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