Senate of the Philippines

Senate OKs bill establishing services for learners with special needs

Mara Cepeda
'This is a major step forward in ensuring that learners with disabilities are not left behind in the basic education sector’s better normal,' says Senator Win Gatchalian

The Senate approved a bill that aims to ensure equal opportunities for learners with special needs.

Voting 23-0-0 on Monday, May 31, senators passed on third and final reading Senate Bill (SB) No. 1907 or  the proposed Instituting Services for Learners with Disabilities in Support of Inclusive Education Act.

If passed into law, SB 1907 would require each city and municipality to put up at least one inclusive learning resource center (ILRC) for learners with special needs. All existing special education centers would then be converted into ILRCs. 

These learning centers would be tasked to deliver free services in support of inclusive education, including linguistic solutions for deaf learners’ concerns, speech-language pathology and audiology services, physical and occupational therapy, counseling and rehabilitation, and medical and transportation services.

The Department of Education (DepEd) would be mandated to set the minimum standards for compliance for ILRCs and to provide non-monetary incentives to local government units to establish and improve the services and facilities of these learning centers.

ILRC personnel should include guidance counselors, teacher aides, persons who are qualified to teach sign language or braille, para-teachers, learning support aides, and other persons to be deemed by DepEd qualified to teach learners with special needs. 

Each ILRC would have to implement a Child Find System, under which learners with special needs who are not receiving basic education services are identified, located, and evaluated so they can be included in the general basic education system in the country. 

Must Read

[WATCH] Surviving the Shift: Distance learning and special needs

[WATCH] Surviving the Shift: Distance learning and special needs

Senator Win Gatchalian, who sponsored the bill as chair of the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, thanked his colleagues for supporting SB 1907. 

“This is a major step forward in ensuring that learners with disabilities are not left behind in the basic education sector’s better normal,” said Gatchalian.

DepEd had to shift to a distance learning system last school year to comply with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive for schools to delay face-to-face classes until a coronavirus vaccine becomes available.

But the new system has been a huge burden for students, parents, and teachers alike, who all have to grapple with finances affected by quarantine policies and lack of access to gadgets and fast internet access. 

Distance learning is a bigger challenge for special education teachers, who now have to figure out how to best teach students with special needs in a remote set-up.

The House already approved its own version of SB 1907 in December 2020. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.