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Inclusion Education, Barriers and Challenges: The Philippine Experience

INCLUSION EDUCATION, BARRIERS AND CHALLENGES: THE PHILIPPINE EXPERIENCE


The Philippine Womens University JASMS, Quezon City, Philippine

Eden O. Kelemen

INTRODUCTION Special Education started in the Philippines in 1907 with the establishment of the School for the Deaf and Blind which had initially ninety-two deaf and one blind students. Today, the Department of Education has identified other types of children with special needs belonging to various categories such as Learning Disability, Mental Retardation, Behavior Problem, Orthopedically Handicapped, Autism, Speech Defect, Chronically ill, and Cerebral Palsy. As of SY 2007-2008, the enrollment of children with special needs in both public and private elementary school was 92, 429 of which the majority 45 % or 48, 441 were identified with Learning Disability and 13% or 14, 222 with Mental Retardation. In the SY 2006-2007 there were 4, 673 Special Education teachers. There were 151 SPED centers in 2006-2007, 158 in 2007-2008 and 217 in 2008. In the Philippines, the Department of Education (DepEd), believing in the full realization of the potentials and development of children with special needs, has created the Special Education Division under the Bureau of Elementary Education. Its ultimate goal is the integration or mainstreaming of learners with special needs in the regular school system and eventually in the community. It aims to develop the maximum potential of the child with special needs to become self-reliant and to be able to provide him with opportunities for a full and happy life. The Philippines, being one of the signatories of the Salamanca Framework of Action on Special needs of Education, has adopted its principle of equal educational opportunities for all children regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic or other conditions (Salamanca Framework 1994). The 48th UNESCO International Conference on Education held in 2004 had for its theme Inclusion-The Way of the Future. This was attended by heads of education from different governments, the Philippines included. At the end of the conference, they affirmed that inclusive education is fundamental in achieving human, social and economic development. It clarifies that inclusion is about teachers: 1. 2. 3. Recognizing and appreciating the diversity of the learner by maximizing the participation of all pupils/students and developing their potentials. Rejecting segregation or exclusion of learners due to ability. Making learning more meaningful and relevant to all.

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In response to the global thrust of Inclusive Education, the Secretary of the Department of Education issued Dep. Ed. No. 72 s. 2009 entitled Inclusion Rate of Children. It states that SPED in the Philippines has only served 2 % of the 2.2 million children with disabilities and that they live without access to their right to education. As such, the Department of Education will urgently address the problem so that these children will receive appropriate education within the regular or inclusive classroom setting. He came up with a comprehensive Inclusive Program for children with special needs which is divided into the Initial, Transition and Inclusion phases. Furthermore, the inclusion of children with special needs (CSN) in the regular class came about from the idea that to meet the educational needs of these children in the Philippines, inclusive education (IE) will be the most practical solution. However, the implementation of IE may not be that simple because it is bound to face difficulties, setbacks and challenges. BARRIERS AND CHALLENGES Studies and researches have shown that the implementation of IE in the Philippines faces many barriers and challenges despite the full support of the Department of Education. The writer, upon analysis, believes that first and foremost, one of the barriers to its successful implementation could be the lack of clear concept or understanding of the IE. Different policies, experts and schools have their own views and interpretations and therefore, have their own ways and programs of implementing it. In some cases, teachers interchange the words integration, inclusion and mainstreaming. Another concept of inclusion is no pull out nor shadow teaching and individualization within the class to attain successful implementation of IE (Camara, 2005). Others think that CSN can only join their regular class during recess, music and physical education, while the general concept of inclusion is that these students should be included into general education classrooms , whether or not they can meet traditional curriculum standards. Moreover, it is perceived that another barrier to the successful implementation of IE is attitudinal. The study of Mercado (2002) looked into the social acceptance of children with special needs by their regular peers , 90 respondents, randomly selected regular students in Grades 4, 5, and 6. The focus of this investigation is social acceptance of CSN (i) as a classmate, (ii)) as someone who needs help, (iii) as a group mate, and (iv) as a playmate. Findings showed that acceptance of the CSN as a classmate ranked first, as someone who needs help ranked second, as a groupmate ranked third, and lastly, as a playmate ranked fourth and the least accepted because of the CSNs difficult behavior, cannot follow rules of the game, slow and poor performer that may cause the team to lose in the game. Overall findings revealed that of the 90 respondents, 58% socially accepted while 42% rejected the included CSN. (Mercado, 2002) This study, therefore, shows that regular pupils are not yet ready to totally accept CSN in an inclusive set up.

