Inclusive Education for Children and Youth with Disabilities

Current status

The current status of the Inclusive Education Bill in Senate is in the Committee of Education, Arts and Culture sponsored by the Chairperson himself, Senator Chiz Escudero. Senate Chiz Escudero gave a sponsorship speech on the floor introducing the first draft of the Inclusive Education Bill. Through further consultations and advocacy campaigning, he will be introducing amendments before the Congress ends.

In House of Representatives, the Inclusive Education Bill has not move forwarded from the Committee of Basic Education and Culture. A bill was consolidated and authored by House Representative Villarica.

There are 1.4 million persons with disability (PWD) that comprise 1.57% of the 92.1 million Philippine population (2010 CPH). One of five (20%) PWDs are school-aged children and adolescents aged 5-19 years, of whom children aged 10-14 years (7.2%) constitute the largest proportion across the different age groups.

A study commissioned by the Disability Rights Promotion International (DRPI) and the National Federation of Organizations of People with Disabilities in the Philippines in 2008 showed that the rights of a disproportionate number of PWDs across the country were regularly violated. They face discrimination and other barriers that prevent them from full social participation, immediate access to health services, inclusion in the educational system, and gainful employment.

Numerous research studies showed that social and physical barriers have a huge role in disability making PWDs disabled by society other than by their bodies, thus shifting the view of disability from a “medical model” to a “social model” (WHO, 2011). Consistent evidence, Article 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CPRD) describes person with disabilities as “those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”

Similarly, the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (WHO ICF) defines disability as a “complex, dynamic, multidimensional, and contested.” It “understands functioning and disability as a dynamic interaction between health conditions and contextual factors, both personal and environmental” (WHO, 2011). The ICF adopted the “bio-psycho-social model” representing “a workable compromise between medical and social models. Disability is the umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions, referring to the negative aspects of the interaction between an individual (with a health condition) and that individual’s contextual factors (environmental and personal factors).” (WHO, 2011)

This shift in perspective shaped policy direction globally and in the country. The Philippines, as a member-state of the United Nations, reaffirmed the world Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons in the promotion of full participation and equalisation of opportunities for PWDs. This paved the way for the enactment of Republic Act 7277 or the Philippine Magna Carta for Disabled Persons in 1992. The law identifies and provides for the rights of PWDs, including the right to quality education. The law also ensures the protection of this right and the prohibition of discrimination against PWDs.

The country also signed and ratified UN CPRD in 1998 and became the 23rd country that committed to fully implement the provisions of the Treaty. The Convention states that PWDs should be guaranteed the right to inclusive education at all levels, regardless of age, without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity. Specifically, State Parties should ensure that:

  1. children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education;
  2. adults with disabilities have access to general tertiary education, vocational training, adult education and lifelong learning;
  3. persons with disabilities receive the necessary support, within the general education system, to facilitate their effective education; and
  4. effective individualized support measures are put in place to maximize academic and social development.

States Parties should take appropriate measures, such as:

  1. endorsing the learning of Braille, alternative script, augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication and orientation and mobility skills, and facilitating peer support and mentoring;
  2. supporting the learning of sign language and promoting the linguistic identity of the deaf community;
  3. advocating that education of persons, particularly children, who are blind and/or deaf, is delivered in the most appropriate languages and means of communication for the individual; and
  4. employing teachers, including teachers with disabilities, who are qualified in sign language and/or Braille, and to train education professionals and staff about disability awareness, use of augmentative and alternative modes and formats of communication, and educational techniques and materials to support persons with disabilities.

What is Inclusive Education?

The adoption of an Inclusive Education (IE) approach in the heart of the country’s educational system is mandated by the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the Child and Youth Welfare Code (PD 603), the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act (RA 7610), the Early Years Act (RA 10410) , the Enhanced Basic Education Act (RA 10533), the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons amended by RA 9442 (RA 7277), and the Policies and Guidelines in Special Education. In the same manner, the country is signatory to international documents adopting IE such as, the UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child (1989), World Declaration on Education for All (1990), Incheon Strategy to make the Rights Real for PWDs in Aisa and Pacific, and the UNESCO Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education (1994).

At the core of IE is the fundamental human right of the younger generation to education. Inclusion in education is viewed as “a dynamic approach of responding positively to pupil diversity and of seeing individual differences not as problems, but as opportunities for enriching learning.” (UNESCO, 2005).

Inclusion is seen as a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing exclusion within and from education. It involves changes and modifications in content, approaches, structures and strategies, with a common vision which covers all children of the appropriate age range and a conviction that it is the responsibility of the regular system to educate all children. (UNESCO 2005)

UNESCO Guidelines for Inclusion has also identified the four (4) key elements of inclusion:

  1. inclusion is a process;
  2. inclusion is concerned with the identification and removal of barriers;
  3. inclusion is about the presence, participation, and achievement of all students;
  4. inclusion involves a particular emphasis on those groups of learners who may be at risk of marginalization, exclusion or underachievement.

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