MANILA, Philippines - Some 5.49 million children with special needs (CSNs) in the Philippines stand to benefit from the proposed Special Education Act of 2010 if Congress will ratify the bill this week. The Department of Education (DepEd) is urging the House of Representatives to act on it after the Senate passed its version early this week.
“The passage of this bill will be the 14th Congress’ parting gift and lasting legacy to the Filipino people since this will finally give due attention to the education of 5.49 million children with special needs and people with disability (PWD) in our country,” said Education Secretary Mona D. Valisno.
According to DepEd, there are 5.49 million CSNs in the Philippines representing 13 percent of the total population of children. Of this number, an estimated 4.2 million are PWDs (persons with disabilities) while 1.27 million are gifted children.
Children with special needs are those who are autistic, gifted or talented, mentally retarded, visually impaired, hearing impaired, orthopedically or physically handicapped, learning disabled, speech defective, or with behavior problems.
They also include children who encounter health problems under the formal educational system.
A child is considered to have a need to train in a special education (SPED) center if he differs from the average child based on mental characteristics, sensory abilities, neuromuscular or physical characteristics, social abilities, multiple handicaps, or has a developmental lag.
Valisno said only 2% of Filipino children with special needs receive support from the government. In other countries, such children get 100% support from the state.
Special Education Act
Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Miguel Zubiri authored and sponsored Senate Bill 2020, while Reps. Dodo Pingoy Jr. and Monica Louise "Nikki" Prieto-Teodoro authored and sponsored House Bill 6750. Both houses have passed their respective versions but the House has to concur with the Senate version for the bill to become law.
The Special Education Act will pave the way for the creation of a Bureau of Special Education along with existing bureaus of elementary, secondary, and alternative learning. It will also call for the creation of at least one SPED center in each city and province.
The new bureau will formulate an appropriate curriculum and developmentally-suited programs to achieve functional literacy for all children with special needs, said Education Assistant Secretary for legislative liaison Jonathan Malaya.
Under the bill, the DepEd will prepare a scheme for financial and medical assistance, including nutritional programs, to poor but deserving CSNs. It will also draw up incentives to encourage the private sector to take part in the education and rehabilitation of CSNs.
Malaya said that the bill will be a quantum leap for the special education sector because a large majority of this sector have not yet been provided with appropriate educational services.