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Moreover, another critical factor to the successful implementation of IE is the perception of principals and teachers since they are the ones directly involved in any change in the educational system. The study of Tsang (2004) focused on the perceptions of 30 principals and 300 regular teachers regarding the inclusion of CSN in the regular class. Results of the study showed that the respondents various perceptions on the different aspects of inclusion may be attributed to the following factors : their lack of exposure to special education and special learners, lack of appropriate training, big class size, (40-50), insufficient funding from the local government and their concern for the adverse effects of inclusion to the regular pupils that they are currently handling. Likewise, parents may not like CSN in class because regular students might be neglected and slow learners will perform poorly. Majority of the respondents were not in favor of inclusion and were not willing to teach special learners in their regular class. They believed that the segregated setting is still the best for CSN and that SPED teachers are the most effective teachers for these learners. However, more than half are willing to work with Sped teachers while majority are willing to go through in-service training. However, even if they are not fully supportive of inclusion education, they will follow the policy of the Department of Education and will be willing to admit special learners in their classes for humanitarian reasons (Tsang 2004). Since one of the setbacks seen in inclusive education is the regular and SPED teachers needs and difficulties in coping with CSN, the appropriate or adequate training of these teachers was surveyed in the study of Pascual (2003). Respondents were 14 regular teachers and 14 SPED teachers coming from 2 regular schools and 1 SPED Center. Results of the investigation showed that all the 14 regular teachers or 100% of them have no MA units in SPED, thus they have inadequate knowledge and skills in IE. However, out of the 14 SPED teachers, 1 finished MA, 9 have MA SPED units, 2 have no MA units at all and 2 have MA units in other fields. Out of the 14 SPED teachers, majority have inadequate knowledge on the process of inclusion, lack knowledge on assessment of CSN, on legal bases of special needs and inclusive education , as well as IE models and practices. Findings also showed that regular teachers have not developed the proper traits towards CSN such as patience, empathy, alertness, resourcefulness, whereas, SPED teachers do possess them. Also, there seemed to be no planned training for teachers on inclusive education in the district and division levels. The study concluded that both regular and SPED teachers seemed to exhibit difficulties in handling CSN due to inadequacy of knowledge and skills in handling them in an inclusive set up (Pascual, 2003). Therefore, to make inclusive education work, teacher training for both the regular and the SPED teachers should be given priority as this would help lighten the burden of teachers dealing with CSN in an inclusive set- up.

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In consonance with the Education for All (EFA) Policy, the plight of CSN in the rural and remote areas cannot be ignored. Thus, a research was done by Yap (2007) which looked into how school-based management promote SPED programs in local schools, specifically rural schools. Respondents to the questionnaires were 4 division supervisors, 7 school principals and 12 teachers while for the interview and Focus Group Discussion, there were 3 supervisors, 11 principals and 11 teachers. Respondents came from the 8 Dep Ed divisions all over the country. Results showed that the barriers to the successful implementation of IE were: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. The poor economic conditions of the students resulting to absenteeism, drop-outs and poor academic performance. The large class size (45-50) makes it difficult for the teacher to attend to 1 or 2 students with behavioral learning needs. The lack of SPED-trained teachers resulted to discontinuing their SPED inclusive education program. The high turn-over of school principals due to promotion or retirement without training an under study caused also the discontinuity of the program. The failure to include regular teachers in the trainings developed negative attitudes towards the program. The lack of involvement on the part of some parents because they have other children to take care of or some families still keep their children at home because they consider having a special child as shameful.

Moreover, this study also showed that there have been successes in the implementation of IE. In schools where the head welcomes students with special needs, encourages collaboration among teachers and cooperation among stakeholders, IE is successfully implemented However, in schools where the head does not have orientation nor positive attitude towards CSN, success is very limited. (Yap, 2007) Indeed, the principals, as school managers, play a very significant role in managing the school, and that the success of the IE programs to a large extent depends on their endeavor, creativity, resourcefulness and leadership. As a whole, the researches mentioned above showed the setbacks and barriers that could lead to the failure in the realization of a meaningful IE program as envisioned by the Department of Education. However, lately, the Dep Ed Secretary posed challenges to all those involved in IE from the national level down to the classroom teacher and they will serve as the direction for Special Education in the country. They are as follows: 1. 2. 3. Strict implementation of inclusive education. Reduce attitudinal barriers of parents, community and schools towards children with disabilities. Prolong the holding power of regular education schools over this children.

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4.

Make existing school facilities, curriculum, teaching approaches, school organization and management, and other support systems adaptable and suitable to the needs inclusive education.

