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Marching for Filipino PWDs

Even with their limited physical conditions, two persons with disabilities have still tried to let other persons with disabilities live better.

Michael Schreiner, the former head coach of the Thailand National Wheelchair Basketball Team, has headed a sports clinic for 35 PWDS. He used to be an athlete himself when he got into an accident that disabled the lower part of his body. Schreiner has conducted the sports clinic with John Paul Maunes, executive officer of the Philippine Accessible Disability Services (PADS) Inc.

Born with visual impairment, Amalia Decena has advocated for free medical care and treatment to PWDs. She has thought of this upon experiencing a “deprivation” herself: her impairment was only discovered when she was already four years old because her family was not able to bring her to the hospital. Today, she has partnered with the Tahanang Walang Hagdan and the Mabuhay Deseret Foundation to give free operations on the cataract, cleft palate, and club foot. Prostheses devices, canes, and wheelchairs were also distributed for free.

In the meantime, two non-PWDs have expressed support for those with disabilities through adapting the plan of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Office of Civil Defense. Benito Bengzon Jr., undersecretary for Tourism Development Planning of the Department of Tourism (DOT), has pledged to develop infrastructures for a barrier-free travel experience in the Philippines; while Andrew Alex Uy, regional director in the Office of Civil Defense-Cordillera (OCDCAR), has conducted a one-day training on disaster preparedness for the PWDs in Buguias, Bokod, Atok, Kabayan, La Trinidad, Tuba, Tublay, Mankayan, and Itogon.

Disability does not mean inability.” ~ Andrew Alex Uy

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of clnsnts


Pushing for the PWDs’ education

Educating persons with disabilities in developing countries such as the Philippines calls for money and resources. As it is, many developing countries’ school budgets cannot already cover all of the mainstream students that need to be taught.

The teachers there also do not have any special needs training1. The schools’ buildings may not be wheelchair-accessible or the PWDs themselves do not even have wheelchairs. The books may not be enough for the sight-impaired students to share with their classmates without disabilities and the hearing-disabled students may not have the hearing aid resources they need.

Some developing countries deem PWDs to be cursed and, therefore, should be avoided. Educating them alongside students without disabilities could, therefore, present a problem for the parents of the latter.

But educating PWDs and non-PWDs together could let those with disabilities in developing countries fully assimilate into the culture of where they are. It is invariably “a way of giving disabled and special needs students2 access to an education and helping them become accepted into society as full, participating members.”

It is said that the greatest percentage of PWDs reside in developing countries; approximately 80% are in Africa, Middle East, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Some of them are among the countries that ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). This goes without saying that they adhere to inclusion and inclusive education, which is one of the key provisions of the UNCRPD3.

Educating PWDs alongside non-PWDs in developing countries should be considered now so that there will soon come a time that helping PWDs will just come naturally. There would be no need for rules anymore and education for PWDs will cease to be an “unaffordable luxury” or “non-crucial” because of the degree of financial expenditure and human involvement.

Arguably, a lack of education is the greatest disability of all, and these disabled individuals must suffer the deprivations of educational disability along with physical or mental disability.”

1If they do get training, it is based on a special education needs model, where the focus is on separating a PWD from their peers to segregated classes and schools.

2Aside from PWDs, inclusive education also encompasses to heads of households, former child-soldiers, street children, orphans, child prostitutes, and children of war and displacement.

3Article 24 commits State parties to developing an inclusive education system, where disability should not prevent people from successfully participating in the mainstream education system.

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of the ABS-CBN News

Inclusive Education in the Philippines

It all started with a handbook.

The manual, The Handbook on Policies and Guidelines for Special Education, embodied the general principles of special education in the Philippines. It was discussed by no less than the school administrators in the country, as well as the teachers, persons with disabilities, their parents, professionals and community leaders during the 1987 Orientation Conferences in SPED.

Then three more books were disseminated. They were the Handbook on Educating the Gifted, which could guide the organization of SPED programs; the Livelihood Education Instructional Materials for Children with Special Needs, which could improve instruction on livelihood skills for children with special needs; and the Revised Filipino Braille Code, which could become the resource of teachers and volunteers of in-school and out-of-school blind children.

