The 2009 Department of Education Order No. 72 defines inclusive education as the philosophy of accepting all children regardless of race, size, shape, colour, ability or disability with support from school staff, students, parents and the community. The more recent 2013 Enhanced Basic Education Act refers to gifted and talented children; learners with disabilities; learners of the madrasa curriculum; indigenous peoples; and learners in difficult circumstances, such as geographical isolation, chronic illness, abuse, or displacement due to armed conflict, urban resettlement or disaster as target groups of inclusive education.
Special education needs
The proposed 2019 Special Education Act defines learners with special needs as children who differ in mental characteristics, sensory ability, neuromuscular or physical characteristics, social abilities or multiple handicaps and/or have a lag in development requiring tailored school practices or special education services. The act includes gifted, talented, disabled, impaired and handicapped persons in need of special education and services of rehabilitation.
Considered an inclusive and learner-centred teaching and learning strategy, the 2016 Basic Education Research Agenda defines inclusive education as a cross-cutting issue implemented through special education, indigenous peoples’ education, madrasa education, the country's Alternative Learning System and alternative delivery modes.
- Special education (SPED) is part of the country's education system and is implemented through a specific programme targeting both children with disabilities and gifted and talented learners, who need a systematic and deliberate process to achieve functional literacy and achieve their individual potential and capability. Supporting the 1997 Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, the 1997 Department Order No. 26 on Institutionalization of SPED Programs in All Schools established at least one special education centre for children with special needs in all schools. Called resource centres for inclusive education, the centres were intended to support the integration of children with disabilities into regular schools through the production of appropriate teaching materials and continuous assessment. Specific guidelines to set up special education centres in regular schools were defined in 2000. The 2019 Special Education Act aims literally to institutionalize inclusive education though the institutionalization of at least one special education centre in each school division and three such centres in larger divisions, equipped with adequate qualified staff and administered by the principal of the regular school.
- Indigenous peoples’ schools are registered within the Department of Education and mainstreamed in the national education system but benefit from some flexibility in terms of curriculum, teacher recruitment and school calendar.
- Madrasa education was institutionalized in 2004 through the Standard Curriculum for Elementary and Public Schools and Private Madaris (i.e. madrasa schools), and then improved with the Refined Elementary Madrasah Curriculum in 2011 in public elementary schools with at least 15 Muslim students and in private madaris. Madrasa education is provided in public and private schools within the context of Muslim culture, customs, traditions and interests through the integration of the Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education (ALIVE) in the basic education curriculum.
- The Alternative Learning System is a parallel learning system to the formal education system usually conducted in community learning centres. Established by the 2001 Governance of Basic Education Act, it provides an opportunity for the out-of-school population to access and complete basic education.
- Alternative delivery mode programmes are based on self-learning modules to cater for learners in difficult and different circumstances.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution enshrines the right to quality education for all citizens and mandates the state to take appropriate steps to make it accessible to all (Art. 14, Section 1). The state must also establish an integrated education system build upon the needs of the people (Art. 14, Section 2). The 2013 Enhanced Basic Education Act calls for learner-oriented and responsive education provision according to the needs, cognitive and cultural capacity, circumstances and diversity of all learners through target-based programmes. The 2015 Education Plan reaffirms the overarching nature of inclusive education for the policy and planning framework for education for all.
The 1997 Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, amended in 2007, mandates the state to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to quality education, making special education provision able to serve various types of impairments, in particular the visually impaired, hearing impaired, those with intellectual disabilities and other types of exceptional children throughout the country.
In response to the implementation of the Magna Carta, the 1997 Department Order No. 26 on Institutionalization of SPED Programs in All Schools established resource centres in regular schools to provide continuous support to children with special needs. The 2010 department order Strengthening Special Education Program at the Basic Education Level financed regular secondary schools to train education personnel and provide the institutions with adequate teaching materials.
Memorandum orders in 2000, 2006 and 2008 contained provisions on reasonable accommodation in higher education. In particular, the 2008 Manual of Regulations for Private Higher Education encourages private higher education institutions to admit students with disabilities.
Inclusion of children with special needs was promoted in the 2013 Early Years Act, for example through the use of Filipino Sign Language as the visual language of the deaf community, and in 2013 with the Enhanced Basic Education Act, which encourages the implementation of the Alternative Learning System to cater for the needs of the target group. The 2015 Education Plan calls for an expansion of the current basic education services through the multiplication of special education classes within the regular elementary and secondary schools and through the inclusion of learners with disabilities into existing regular classes.
Gender equality is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution (Art. 14, Section 14). The 2009 Philippine Magna Carta of Women establishes a non-discriminatory and pro-gender equality and equity framework for policy formulation and implementation. In relation to education, it reaffirms the right of equal access and elimination of discrimination in education, scholarships and training. In addition, it declares unlawful the discrimination in education of women due pregnancy out of marriage in the form of expulsion, non-readmission or enrolment prohibition.
