation and capacities, and decided whether or not to implement it. The programme uses each town’s existing CLC as the learning and teaching space for implementation The CLCs take lead responsibility for implementing the programme, in partnership with local government institutions, such as the County Education Bureau and the county- or township-level DPF, and community leaders.

LELRC’s main responsibility is to establish programmes in specific rural areas, provide technical support to local implementers and strengthen partnership and cooperation with and among institutions and organizations that work with people with disabilities. LELRC’s technical support includes training key people, including teachers, from local CLCs, providing each CLC with teaching and learning materials, and offering CLCs an advisory service.

At the beginning, the programme was implemented in three CLCs in Zhejiang province. There are now nine CLCs involved, from three provinces (Hebei, Jiangsu and Zhejiang) and one municipality (Shanghai).

Aims and Objectives

The overall goal of the programmme is to enable people with disabilities, especially those from rural areas, to participate equally in all fields of social life by building up their literacy and life skills. Given the broad variety of needs within this group, each CLC has specific objectives which answer the needs of its learners. The overall aims of the programme are to:

Recruitment of Learners

The target group is young people and adults with disabilities living in rural areas. Disabilities include physical impairments and learning disabilities. People with disabilities are identified primarily from national census data. Additionally, each township and village government has a list of people with disabilities in its region. Potential adult learners are informed about the programme by township leaders and CLC teachers, and are encouraged to participate through group meetings with other people with disabilities and home visits conducted by CLC teachers. There is no standard tool or procedure for assessing learners' literacy skills levels before the programme. Rather, adult learners identify their level from three categories: never been to school; unable to read or write; or a very limited level of literacy.

Recruitment and Training of Facilitators

CLC teachers facilitate the literacy programme. They are appointed and paid by the government and their main responsibilities include the delivery of literacy programmes. In each CLC, there are normally seven or eight 8 teachers, though the number varies, with some CLCs having as many as nineteen, depending on the number of learners. All teachers are publicly recruited and most have received tertiary education, which is now a prerequisite for new teachers.

Each of CLC delivers training workshops to its teachers. Content includes: the importance of the adult literacy programme; the distribution of responsibilities; how to select or identify adult learners; what kind of activities can be conducted and how; how to motivate adult learners; potential government partners for the literacy programme; and how to discuss and make future plans.

In addition, each year, LELRC, with other local partners, organizes a training workshop (which lasts one and a half days) for teachers and managers of all CLCs. Key staff from the local education bureau and the local Disabled Persons' Federation also participate. At the workshop, participants learn about the following: the goal and approach of the programme; communication skills and appropriate attitudes in working with people with disabilities; how to become a good working partner of adult learners; and how to motivate learners to participate in community activities. All participants in the workshop share their experiences and discuss the challenges involved in providing better education for people with disabilities.

Baseline Survey and Monitoring

Before the programme begins, CLCs conduct a needs assessment exercise to learn more about people with disabilities living in their towns and villages, using questionnaires developed by LELRC. The collection of data is conducted in two stages:

  1. General information is collected from local census data and/or other government sources. Information includes the number of people with disabilities, types of disability and learners' education background.
  2. Home visits are conducted with some of the target group within a given area. This is done in order to gain a deeper understanding of their living conditions, learning needs and expectations of the educational offer.

Drawing on the results of the baseline survey, and taking into account its own capacity, each CLC plans lifelong learning activities for people with disabilities. Most of the people who participate in these activities are able to manage their daily life and take care of themselves. At present, CLCs are unable to provide a service for people with severe disabilities, who are unable to perform self-care activities independently and need daily supervision and support.

To monitor the programme, each CLC submits an annual report to LELRC and maintains records of the work, including collecting testimonies on the impact of the programme (some can be read below).

Programme Implementation

Although each CLC implements its own programme activities, there are some elements common to all nine CLCs.

Making CLCs more friendly and accessible for people with disabilities

All nine CLCs are equipped with libraries where adult learners can access newspapers, magazines, books (including audio books) and computers with internet connection. In most villages and townships, there is a room with special equipment so that people with visual impairments can enjoy movies. Many CLCs also provide hearing devices and a range of materials to listen to.

