Senate Bill No. 1732 / Committee Report No. 272
Inclusive Education for Children and Youth with Special Needs Act
March 19, 2018 at 3 o’clock in the afternoon
Session Hall, Senate of the Philippines, Pasay City
Delivered by HON. WIN GATCHALIAN, Senator of the Republic:
Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, good afternoon to you all.
Nakasaad mismo sa ating Saligang Batas na ang pagkakaroon ng kalidad na edukasyon sa lahat ng antas ay sagradong karapatan ng bawat Pilipino, anuman ang kanilang pinagmulan, pananampalataya, kalagayan, o katayuan sa buhay. Kaya nga, ikaw man ang pinakamahirap sa lipunan, o namumuhay ka ng may karangyaan, lahat tayo ay may pantay-pantay na karapatan na magkaroon ng sapat at dekalidad na edukasyon.
Unfortunately, human experience has taught us that ensuring equality of rights between the haves and the have-nots in any society is not as simple as writing lofty ideals onto the sacred papyrus of the Fundamental Law. The rights of those to whom the cosmic shuffle of cards has dealt a weaker hand must be promoted and protected with special care by the State, through the passage of innovative legislation, the crafting of responsive policies, and ultimately, decisive government action. As aptly put by President Ramon Magsaysay: “He who has less in life should have more in law.”
Mr. President, with this in mind, it is my pleasure to co-sponsor a bill which seeks to give much more in law to those whose God-given uniqueness makes the promotion of their right to education all the more urgent – Child and Youth With Special Needs, or CYSNs.
Senate Bill No. 1732, known for short as the Inclusive Education for Children and Youth with Special Needs Act, defines CYSNs as those “with specialized needs in education and exceptionalities who differ from the neurotypical children and youth in neuropsychological characteristics, sensory abilities, neuromuscular or physical characteristics, and social attributes to such an extent that the use of modified school practices or specialized education services are required to develop them to maximum capability.”
Although this definition includes gifted or talented children who are not properly nurtured by available resources at school, the true focus of the bill is on children and youth with disabilities.
According to the 2010 Philippine Census, there are 535,761 youth with disabilities aged 0-29. This is only a fraction of the estimated 5.5 million CYSNs nationwide, as reported by the DepEd way back in 2005. Of these millions of children, only 4.8 percent – or 264,000 – were receiving appropriate educational services at the time. Unfortunately, this number hasn’t grown much over the past decade. As of School Year 2015-2016, there were only 350,000 enrolled students with special needs at the elementary and high school levels, combined.
The significant discrepancies in the numbers indicate that we are facing a difficult challenge in identifying and assessing children and youth with special needs, and integrating them into the formal education system. We have to remember that census data is self-reported data. The head of the household can only report what he or she knows. Only clear cases of disability, like when the child is suffering from pronounced physical impairments, or when their intellectual disability is extremely obvious, will be reported. But more nuanced learning disabilities that would escape the untrained eye will go unnoticed and unreported, unless the child has already been professionally assessed and diagnosed. Unfortunately, based on the data, it seems that proper assessment and care for CYSNs is the exception rather than the norm.
Sa madaling sabi, Mr. President, napapabayaan po ang ating mga CYSNs dahil sa mga kakulangan sa kasalukuyang sistema na hindi po makasabay na tugunan ang kanilang mga pangangailangan sa edukasyon dulot ng kanilang natatanging kalagayan.
Mr. President, this pivotal piece of legislation seeks to solve this problem by mandating the establishment of Inclusive Education Learning Resource Centers – more commonly known as SPED Centers – in all DepEd divisions where a SPED Center does not currently exist. These Centers will be responsible for assessing CYSNs, in order to evaluate developmental domains and specific areas of concern and determine appropriate services and placement options.
Based on this information, the CYSNs will work with teachers, administrators, non-teaching personnel, and parents to provide the appropriate services – both within and outside the classroom – to help these students learn and grow. This includes providing access to speech, occupational, and physical therapy, as well as other resources and learning aids tailor-made to match the specific needs of individual CYSNs.
Most importantly, the Inclusive Learning Center will be responsible for case management and monitoring. This means that they must take a pro-active approach to ensure that the individualized interventions being taken for each individual CYSNs are helping them make progress in learning, social interaction, and other areas of focus.
Dahil dito, ang mga kabataang mayroong special needs ay matututukan at magagabayan upang maging masigasig sa kanilang pag-aaral, at makausad sa susunod na grade level — maging sa mga susunod pa — hanggang sa makakuha sila ng nais nilang degree sa kolehiyo. Hangad nito na maipabilang ang mga CYSN sa lipunan sa pamamagitan ng pagkakaroon ng sapat na oportunidad upang magtagumpay at magkaroon ng makabuluhang kinabukasan.
Mr. President, I wholeheartedly support this bill because I have seen first-hand the big impact that this kind of project can have on CYSNs and their families. In January 2016 the Valenzuela City Government opened the doors of the Valenzuela Special Education Center, a state-of-the-art locally-funded institution that offers world-class therapy and educational services to Valenzuela children and youth with special needs – all completely free-of-charge.
Sa pamamagitan ng ValSPED, mayroon nang access ang ating mga CYSN sa Valenzuela sa mga pasilidad at suporta mula sa gobyerno na matagal na nilang inaasam. Ang mga batang ito, maging ang kanilang mga pamilya, ay namumuhay ngayon na puno ng saya at pag-asa.
Mr. President, I am hopeful that the passage of the Inclusive Education for Children and Youth with Special Needs Act will have the same impact in communities across the entire country. It is high time for the government to take a concrete step forward in promoting and defending the right of all Filipinos to quality education at all levels – especially for those with special needs – by immediately approving this bill. Therefore, I am honored to join the worthy principal sponsor of this bill, Senator Chiz Escudero, and the other sponsors and authors in championing this most noble advocacy.
Mr. President, thank you.