The government must commit to fully and effectively implement the law on inclusive education for learners with disabilities, Senator Win Gatchalian said.
The senator is referring to Republic Act No. 11650 or Instituting a Policy of Inclusion and Services for Learners with Disabilities in Support of Inclusive Education Act, which he sponsored during the 18th Congress.
According to the 2022 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in the Philippines by the United States Department of State, the law was not effectively enforced and that many barriers remain, including architectural barriers that made attendance difficult for persons with disabilities. Stakeholders and advocates have also lamented the non-issuance of the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) after more than a year since it was passed.
Gatchalian also emphasized the urgency of issuing the law’s IRR since it will provide the minimum services and conditions in the admissions systems and policies of all schools, including the provision of assistive devices, facilities and infrastructure in the admission process, and other forms of reasonable accommodation.
The US Department of State Report also noted that the government lacked a clear system for informing parents of children with disabilities of their educational rights and did not have a well-defined procedure for reporting discrimination in education.
To ensure the progressive realization of the objectives of RA 11650, the crafting of a multi-year roadmap is required to guide government agencies and private stakeholders. The law provides that the multi-year roadmap should contain the current policy, practices, gaps, and challenges affecting the early and basic education of learners with disabilities. It shall set detailed targets and outcomes for a minimum period of five years.
The law mandates the establishment of at least one Inclusive Learning Resource Center (ILRC) for Learners with Disabilities in every city and municipality. These ILRCs are mandated to implement inclusive education programs and deliver free support services to learners with disabilities.
While it may take some time before the law is fully implemented, Gatchalian identified some steps that the government can take. For one, he pointed out that under the 2023 national budget, P160 million is allotted under the Department of Education’s capital outlay to allow each region to convert at least one Special Education Center (SPED) into a model ILRC. This will steadily expand access to inclusive education programs, Gatchalian said.