Amid the celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the administration to ensure that learners with disabilities are not left behind in the education sector’s recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gatchalian said this entails the effective implementation 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.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education likewise reiterated the urgency of increasing enrollment among learners with disabilities, which remained far from pre-pandemic levels as of last school year. Based on the Department of Education’s data as of March 14, 2022, there were 126,598 learners with disabilities enrolled in DepEd schools for School Year (SY) 2021-2022, 65% lower than the 360,879 recorded for SY 2019-2020.
During the budget deliberations for the 2023 national budget, Gatchalian pushed for the allocation of funding for DepEd’s Special Education program to ensure that learners with disabilities will receive support. To ensure that all regions in the Philippines will have a model Inclusive Learning Resource Center (ILRC) for Learners with Disabilities, Gatchalian proposed to increase the budget of DepEd’s capital outlay for SPED from P96 million to P160 million.
Gatchalian also vowed earlier this year that he will move for the conduct of regular and conscientious oversight of the law’s implementation. Pursuant to the law’s policy of inclusion, Gatchalian said he wants to see all public and private schools ensuring equitable access to quality to every learner with disability, such that no learner shall be denied admission on the basis of disability.
Under Republic Act No. 11650, ILRCs are mandated to implement inclusive education programs and deliver free support services to learners with disabilities, including language and speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical and physiotherapy, provision of qualified sign language interpreters, and other similar services, aids, and actions that facilitate the learning process.
The lawmaker added that in the long run, the government should meet the target to build at least one ILRC in every school district, city, or municipality, which the DepEd shall build in coordination with local government units.