Adult literacy programme

A young man with a learning disability in class with his tutor

A young man with a learning disability in class with his tutor

Almost all CLCs offer a regular adult literacy programme aimed at adults who lack adequate literacy skills. However, due to a shortage of teachers skilled in Braille and sign language, only some people with disabilities, mostly those with a physical or learning disability, are enrolled in these programmes. They attend the literacy courses with other adult learners and receive additional individual support from their tutors. In this way, most learners with disabilities are able to keep up with other adult learners in regular literacy programmes.


The teaching curriculum for the adult literacy programme in all CLCs is based on the Guidelines for Designing Curriculum and Developing Teaching and Learning Materials Concerning Literacy Education, issued by China’s Ministry of Education in 2011. According to these guidelines, course modules for literacy education must fall into one of two categories: basic curriculum and localized curriculum.

The basic curriculum is covered in three textbooks focused on different aspects of the skills necessary in daily life:

Both the Ministry of Education of China and provincial education departments have developed specific materials for the basic curriculum, including textbooks. Each provincial education department decides which version of the textbooks should be used in their adult literacy programme.

The localized curriculum is about learning specific knowledge and skills which reflect local circumstances. Indigenous knowledge, traditional culture, and production skills are crucial parts of the localized curriculum. For instance, the CLC in Zhongguan Deqing County (Zhenjiang) uses a curriculum focused on fish-farming, since fish is a speciality of this area. At Ningbo Cicheng CLC, filial piety, or respect for one’s elders, is emphasized. Cicheng literately means ‘the city of filial piety’ and is famous for upholding this virtue.

Teaching methods

Adult literacy courses that use the basic curriculum are mostly delivered in classroom settings to groups of learners. Learners with disabilities receive additional one-to-one tutoring. The localized curriculum is usually taught outside the classroom with participants learning by doing or experimenting. Adult learners are able to gain practical skills, such as growing vegetables, fish farming, animal breeding, massage, cross-stitched embroidery, machine maintenance and repair, bamboo weaving, computer use, etc.

Assessment of literacy skills

There is a standard national examination for the reading and writing courses taught as part of the adult literacy programme. At the end of the literacy programme, all course participants, whatever their learning abilities, have to take the literacy exam. Those who pass receive a Certificate of Literacy from their provincial government.

Entrepreneurship and technical skills training

All CLCs organize technical skills training for people with disabilities. The content of the training is based on the learning needs identified through the baseline survey. The main purpose of the training workshops is to equip this particular group of adult learners with income-generating skills so that, ultimately, they are able to make their own living. The technical training includes:

Culture, entertainment and sports activities

To enrich the lives of people with disabilities, many CLCs organize meetings at which participants can take part in activities such as Chinese chess, ping pong and gate ball. Some CLCs organize movie shows for people with visual impairments. These movies are conventional movies with additional narrations that explain scenes/plot so that the audience better understands the dialogue and scenes of a particular movie.

A group of learners on a local opera singing course

A group of learners on a local opera singing course

Rehabilitation training and special training

Many CLCs also carry out rehabilitation therapy sessions. The aim of these sessions is to enhance the physical and behavioural capacity of people with disabilities. Experts in special education, physiotherapy and other forms of therapy, including staff from nearby special education schools, are invited to deliver lectures and sessions. For example, Ningbo Cicheng CLC has organized both rehabilitation lectures and ‘orientation walking training’ for people with visual impairments.

Community services

Some CLCs organize inspirational lectures for people with disabilities, inviting adult learners who have, in spite of their disabilities, succeeded in finding a job or creating their own business, and in turn serving their communities. The speakers are inspirational role models for adult learners with disabilities and give them motivation to succeed.

In addition, many CLCs offer computer training, health examinations and assistance for the children of people with disabilities. For example, Hebei Pingshan CLC works with local hospitals to organise regular health examinations, diagnosis and treatment for people with disabilities, free of charge. At Jiading CLC and Pingshan CLC, some adult learners have achieved degrees through online and distance courses.

Rehabilitation training on orientation and mobility for people with visual impairments

Rehabilitation training on orientation and mobility for people with visual impairments

Impact and Challenges


Despite the poor living conditions in rural areas, each of the nine CLCs has planned and organized a variety of learning activities and community services for people with disabilities in their areas. In total, more than 5,000 adult learners with disabilities have been involved in and benefited from the programme. Among them, forty learners have completed adult literacy courses, with more currently enrolled.

