August 5 marked the opening of classes for state universities. The reason why classes open in August is for so-called “ASEAN integration.” However, changes are anticipated for the next academic year as, due to synchronization, the date may be moved to September.
The new semester marks another year in the life of faculty members. Throughout the year, I and my colleagues will become slaves to paperwork, while reading academic journals to aid in class discussions.
I was tasked with teaching an inclusive course for first-year education students. The course is vital for future teachers as the country has given less priority to curriculum, instruction, and research.
When students graduate, they often find their lessons from college to be obsolete. In terms of the education field, theories are not relevant when you are in the field.
Approaches to education evolve but some teachers are “non-evolutionary,” or stuck in traditional practices. The same goes for inclusive education, which is defined as a learning environment where children with and without disabilities are taught together. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, inclusive education is the process of addressing and responding to the diverse needs of all students by increasing participation in learning and reducing exclusion.
Inclusive means all but how extensive is “all?”
Some countries have implemented inclusive education successfully but, in impoverished developing countries, some are vulnerable due to a need for available funding, administrative and policy level support, and trained personnel.
Government support in the Philippines is scarce due to a lack of data-gathering tools, which results in the failure to secure a budget for children with disabilities. Affluent families can afford schools that provide special education; however, for ordinary people, they hide their children out of shame, denial, fear of bullying, or financial instability.
The word “all” also encapsulates the context of margins, especially when it pertains to indigenous populations. Despite the establishment of “indigenous peoples’ education,” there has still been no concrete implementation, particularly in areas of Negros Occidental.
A 2017 study by Patrick G. Galleto and Narcisa S. Bureros entitled “Estimating Vulnerability in Promoting Inclusive Education in the Philippines” revealed insufficient coordination and collaboration among government departments when it came to the inclusivity of teacher education at state universities and colleges.
There is also inadequate coordination between non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations.
Additionally, education programs for teachers lack a systematic approach to welcoming diversity and identifying barriers to inclusive education. Both the Teacher Education Institution and Department of Education (DepEd) lack mutually inclusive supportive curricula, which further proves the paradox—teachers are expected to be trained inclusively but the institutions themselves are not inclusive.
Policies are top-down and dismiss the voice of teachers. If the system truly were inclusive, the department must welcome dialogue from the ground because the primary conduits of the program are teachers.
How does DepEd address the problem?
Classrooms are currently at a 1:53 ratio, which includes students with disabilities. There is a lack of facilities for students with disabilities. There is also the problem of “parental orientation,” where parents still believe a child with a disability is “abnormal.”
The country still has a long way to go but the effort made towards inclusivity is appreciated. However, conventional beliefs must be challenged as inclusive education is vital for the nation to progress.
Education should be values-based and accepting the principles of inclusive education must be accepted if the paradox of inclusive education is to be dealt with.
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