Six years later, the program Basic Education for All was expanded to meet the basic learning needs of disadvantaged groups including the PWDs. Trainers for the special education program was also organized the following year to form the Regional Special Education Council (RSEC).

All divisions were obliged to organize at least one SPED Center during the SY 1997-1998. Among of the aims was to support PWDs so that they can be integrated in regular schools eventually. All districts were asked to organize SPED programs in schools where there are identified children with special needs, too. They would be assisted by teachers and administrators who have had trainings in SPED.

The salary grades for SPED teachers and principals were revised in Republic Act No. 6758 (An Act Prescribing a Revised Compensation and Position Classification System in the Government and for Other Purposes). Financial subsidies were allotted to 103 SPED schools in October 10, 2008; to 207 in February 11, 2009; to 227 in May 17, 2010; to 43 in December 8, 2010; to 276 in September 2, 2011; to 345 in March 21, 2012; and to 153 in April 10, 2012. Instructional materials were also provided in May 17, 2010; August 24, 2011; and January 10, 2012.

In September 28, 1999, those who were physically handicapped were exempted from taking the National Elementary Achievement Test (NEAT) for the grade school level and the National Secondary Achievement Test (NSAT) for the high school level due to lack of facilities, trained facilitators, and testing aides.

SPED in public schools had been strengthened the following month, too, following a study that there are 2% PWDs in any given population. During the SY 1998-1999, in fact, out of the 12,474,886 total enrollments in public and private schools, an estimated 249,497 were PWDs. Only 60,531 of them were said to be “provided with educational services responding to their potentials,” though.

SPED at the secondary level were strengthened a bit later. Then it took sometime before every SPED-related school personnel were trained by the Bureau of Elementary Education (BEE) through the Special Education (SPED) Division in providing formal education to those with mental retardation, learning disability, hearing impairment, visual impairment, autism, and multiple disabilities.

Still, only 2% of the targeted 2.2 million PWDs in the country would go to school. So in July 6, 2009, the Department of Education (DepED) included in its School Improvement Plan (SIP) an education within an inclusive classroom setting.

More or less 200 SPED Teacher Items were distributed to 17 regions that need the allocation more. Then eight months after, the Advisory Council for the Education of Children and Youth with Disabilities (ACECYD) was organized to provide “the official platform for constructive exchange and action planning.”

The DepEd through the Bureau of Elementary Education (BEE) and the Bureau of Secondary Education (BSE) enumerated in September 13, 2013 what disabilities its program can handle as well as how many PWDs only. These “exceptionalities” include autism, behavior problems, learning disability, multiple handicapped, chronically ill, orthopedically handicapped, developmentally handicapped, speech defective, hearing impairment, visual impairment, and intellectual disability. It had also implemented guidelines for the hearing and visually impaired learners in selected regions and divisions interested with the Alternative Learning System for Persons With Disability (ALS for PWD) Program.

“Engaging the participation of every sector is ensuring the delivery of quality basic education for every Filipino learner. We intend to review and fortify every possible partnership to ensure that, at the end of the day, our learners are enabled to move past the limits of their background and to move toward a life of competence and opportunities.” ~ Leonor Magtolis Briones

2018, for inclusion!

Call it cluster sampling if you may, but the summaries previously conducted on 12 countries in this blog have proven the necessity of inclusive education in the world.

Inclusive education refers to the idea of PWDs and non-PWDs alike studying at the same school. Everyone could lead “regular” lives. Everyone could have a chance to appreciate diversity. Everyone could also learn academic and social skills at their own pace within an appropriate environment.

The inability of a country to implement inclusive education till now cannot really be blamed on its economy. While it is true that money is needed to build schools and provide training, a positive attitude is also necessary to achieve inclusive education.

Take for example Kenya, the 40th poorest country based on the assessment of the International Monetary Fund in its World Economic Outlook Database in October 2016. Poor as it is, it has managed to enact the Kenya Persons with Disabilities Act 2003 and specified a solid framework for the development of a truly inclusive education system in the 2010 Kenyan constitution. It has also signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), believing that PWDs and non-PWDs studying together.