It is sincerely hoped that these challenges would not remain mere challenges but could be met through the unified efforts of all those concerned. And to quote, Some children are victims of fate, Let it not be said that they are victims of neglect. IINCLUSION EDUCATION IN THE PHILIPPINE WOMENS UNIVERSITY-JOSE ABAD SANTOS MEMORIAL SCHOOL (JASMS), QUEZON CITY The Elementary and High School The Philippine Womens University is 90 years old (1919) and the first university in the Philippines founded by Asian Women. It should be noted that it is the first school to offer Special Education as part of its Psychology course. The PWU has a campus in Quezon City. Its elementary and high school is called Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS) which is located in the same campus. At present, JASMS has 125 special children from nursery to high school. They have different cases: mental retardation, learning disability, autism, etc. Some are in full inclusion while others are with the regular students in non-academic subjects and pulled out in certain academic subjects where they are brought to the resource center. Majority of the teachers in JASMS have been there for 10 years or more and thus, already used to teaching and handling the behavior of CSN. When these children manifest tantrums, they can be controlled because of the teachers different strategies and techniques to calm them down. In the regular classroom, a child with special needs is assigned a buddy who will look after him/her if he/she needs anything. This is a very concrete approach in teaching values because the buddy applies the values of responsibility, thoughtfulness and caring for the classmate with special needs and bonding develops between them. Teachers are very understanding of the CSN and they observe that these children improve in their socialization skills because they are socially accepted. They love going to school, they are rarely absent. They are very friendly and loving. The Tertiary Three years ago, the writer conceptualized a Post High School Transition Program (PHSTP) for the high school graduates because they have nowhere to go They are not capable to finish a four year degree course to be professionals. Most often, they are just made to stay home and deteriorate and become a burden to the parents. What will also happen to them when their parents are gone,

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especially those who have no siblings? PHSTP aims to develop the students selfesteem, and self-confidence, to make them self-reliant, productive, and employable, thereby, to enjoy a better quality of life. The PHSTP is an answer to the parents needs and one way of alleviating their fears and anxieties on the future of their CSN The curriculum is for two years and trimestral. The first phase or the first two trimesters is exposure to college life where they are included with the regular college students in Religion, Computer, Personality Development and National Service Training Program. For English, Math and Science, they are pulled out because they will not have the capacity to comprehend lessons in the college level. In the second phase, they are given hands-on training as aides in the office, library and classroom. Students are also exposed to performance arts: singing, dancing and theatre and to visual arts, drawing, painting and the arts. One trimester is devoted to cooking, handicrafts, entrepreneurship and home management .After all the exposures, the last trimester is spent on intensive training according to their observed interest or line of expertise. After the two year training, they are given certificates and they can now seek employment. There are barriers observed in the inclusive education in college such as the inability of the professors to handle students with special needs because they have the tendency to treat and grade them as regular students. Their classmates, who came from different high schools in Metro Manila find them weird. College students, as well as college professors, are given orientation on how to deal with special students at the beginning of the trimester. Moreover, these students with special needs , because of their age, 20 years old and above, have also the tendency to develop crushes with the opposite sex from the regular or special classes. Oftentimes, they are referred to the Guidance Office. Last year, the first batch finished the program. Out of six, two are already employed as teacher aides. One is being considered to help out in the office or in the library. Two are twins, assisting in their family business which is a coffee shop. Although there are barriers and challenges, the PHSTP has its share of successes.. Their parents are very appreciative of the program and find it commendable. And the great success maybe attributed to the great improvement in the students personality. The feeling that they are in college, wearing the college uniform might have helped in the building of self- confidence, the raising of self esteem and the belief that they can do something such as paint, cook, do handicrafts and dance, sing and act before an audience. They have become sociable, they love going to school and most of all, they feel happy when they are in school. And regarding the program, a guardian has this to say,
Kari is a special child. As her uncle and guardian, I want the best for her particularly in terms of education an institution that could provide her the method of teaching appropriate for her kind. As far as the family is

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concerned, PHSTP has made a tremendous difference in her life. Mr.

Lito Jocson And finally,


As educators, as teachers of the Filipino youth, the future of our great nation, we have the moral duty to ensure that the youth is given the education that they deserve the education that will make them productive Secretary Jesli A. Lapus.

REFERENCES
Camara, Erlinda, F. 2005. Program modification for children and youth with special needs. 2nd Edition. Quezon City: P. Mont Publisher. Mercado, Ma. Salud Alberto. 2005. Social acceptance of special students by their regular peers in a mainstreaming/inclusion class. Unpublished Masters Thesis. University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City. Pascual, Nancy C. 2003. Needs-based training program for teachers on inclusive education. Unpublished Masters Thesis. Philippine Normal University. Manila. Tsang, Nonette Garcia. 2004. Principals and regular teachers perception of inclusion. Unpublished Masters Thesis. University of the Philippines. Diliman, Quezon City. Yap, Ingrid. 2007. School-based management: Promoting special education programs in local schools. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. University of the Philippines. Diliman, Quezon City.