Because of the government's "zero-reject" policy, children with special needs can now have access to free public school education. Unfortunately, however, not all of them will be placed in special education programs.
DepEd's 2014 data shows that around 5.49 million Filipino children have special needs. Records show that there were only around 239,000 SPED students enrolled in public elementary schools, with only 6,000 dedicated SPED teachers. That's a ratio of around 40 students with special needs to only 1 teacher. As of 2017, out of 34,000 public schools, the country only has 648 SPED centers or regular schools that have a SPED curriculum - 471 of which are for elementary school students.
Are we doing enough?
In their budget proposal press briefing last year, DepEd has promised to open 81,100 teacher items, with 1,944 being targeted for Special Education. Vice President LeniRobredo has also called for a law that will establish SPED curriculums in all public schools.
Senate Bill No. 1298, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2016 was filed in the senate, which mandates all public schools to have a Special Education Curriculum. Senate Bill No. 1732, the Inclusive Education for Children and Youth with Special Needs Act was also filed in the same year, mandating inclusive education and the establishment of special education centers for children and youth with special needs in all public schools.
Promising. But as of March of this year, both bills are still pending for approval.
The Philippines has come a long way. The state of Special Education in the country have definitely improved over the years. But have we done enough for these children? What about those who don’t have any choice but to enrol in regular classes because their school doesn’t offer a SPED program? What about the parents who can’t afford to send their kids to private institutions that specialize in children with special needs? Until the government gives all SPED students all across the country mandatory access to the kind of education that they need and deserve, as far as we have already come, we still have a long way to go.