Even Bhutan, the 72nd poorest country in the same list, has  signified its confidence on inclusive education through the frameworks Standards for Inclusive Education, National Education Policy, Individual Education Plan (IEP), and Education Sector Strategy 2020. It has also devoted about seven percent of its gross domestic product to enable free education up to the tenth grade.

Of course, there’s still a challenge; inclusive education here is synonymous to letting girls study. But Bhutan has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to get the idea started. It has also signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Millennium Development Goals, the Education for All-Dakar Framework for Action (1994), and the Proclamation of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP) Commission on Disability on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities (2008).

Even the “rich” country Norway would like to let PWDs and non-PWDs study together.1 It has already thought of integrating every student into the ordinary school system even before 92 governments and 25 international organizations met in Salamanca, Spain to talk about inclusive education. Norway also legislated the Education Act2, initiated adapted education3, and established the Institute of Education4.

“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” ~ Ignacio Estrada

1It is the 182nd poorest country of the 187 assessed.

2Learners in the primary and secondary school have the right to go to their local school.

3This train teachers in adapting to different kinds of learners.

4The institute train SPED teachers.

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of educause

Inclusive Education in Taiwan

Taiwan has started moving toward inclusion just last 2014. It conducts regular classes with special education services (inclusive) and resource room programs (integrative) nowadays.

Right after the inclusive education policy has been detailed, Taiwan has made adjustments “that can hinder or exclude students with special educational needs (SEN) with respect to areas such as physical facilities and pedagogic adaptation.”

Taiwan has already set out a comprehensive legal framework for the education of students with SEN. It has emphasized the elimination of discrimination, early identification/intervention, appropriate education for students—termed individual education plan (IEP)—with SEN, qualifications of special education teachers, and funding arrangements for special education.

The Special Education Act in Taiwan was enacted in 1984, amended in 2009, and mandated “zero rejection, inclusive education, and flexibility in curriculum and assessment.” Last 2013, the Annual Report of Special Education Statistics reported that 93.73% of the students with SEN received their special education services in general education schools while the others—the remaining 6.27%—got theirs in special schools ranging from primary to high school levels.

The IEPs must be tailored to each student with SEN. The plan must include information about the student concerned as well as the educational program designed. Students with special needs either have intellectual disabilities, visual impairments, hearing impairments, communication disorders, physical impairments, cerebral palsy, health impairments, severe emotional disorders, learning disabilities, severe/multiple impairments, autism, and developmental delays, among others.

Schools should set up a designated unit to take charge of special education so that students with SEN in Taiwan can enroll in any school nearest to them. They would be assessed by the Committee for Assessment, Placement and Counselling of Students in Special Education (特殊教育學生鑑定 及就學輔導會) in their district. Schools should also provide the students with SEN with educational auxiliary devices, appropriate teaching materials, assistance in learning and living, rehabilitation services, family support services, access to campus, and other support services.

IEP in schools below senior high level would be evaluated by the local authorities in Taiwan at least once every three years, while the Ministry of Education would recheck the local authorities. Each year, Taiwan shall allocate not less than 4.5% of its budgeted expenditure on education to special education while its local governments shall set aside no less than 5% of their education budgets for special education.

In the study “The Implementation of Individualized Education Program (IEP) in an inclusive class, Taiwan, its authors* has found out two things: (1) seat and curriculum adjustment are the key strategies to improve the inclusion for young children with disabilities, and (2) lack of personnel in an inclusive class is the main problem for implementing the functional and inclusive IEP objectives.

The success of Taiwan’s IEP will depend on the ability of the students with SEN to attain its outcomes or goals. It will also require the intensive cooperation between the members of a team in academics and practice.

To date, Taiwan is just working on its teachers’ confidence and capability, curriculum adaptation, peer acceptance, and supporting resources on inclusive education. It is also dealing with the “disruptive behaviors” of its students with disabilities that its schools deemed to be the “toughest challenge.”

