A bill that seeks to provide free education for children with “special educational needs” has been filed at the Senate.
Senate Bill (SB) 1298 or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) aims to implement “zero-reject policy” in public schools as the bill mandates all public schools in the country to have their own SPED (Special Education) center and program.
The bill filed by Sen. Joel Villanueva also seeks to provide these public schools additional resources for special education including the establishment of SPED centers, hiring of SPED teachers and other SPED services.
Villanueva said all kinds of students, regardless of their status or disabilities, must be in school.
To date, there are 34,000 public schools in the Philippines but only 600 of them have SPED centers and SPED programs.
A study conducted by the World Health Organization says 15 percent of the population in a community have special needs but only 2 percent are being given government support.
Under SB 1298, parental consent must first be given before the conduct of initial evaluation on a child with special educational needs and the use of an “Individual Education Program” or IEP, a unique curriculum designed for a specific disability.
Autism, intellectual disability, developmental delay, orthopedic impairments, deafness and blindness are among the disabilities covered by the measure.
The proposed bill aims to strengthen “mainstreaming” in schools that incorporate children with special needs in regular classrooms.
This can be done through a skills upgrade of teachers, increase of SPED facilities and improvement of SPED programs, according to Villaneuva.
He, however, clarified that it would still be the parents’ call to subject their children to the program.
NEIL A. ALCOBER