Raising a child with special needs is difficult not just because of their disabilities. The extra help they need like early interventions, therapy sessions and classes can also become quite expensive. Thankfully, the government has stepped up to address this problem: Special Education (SPED) in the Philippines is getting funds in the 2020 national budget.
Department of Education (DepEd) Undersecretary for Finance Service and Education Programs Delivery Unit Annalyn Sevilla confirmed in an interview that the SPED was given Php107 million in the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA). This is the first time the government has allocated a budget for SPED under the administration of Education Secretary Leonor Briones, the Manila Bulletin reports.
According to Undersecretary Sevilla, Php100 million will be allocated for the MOOE or Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses, while Php7 million will be for capital outlay. However, Sevilla says that the approved funding is still “way below” their original proposed budget of Php500 million.
She adds that the funds “may not be enough” to address all the challenges SPED faces but it “will help us review the policies.”
With the new funding, Secretary Briones is also working on regulating the fees and rates of SPED classes, since majority of those are private institutions.
“Since these are specialized classes, the cost of sending a child with special needs to these schools is really high, it’s expensive,” she said. The Secretary adds that she is pushing for the regulation of SPED rates because most of the services “cannot be afforded by the average Filipino.”
SPED schools employ teachers with a background in special education and who can handle children with special needs. These schools also have individualized education programs (IEP) as well as services like therapy sessions.
Public schools have SPED programs with the supervision of DepEd but Briones says that maintaining the program is difficult due to the rising number of students and low funding. “There has been an increase in numbers because children who were not diagnosed before are diagnosed now,” she explains.
Earlier in January, a study by researchers from the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) emphasized the need for the government to implement more programs and activities that can increase awareness about SPED students.
Another study by Save the Children Philippines (SCP) noted the challenges faced by SPED students, including inappropriate group size, the absence of safe learning environments, and an insufficient budget for inclusive education.
Briones hopes that apart from the 2020 funding, lawmakers can push for a new legislation that would regulate fees and rates for private institutions that offer SPED services. “This will make private SPED services more accessible to students who need it,” Secretary Briones said.
A bill that seeks inclusive education for special needs students in public schools was filed last year in the Senate. Click here to learn more.