House okays bill on special education centers in public schools

A measure mandating all public schools to have learning centers for children and youth with special needs was approved on third and final reading.

Principally authored by Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas, the House Bill 9104 got 170 votes, no negative votes and no abstention.

The bill seeks to institute inclusive education and establish inclusive learning resource centers for children and youth with special needs (CYSNs) in all public school divisions.

“Children have a right to education regardless of any difficulties or differences they have,” Vargas said.

CitingDepartment of Education (DepEd) records, Vargas said that only 2 percent of the 5.49 million children with special needs (CSN) are getting government assistance and 97 percent of 7 to 12 years old children are not in school.

There are some parents who tend to keep their CYSNs out of school because of fear that their children may be subjected to bullying and discrimination, Vargas added.

To address the problem, the measure mandates all public school divisions of the DepEd to establish an Inclusive Education Learning Resource Center for CYSNs, where there are no existing Centers.

The Center shall function as the learning resource center that shall assist in promoting inclusive education and in capacitating regular school to effectively handle the needs of CYSNs.

With this, an Inter-Agency Coordinating Council on Inclusive Education (IACCIE) shall be created to undertake the functions such as develop and set criteria on Individual Educational Programs; implement appropriate and coordinated programs in health and related physiological and psychological health services, multidisciplinary domains, transportation and accessibility for CYSNs;  initiate change and act as source for information for the benefit of both CYSNs and regular students;  constitute and authorize a multidisciplinary body to conduct an annual audit to determine the compliance of the Centers;  document, monitor and assess the performances of the Centers and their personnel; and  coordinate and disseminate information with partner agencies and local government units (LGUs).

The bill mandates the DepEd as the lead government agency responsible for its implementation to ensure inter-agency coordination and integration of services among school systems, early intervention programs, and mainstreaming of CYSNs in the regular classroom set-up.

To help fulfill the provisions of the Act, the DepEd and other concerned government agencies shall coordinate and enter into cooperative agreement, arrangement or contract with other agencies, institutions or organizations.

The bill provides that there shall further be Child Development Centers (CDCs) designed for pre-school children and their parents where early identification of special needs as well as introductory educational and intervention programs shall be administered.