An "inclusive educational system" should include programs for children with special needs, a senator on Wednesday said, as he filed a bill which seeks to broaden the country's special education (SPED) system.
Senate Bill 3002, dubbed the "Special Education Act," will institutionalize SPED in all public and private elementary and secondary schools nationwide, Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate committee on education, arts and culture, said in a statement.
"The time is right for some sweeping reforms to take place. We miss out on a golden opportunity if we fail to capitalize on the momentum for change, especially in making our educational system more accessible," Angara said.
If enacted, the measure will create a Bureau of Special Education, which will be tasked with formulating and administering a curriculum appropriate for children and youth with special needs.
At present, SPED is the province of Department of Education's Bureau of Elementary Education as its Special Education Division.
The bill will also mandate school divisions to put up at least one SPED Center and at least three in big school divisions.
These centers, which will hire an educational psychologist, a social worker, an education supervisor and a city or municipal health officer, are tasked to provide support to the regular schools in the form of trainings, teaching materials and assessment services.
"The proposed measure will also give authority to the Department of Education to collaborate with either public or private agencies in setting up and administering the SPED Centers," Angara said.
He added that rules on public-private partnerships for SPED centers will also be outlined.
Citing DepEd figures, Angara said Filipino children with special needs totaled 5.4 million in 2010, representing 13 percent of the country's child population.
Around 4.2 million of this total are either blind, deaf, mute, handicapped or are challenged with conditions like autism, Angara said.
Around 1.2 million, meanwhile, are considered gifted, having demonstrated superior academic performance; high levels of creativity and motivation, or talent for leadership and organization. creative and motivated; or have the talent for leadership and organization.
"Gifted or disabled, they are our special children," Angara said.
"They have needs so specific and specialized, modified schooling practices and special services are necessary for them to enjoy the full benefits of education," he added.
Bills aimed at improved SPED have already been filed both in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
These include Senate Bill 3226 filed by Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano last June, which aims to increase SPED funding.
Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino, meanwhile, filed House Bill 3379 dubbed the "Free Special Education Act" in September 2009.
Fourteen early winners in the party-list race have been named Friday even as the protracted count of votes continues.