“Some people automatically assume blind people are of lower cognitive abilities because of our lack of sight but the truth is that we can do anything despite our limited options. It’s all about the minds.” ~ Lai Jun-hong

*Authors: Tsuey-ling Lee (National Hsinchu University of Education), Mei-ching Chung (National Hsinchu University of Education), I-chun Chiu (Hsinchu Municipal Xi-Men Primary School), Chang-Chun Chiu (Hsinchu Municipal Xi-Men Primary School), Shih-chi Lin (Hsinchu Municipal Xi-Men Primary School)

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of FocusTaiwan

Inclusive Education in New Zealand

New Zealand has two proofs that it cares for the persons with disabilities in the country: the Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ and the St Theresa’s School.

BLENNZ is a Ministry of Education-funded national school that provides educational programs and specialist support services to children and young people who are blind, deaf-blind, or with visual acuity of 6/18 or less. It offers unique immersion courses from its Homai campus in Manurewa to those aged 0 to 21 from all over New Zealand.

Each course targets particular skills and group together students according to age, skill need or eye condition. The specialist teachers referred to as the resource teachers: vision (RTVs) are the ones who assess a child’s needs then team him or her up with the other staff to provide the best support possible.

St Theresa’s School, on the other hand, integrates deaf education and culture into its institution. It also hosts sign language classes once a week (every Monday).

Also known as Aotearoa, New Zealand has begun showing concern for its PWDs in 1877. It has introduced then a centrally funded system of regionally controlled schools for all children from 5-15 years old. Then in 1993, it signed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and has aimed to achieve a world-class inclusive education over the following decade. This was congealed in the New Zealand Disability Strategy in 2001 comprising of 15 objectives­, one of which is about providing the best education for disabled people.”

It was also required by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to promote access, inclusion, empowerment, equality, and the right to education upon its ramification to the agreement in 2008. Disability has nothing to do with the impairments persons with disabilities in New Zealand have, anyway. It is more of the process that happens when the “normal” ones design the world only for their way of living. (Ministry of Health, 2001).

Through the New Zealand Education Act, children with disabilities in the country have been entitled to free enrolment and free education at any state school from five to 19 years old (Education Act, 1989, section 3). They have the same rights to enroll and receive education at state schools as any other child in New Zealand (section 8).

The New Zealand Ministry of Education has also developed the website Inclusive Education: Guides for Schools to support the government’s vision of all schools demonstrating inclusive practices by 2014. It is actually one of the initiatives of Success for All that envisions a fully inclusive education system to result in confident educators; parents, families, whänau and communities.

The goal of educational inclusion is not to erase differences, but to enable all students to belong within an educational community that validates and values their individuality.” ~ Stainback, Stainback, East, and SapponShevin (1994)

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of vanAschTV

Inclusive Education in Malaysia

In Malaysia, persons with disabilities have their own name: “orang kurang upaya.”

They enjoy regulations that define how inclusive education is implemented there such as the National Special Needs Education System of the Malaysian Education Act in 1996 and the Education Regulations in 2013.

The country has already laid out the Malaysia Education Blueprint (2013-2025) to move more students with special needs towards the Inclusive Education Programme (IEP) as well as raising the overall quality of provision. It even provided a guidebook prepared to direct its implementation.

Malaysia’s move towards inclusion was given impetus by its participation in the “The world conference on education for all” spearheaded by the UNESCO last 1990 in Jomtien, Thailand. Then, inclusive education was introduced through the Education Act 1996 as part of the continuum of services available for children with special needs.

As early as 1993, though, the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) has come to offer the pre-service teacher preparation program so that the students can have a Bachelor of Education degree in Special Needs Education. The University of Malaya has also offered a Master’s degree with the integration of disability-related content.

In 2008, the Malaysia’s Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Act was enacted and mandated that government-run and private education institutions are responsible for providing infrastructure, equipment and teaching materials, teaching methods, curricula and other forms of support to enable children with disabilities to pursue education.

To date, the Malaysian primary teachers have a concept of inclusive education as merely placing all children identified by the Ministry of Education with learning difficulties into mainstream classes, either part-time or Rill-time. The teachers were of the view that the structure of primary schools will need to change in order to support the Ministry’s plan, or else the plan itself should be modified.

 “We are Malaysians and nothing can differentiate us as long as we have the heart and hands to listen and express ourselves.” ~ Lovira Jospely

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Tedx Talks