THE SENATE ratified late Tuesday the reconciled version of a bill mandating all schools, whether private or public, to ensure accessible education for learners with disabilities.  

The proposed law also provides that no learner should be denied admission on the basis of their disability.  

“This landmark legislation would deliver quality, accessible and inclusive education for learners with disabilities in our country, especially for those who were left behind by our basic education system,” Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture, said during the plenary session.  

The bicameral conference committee report tackled the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill 1907 and House Bill 8080, mandating the Department of Education in cooperation with local government units to establish and maintain at least one Inclusive Learning Resource Center (ILRC) in every city and municipality.  

The ILRCs composed of multidisciplinary experts will serve as a one-stop-shop for the delivery of free support services to learners with disabilities and the implementation of inclusive education programs.   

Services would include linguistic solutions for deaf learners, physical and occupational therapy, counseling and rehabilitation, medical and transport services, and speech-language pathology.  

Under the proposed measure, minimum services and conditions will be set in the admissions systems and policies of all schools, including provisions on assistive devices, facilities and infrastructure, accommodation, among others.  

The Senate approved the bill on final reading in May, while the House passed it in Dec. last year.  

Once ratified by the lower house, the bill will be sent to President Rodrigo R. Duterte for his signature.  

Meanwhile, the Department of Education has set up an office that will focus on the existing alternative learning program intended for out-of-school youth, adults, learners with disabilities, and other special cases, in line with the Alternative Learning System (ALS) Act that was signed into law in December last year. 

“This will strengthen our initiatives, programs, and policies for the out-of-school children in special cases, youth, and adults as we ensure their educational continuity,” Education Secretary Leonor M. Briones said in a statement on Tuesday. 

Department of Education Order No. 47-2021 establishes the Bureau of Alternative Education, which will be in charge of coordinating with other government agencies, local government units, and the private sector to ensure sustainable implementation of learning projects outside the formal education system.  

The bureau is also tasked to establish minimum quality standards in the development of the ALS curriculum and learning materials, program planning, implementation, management, monitoring, and evaluation. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan and Marifi S. Jara