Tag Archives: Bhutan

Turning Four!

Not everyone is still willing to give persons with disabilities a chance four years after The PWD Forum came about.

In Indonesia for instance, disability is still regarded as a punishment from God. PWDs must be exorcised, tied up at the back of the house (dipasung), confined to a small hut in the backyard, or tied at the wrists and ankles to a tree or heavy log. Disability is also seen as a matter of fate so there is little empathy for PWDs for whom ‘nothing can be done’.

As such, PWDs are excluded from most governments’ planning and support. In Bhutan in particular, its educational policy lack inclusive policy guidelines resulting in unequal opportunities.  Taiwan, on the other hand, has only programs for PWDs with “mild” conditions and the curricula just followed what is being taught in preschool classes.

In South Africa, teachers lack skills and knowledge. In South Korea, teachers know no culturally relevant curricula. In Malaysia, teachers are unprepared in terms of emotional acceptance and technical skills.

It is no wonder then that PWDs are still berated when seeking employment or at work; employers would definitely incur costs from hiring PWDs. Educating them alongside non-PWDs  would not be an easy feat especially that the term ‘inclusion’ itself has no fixed definition even in the western countries from which this concept was realized.

There are also parents who do not understand the meaning of inclusive education till now. Thus, the parents are still anxious with their children attending mainstream schools. Even governments are not sure what the concept really means and how it could be relevant within the local context.

If PWDs and non-PWDs study together, though, there would be no need to build exclusive educational institutions. Adjustment may also come naturally. Maricel Apatan had not been a burden anyway when she was studying a two-year course in Hotel and Restaurant Management in Cagayan de Oro City. She was even hired as a pastry chef at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel in Manila.

A polio victim, Marc Joseph Escora, had managed his training at the Negros Occidental Language and Information Technology Center (NOLITC) in Bacolod City. Blind, Safiya Mundus had graduated from the Eusebio C. Santos Elementary School.

The PWD Forum could just imagine what else could have happened had Arnel Navales Aba, Godfrey Esperanzate Taberna, Emilia Malinowska, Jose Feliciano, and Mohamed Dalo finish school. Townsely Roberts had at The College of the Bahamas with an associate degree in Accounting and Computer Data Processing in 1995. Gary Russell had, too, at the same college with an associate degree in Law and Criminal Justice then at the University of Buckingham for his bachelor’s and master’s.

It was from his blind father that former interior and local government secretary Jesse Robredo learned discipline. Protecting the integrity and honor of one’s family is of highest importance, his father had said, and children are expected to contribute their share in doing that. So Jesse launched the “Fully Abled Nation,” a program seeking to increase the participation of PWDs in the coming 2013 Philippine midterm elections, roughly three months before he died in a plane crash.

“Hopefully, one day, the notion behind “persons with disability” be somehow erased from the world’s vocabulary and usher-in a day when technology, private & public organizations, and the law work together to give each person equal rights and opportunities, regardless of the person’s impediment.” ~ Atty. Mike Gerald C. David

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Jozelle Tech

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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 Bhutan

Bhutan has two policies ruling children with disabilities and special needs in the country: the Standards for Inclusive Education and the National Education Policy. Everyone with physical, mental and other types of impairment will be able to access and benefit from education alongside others.

In 2015, the small Himalayan country best known for its unique principle of Gross National Happiness has transitioned its educational system from being monastic to a public institution in the 1960s. It has devoted about seven percent of its gross domestic product to education, to enable free education up to the tenth grade.

Seven years ago, there are over 3,300 children with immediate special learning needs in Bhutan (UNICEF, 2008). The Individual Education Plan (IEP), which was particularly framed to assist learning of those disabled and diverse educational needs children was also still not implemented. That changed when the UNDO and GNHC formulated the National Disability Policy of Bhutan last January 5, 2016. They based it on international standards such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A day short to a year after—January 4, 2017—they finally endorsed the standards for inclusive education

Prior to that, in 2001, the Changangkha Lower Secondary School was established as an integrated school providing special needs education. The Drukgyel Lower Secondary School.also put up a Deaf Education Unit in 2003. Three more integrated schools were set up in Mongar, Samtse and Zhemgang by a division under the Department of School Education that started as a unit only in 2000.

Bhutan believes that “education has become the inalienable right of all Bhutanese,” therefore, in its developmental philosophy, persons with disabilities in the country have to “enjoy equal opportunities in all walks of life.” Even those with physical, mental and other types of impairment can access and benefit from education as well (Education Sector Strategy 2020). It has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), signed the 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).

Differently-abled people shouldn’t just be given charity, clothes, and food, and left alone. They should be made part of the society, part of the activities. They should be a contributing member of the society and not just recipients.” ~ Sanga Dorji

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Yellow Bhutan

When disaster strikes!

For a country lying astride the typhoon belt, in the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” and in between the Pacific and Eurasian tectonic plates, the Philippines must work on its disaster risk- reduction for people with disabilities (PWDs) now.

And why not? During a conference on disaster- risk reduction in Cagayan De Oro in 2012, it was affirmed that “…PWDs are more vulnerable to disasters than others.” There are about 10 million PWDs in the country, with some 5 million aged 60 years and over and 5 million aged 49 years old and below. There is one PWD in every 20 households in the Philippines, and one in three of them actually heads a household.

But there are no figures to tell how many PWDs suffered in the typhoons, floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis that devastated the Philippines. It is thus necessary that, for the time being, Filipinos—PWDs or not—learn sign language. It is a person’s right to live,  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserted.

Sign language is also beneficial because it could instill awareness about the “social problem” physical disability has come to be1. It is likewise practicable because a PWD-friendly culture in the Philippines could turn the country more appealing to every local or foreign PWD in the cheapest way possible2.

Language and Behavior

Language shapes thinking. It can “profoundly affect” how a person perceives the world, as well as limit or enhance certain events and interactions, according to cognitive scientists and rhetoricians3.

Language can also influence even the most fundamental abilities of human experience. It can mold the way one thinks about many aspects of the world (based on an empirical evidence), being a part and parcel of many more aspects of thought than was previously realized4.

The Philippines’ commitment to disaster- risk reduction then would work better if it would consider teaching sign language in all levels of schools in the country. Remember: a disaster’s severity depends on how much impact a hazard may cause on a society and environment. The scale of this impact, in turn, would vary on what is taught in schools. If every Filipino individual, family, community and institution would learn how to speak in sign language, we could become more resilient to disasters.

“This year, the focus of the International Day for Disaster Reduction is on some one billion people around the world who live with some form of disability.” United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2013

1There are already 36 PWD organizations listed in the directory of the National Council on Disability Affairs to date. Each of them aims to help PWDs in their living, providing seminars and workshops on one hand, and giving wheelchairs, crutches, and hearing aids on the other. Some also would conduct free medical and dental services; administer centers and schools advocating PWD rights; and train deaf high school graduates in computer technology. But a budget airline recently disallowed a “special” child in its aircraft; a first-class city within the National Capital Region (NCR) shut down its school for deaf children; and the textbooks that could let the blind and partially-sighted people to read and write though touch were considered even though they can neither be produced locally nor translated in Filipino.

2There are 650 million PWDs in the world, 49.7 million of them resides in the country with the largest economy in the world to date (United States) while 21,894 lives in the country with a small and least developed economy (Bhutan).

3This is according to a study conducted by Dan Erwin, a specialist in performance improvement who holds a seminary degree (M. Div.) as well as a Ph.D. in communication studies from the University of Minnesota.

4This is according to a research of Lera Boroditsky, an assistant professor of cognitive psychology at Stanford University and editor-in-chief of Frontiers in Cultural Psychology.