‘Before the enactment of the said law, learners with disabilities like myself faced a harsh environment, where disability was seen as an inability’
With the recent signing of Republic Act 11650 or the “Inclusive Education Act of 2022,” Special and Inclusive Education has officially been integrated into Philippine basic education. The said signing of law received praises not just from special education experts but also learners with disabilities, and their families and loved ones, since this could give hope to learners with disabilities in gaining access to education.
Before the enactment of the said law, learners with disabilities like myself faced a harsher environment, where disability was seen as an “inability.” We were not seen as people who could learn skills and competencies despite our disabilities – but who couldn’t because of societal obstacles. With the lack of not just understanding but also training, facilities, services, and equipment in handling learners with disabilities in the Philippines, there were several instances in which said learners could barely finish elementary or even high school. Some schools have denied learners with disabilities simply because they couldn’t accommodate said learners.
Being a former basic education learner with disability, I concur with the supporters of the law that the said law is a hallmark for basic education learners with disabilities.
1. Integration of inclusive education in both public and private schools
Like I said, there were instances when a learner with disability was denied access to education by some schools. This was mostly done by private schools especially since they have more autonomy over who and how they select student-applicants. During my Kinder 2 days, my mother had to sign a waiver stating that in case of occurrence of disruptive behavior due to recent developmental delays, I would be forcefully withdrawn from the school in the middle of the school year. Luckily, such disruptive behavior didn’t happen.
This law, however, would finally address our family’s past concern that is a common struggle for most families. The said law would integrate an inclusion policy not just in public schools but also private schools. One example of this is the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The IEP is where both the learner’s parents and the experts design a plan to ensure that the learner with disability could meet the educational requirements needed.
2. Establishment of Inclusive Learning Resource Center (ILRC) in cities and municipalities
In the past, DepEd only mandated at least one SpEd center in all school divisions. However, school districts, specifically some cities and municipalities in each province, organized SpEd programs where identified learners with disabilities were located.
Because of this law, all cities and municipalities should have at least one ILRC. In addition, all existing SpEd centers shall be converted into ILRCs, giving it expanded powers and functions. This would be a relief for families of learners with disabilities in remote areas since learners with disabilities could now go to a school center within their city or municipality and enjoy enhanced services, facilities, and equipment.
3. Having a separate budget allocation
Back before the law was signed, special education in the Philippines was in scarcity. It was due to the fact that despite DepEd’s insistence, the government is rarely assigned for it separately, but instead assigned for it under DepEd’s Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOEs). One of the few instances when the government assigned a separate budget for special education was for the 2020 General Appropriations Act. Despite the fact that its amount was lower than what the DepEd insisted, the said agency still praised the government for allocating a separate budget.
Under the new law, there should be a separate budget allocation for special education, which will be named the Program Support Budget (PSB). The PSB shall be used for the functions of the ILRCS and Inter-Agency Coordinating Council (IACC), and delivery services for learners with disabilities.
What I hope for as a PWD
Such a law is a relief for current and future learners with disabilities, since they will not have to endure the struggles I had once faced or are currently facing. I do hope, however, that disability support services be integrated not just in basic education but also in higher education, employment, and social services.
Develop, our struggle as disability rights advocates should not end here. As advocates, we still must ensure that this law, together with other laws related to PWDs, is properly implemented so that we could live in a society where inclusion and acceptance are tolerated. In addition, we still must speak and act up in case problems arising within the PWD community. – Rappler.com
Ronald G. De Guzman Jr. is a person with autism spectrum disorder with comorbid bipolar disorder. Aside from being a self-advocate disability rights, he is currently a college student at University of the Philippines Baguio where he hopes to pursue research in ethnomathematics.