Child rights advocates commended the House of Representatives Friday for passing House Bill 8080 or the Inclusive Education bill on second reading.
Child Rights Network CRN, the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislation in the Philippines, thanked the House for passing the bill on Dec. 2, a day before the International Day of Persons with Disabilities celebrated worldwide on Dec. 3.
“We thank Congress for jumpstarting and widening the public conversation on the plight of children with disabilities (CWDs),” CRN said. “We hope that the coming year will open more avenues towards nurturing the future of Filipino children,” it added.
The HB 8080 institutes a wide range of services for learners with disabilities (LWDs) in support of inclusive education and establishing inclusive learning resource centers in all school districts in the country.
The bill defines LWDs as “children and youth with intellectual or learning disabilities, mental, emotional or behavioral disorders, speech and language sensory impairments, autism, long term physical or health disabilities, deaf blindedness, and multiple handicapping conditions, which, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others and are in need of special education as well as services for rehabilitation.”
If passed into law, HB 8080 would significantly address the limited access to public education of the majority of the 5.5 million LWDs reported by the Department of Education (DepEd).
HB 8080 addresses striking factors that lead to the exclusion of LWDs from education, including the lack of a disability-friendly learning environment in most schools, lack of proper materials and facilities, and even the discrimination that LWDs experience while in school.
CRN said that one of the highlights of the bill is the landmark recognition that LWDs need to be mainstreamed in regular age-appropriate school settings with the provision of needed supplementary aid and “in order to prepare them to live as fully functioning members of society.”
“This is the heart of the principle of inclusive education: that special education for LWDs should mean them being integrated in regular educational environments, so as not to alienate them from their peers, like what is happening in the prevailing ‘special class’ setups,” CRN said.
CRN noted that HB 8080 cited that this should be done as far as possible, “except in instances when education cannot be facilitated satisfactorily even with the use of supplementary aids and services due to the nature of the disability.”
CRN noted that while it is a welcome development, the passing HB 8080 will only address one of several gaps that need to be urgently addressed to protect and nurture CWDs, especially as the current COVID-19 pandemic made life more difficult for them.