Senator Win Gatchalian urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to roll out the Child Find System (CFS) to increase the number of enrolled learners with disabilities.
Gatchalian made this call after the DepEd revealed that it is targeting to increase enrollment among learners with disabilities. The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture has been emphasizing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on learners with disabilities, with enrollment level this school year still far from pre-pandemic levels.
There are 93,895 learners with disabilities enrolled for School Year 2021-2022, 74% lower than the 360,879 enrolled for School Year (SY) 2019-2020. The DepEd also reported a decline in the number of schools where learners with disabilities are enrolled. From 21,270 in SY 2019-2020, the number went down to 13,408.
Child Find was first instituted under DepEd Order No. 72 s. 2009 to locate children with disabilities. Under Republic Act No. 11650 titled “Instituting a Policy of Inclusion and Services for Learners with Disabilities in Support of Inclusive Education Act,” the CFS is defined as a system of identification, location, and evaluation of all learners with disabilities who are not receiving basic education services. The CFS seeks to locate learners who are not more than 24 years old to facilitate their inclusion in the general basic education system.
Gatchalian is the sponsor and co-author of Republic Act No. 11650, which the President signed last month.
The new law provides that the CFS will be implemented by Inclusive Learning Resource Centers of Learners with Disabilities (ILRCs), which will provide support services for learners with disabilities and implement various inclusive education programs. The law mandates DepEd to coordinate with local government units to initially establish and maintain at least one ILRC in all cities and municipalities.
Republic Act No. 11650 also provides that all public and private schools shall ensure equitable access to quality education to every learner with disability, such that no learner shall be denied admission on the basis of disability.
“Kailangan nating paigtingin ang paghahanap natin sa mga kabataang may kapansanan upang hindi sila mapag-iwanan sa pagkakaroon ng magandang kinabukasan,” said Gatchalian.