17 September 2013
Sen. Pia vows to pass Special Education Act
Senator Pia S. Cayetano has committed to work for the passage of the proposed “Special Education (SPED) Act of 2013,” which seeks to give children with special needs better access to quality basic education.
At a public hearing held on Monday, Cayetano said the objective of the proposed legislation is to address gaps in the current system to ensure that children with special needs would not be left behind, even as the basic education sector undergoes major reforms.
“We will consolidate the proposed measures into one SPED bill, which we hope will pass the 16th Congress,” added the senator, referring to the nine bills for consideration of the joint committee panel.
“I was actually surprised to find out at the hearing, based on the inputs of SPED advocates, that this several versions of this very important measure have been filed, re-filed, but remained unapproved since the 8th Congress.”
Cayetano, the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture, pointed out that there are currently just four SPED schools, all located in Metro Manila, which cater to young students with particular conditions.
These include the Philippine School for the Deaf and the Philippine National School for the Blind which are both located in Pasay City, Jose Fabella Memorial School in Mandaluyong City, and the National Orthopedic Hospital School for Crippled Children in Quezon City, she noted.
It was also revealed at the hearing that of the 192 school divisions of the Department of Education (DepEd), there are only 381 SPED centers spread out across the country. These institutions serve 239,569 students (aged between five to 25 years old) who are handled by 6,121 SPED teachers.
But of the 6,121 SPED teachers, less than a fourth (1,400 teachers) have SPED teacher position items. “These means that the rest may be getting lower pay, because as the DepEd representative had said, SPED teacher items are higher by three salary grades compared to regular teacher items,” Cayetano explained.
“We should consider various ways to support our teaching complement, such as the inclusion of more SPED teacher items in the DepEd budget, and tapping the parents of SPED students to become teacher assistants or volunteers,” she suggested.
Among the issues raised at the hearing is the question of “inclusive education.” A group of instructors from the University of the Philippines argued that SPED students would be better trained if they integrated and taught alongside regular students in regular schools, instead of being segregated in special schools.
Another is the issue of “early intervention,” which was emphasized by representatives from the Department of Health (DoH) and the Philippine Medical Association. Both said the condition of children with special needs, if detected early (at age 0-5 years old), would have better chances of being addressed and rehabilitated even before these children enter school age.
A third issue concerns the proposal to create a separate Bureau of Special Education under the DepEd. But the proposal could be off-timed as the department’s structure is undergoing review and rationalization in line with DepEd’s K to 12 Program.
Cayetano said these and other issues of contention will be further discussed and hopefully resolved in succeeding hearings and technical committee meetings of the joint committee panel.
The hearing was also attended by Senators Nancy Binay, JV Ejericto and Sonny Angara, as well as representatives from the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD), private school owners, and non-government support groups such as the Autism Society of the Philippines and the Early Childhood Care and Development Council. #
PHOTO: Senate education committee chair Sen. Pia Cayetano is joined by Sens. Nancy Binay and JV Ejericto at the initial public hearing on various bills on Special Education.