The joint seminar has led to the establishment of a good professional network among teachers and managers of the nine CLCs. With this foundation, all CLCs are able to improve the sharing of experiences and resources to support the further development of the programme.

Throughout the programme, people with disabilities have had opportunities to participate in activities with other community members, and have been able to build up their confidence and skills they will need to secure a better life. The following testimonies offer a glimpse into these positive changes.

Testimonials from Adult Learners

‘CLC helped me to become literate and provided me with an opportunity to work in a company. Now I am able to financially support my family. I am thankful for their good deeds.’Bo Jinmao, male adult learner.
‘Due to the poverty of my family, I have never been to school. I have gone through numerous difficulties because I cannot read and write. I used to quite often either take the wrong bus or the bus with the wrong direction. I was unable to ask the bus driver, since I could not speak Mandarin. Although I have been to the adult literacy course only for a year, I am able to write my name. When I watch TV, even though I cannot see very clearly, I can fully understand.’ Hong Guifen, female adult learner with slight visual impairment.
‘CLC has taught me new words and numbers. Now I know how to use the telephone [she used to ask for others' help when she had to make phone calls], television and electric rice cookers. Now my life is much more convenient.’ Fei Shuixian, female adult learner.
‘Because I am unable to walk, I used to stay at home the whole day and watch TV. Through the literacy course, I have learned a lot of new words. Now I am going to learn how to use the computer. I will then be able to play cards with others and talk with my son and grandson who live far away from me through the computer. I heard it is cheaper to buy things through the internet. I feel like the rest of my life will be very exciting and colourful.’ Feng Changming, male adult learner.


All nine CLCs are founded and run by the government, and most of them are well connected to their local FPD. However, in some areas, developing an effective partnership between CLC and FPD remains a challenge, mainly due to the poor coordination skills of CLC managers and the divergence in roles and responsibilities among different government departments. If the programme can involve the national-level FPD and obtain its support, the implementation of the programme will be more effective.

Few CLC teachers are specialists in teaching people with disabilities using skills such as Braille or sign language. Up to now, teachers from local special education schools have been the only experts able to offer support in educating people with disabilities. In some areas, teachers from special schools have been invited to deliver training workshops on the rehabilitation and psychology of people with disabilities. However, currently, only some of the project areas have special education schools. Additionally, in rural areas, there is a scarcity of teaching and learning materials, such as audio CDs and materials in Braille.

Lessons Learned

To ensure the expected impact and effectiveness of the programme, work with relavant government departments and other institutions is crucial. In this way, the programme can access more accurate information, and secure more effective support from local government partners in implementing programme activities.

It is also important to build up CLCs’ ownership of the programme. When mangers and teachers in CLCs are more committed to the programme, they are more active and capable in establishing partnerships with other government sectors and working effectively with them.

Considering the scarcity of professional staff specialized in educating people with disabilities, LELRC should play a more active and effective role in providing CLCs with technical support and guidance.


The programme has secured active and effective participation from local government, which was actively involved in planning and actual implementation. At ground level, the county and township CLCs are responsible for planning and carrying out learning services for people with disabilities, and the programme has stable funding from local government, although there is no special government budget line dedicated to the programme. In Zhenjiang province, for example, regulations oblige the county government to allocate four Yuan per capita to adult learning programmes, including this one. In some counties, as an incentive, every adult learner with a disability is offered 480 Yuan for each round of training he or she attends. In others, both CLC and local FPD cover 50 per cent of the fee for learning activities for people with disabilities. Additionally, all CLC teachers receive monthly salaries direct from local government.

Aside from the support of government departments, many community members have become more aware and supportive of people with disabilities. For example, some communities launched campaigns to donate radios or MP3 players to people with disabilities.

The project aims to explore and promote a variety of approaches in order to expand access to community lifelong learning services for people with disabilities. The project is also committed to encouraging more CLCs to help people with disabilities get involved in their communities, so as to improve their quality of life.



Ms Lan Jian
Executive Organizer
Lifelong Education and Learning Research Centre of the Chinese Adult Education Association
Address: 46 Beisanhuan Middle Road, 100088, Beijing, China
Tel.: 010-62367401

Last update: 12 January 2016