In 2013, a joint memorandum was adopted by various government bodies, including the Department of Education, to mainstream gender perspectives in local planning, programming and budgeting.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and indigenous groups
Encouraged by the 1987 Constitution (Art. 14, Section 2), indigenous peoples’ education was formally regulated in the 1997 Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act. The latter lays down indigenous peoples’ right to equal access to cultural opportunities, including through the education system, where they have the right to receive education in their own language through the establishment and control of education institutions, respecting their cultural methods of teaching and learning. Although Filipino and English are recognized as official languages for communication and instruction, regional languages are acknowledged to serve as ‘auxiliary media of instruction’ (Art. 6, Section 7 of the Constitution).
In response to the distinct education needs of indigenous communities, the 2004 department order titled Permit to Operate Primary Schools for Indigenous Peoples and Cultural Communities allows the school curriculum to be adjusted according to the cultural interest of the community, as long as core learning competencies are cultivated. Based on the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, a 2010 department order on the Alternative Learning System curriculum for indigenous peoples’ education draws on the Alternative Learning System curriculum while taking into account the concerns of indigenous peoples. The 2013 Enhanced Basic Education Act reaffirms that basic education for kindergarten and for the first three years of elementary education must be provided in languages understood by the learners. It further mandates the Department of Education to formulate a mother-language transition programme from the first local language to English for other grades.
At the policy level, the 2011 department order Adopting the National Indigenous Peoples Education Policy Framework aimed to create an inclusive and respectful education system for learners belonging to minority groups, ensuring universal and equitable access of all indigenous people to quality and relevant basic education and providing adequate and culturally appropriate learning resources and environments. In particular, the framework intends to integrate indigenous knowledge systems and practices and recruit and train teachers and learning facilitators engaged in implementing education programmes for indigenous people. Since 2012–13, mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE) has been implemented nationwide, with 19 local languages now used for instruction.
The Philippines’ Response to Indigenous and Muslim Education (PRIME) programme is an education development initiative of the Department of Education that seeks to improve equitable access to and quality of basic education for girls and boys in disadvantaged indigenous and Muslim communities.
Within the school health and nutrition programmes, the breakfast feeding program aims to improve the nutritional status of its beneficiaries and increase their attendance rate. Expanded to 14 regions, the programme serves undernourished children from kindergarten to grade 3. With the introduction of implementation guidelines in 2012, the feeding initiative was renamed School-Based Feeding Program and gave more flexibility to schools.
With the aim of addressing the poorest Filipinos, the Conditional Cash Transfer programme provides a monthly education subsidy to encourage school attendance.
Children engaged in labour
The 2015 Education Plan identifies children engaged in labour as a specific group of unreached and underserved learners. It sets out to strengthen the implementation of distance learning programmes at elementary and secondary levels to reach out to children who cannot attend regular classes.
The 2015 Education Plan calls for strengthening current partnership between government agencies and partners and the Department of Education to reach out to street children and their families and provide them with basic education and other basic services.
Coordination across sectors
The 2019 Special Education Act intends to establish the Bureau of Special Education to institutionalize and manage special education. It is to design an appropriate curriculum and tailored programmes and supervise divisions for gifted and talented youth and children and youth with disabilities within the Department of Education. It is also responsible for early identification of special needs and the provision of medical and financial assistance.
According to the 2015 new organizational structure of the Department of Education, the Bureau of Learning Delivery is in charge of the Student Inclusion division.
At present, the Bureau of Alternative Learning System, under the Department of Education, is in charge of non-formal education. Strengthened in 2004, it addresses the learning needs of all marginalized learners, including indigenous learners. Madaris are also under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education, although most of them are private and locally managed.
Development programmes and service delivery for persons with disabilities, including in education, are managed by the National Council on Disability Affairs, a national government agency with the mandate to formulate policies and coordinate the activities of all public and private organizations dealing with disability issues and concerns.
Through the 2013 Department Order No. 27, the Department of Education institutionalized the Gender and Development Focal Point Systems, an institutional mechanism to ensure gender mainstreaming in government offices at the national, regional and school levels.
Coordination across government levels
According to the 2019 Special Education Act, local governments bear the responsibility for special education institutions, the organization of parent–teacher associations and coordination with other civil society actors.
Basic education management and governance was decentralized with the 2001 Governance of Basic Education Act.
The 1983 Act to Enhance the Mobility of Disabled Persons by Requiring Certain Buildings, Institutions, Establishments and Public Utilities to install Facilities and Other Devices sets specific provisions to ensure access to school to some specific groups of people with disabilities.
The 2009 Philippine Magna Carta of Women calls for a revision of educational materials and curricula to avoid gender stereotypes and images and ensure that gender-sensitive language is used. Gender-related modules have been developed and launched in the basic education curriculum.
According to the 2013 Enhanced Basic Education Act, the national basic education curriculum must be learner-centred, inclusive and developmentally appropriate, culturally sensitive, consistent with the principles and framework of MTB-MLE and flexible in order to allow schools to localize and indigenize according to the context.
Appropriate learning materials have been prepared to support the indigenous peoples’ curriculum, open to consultation and translated into 14 different languages. Indigenization of learning materials is encouraged in Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro provinces.
Teachers’ right to professional development is enshrined in the Constitution (Art. 14, Section 5). However, with regards to special education, trainings are not provided on a regular basis. Ad-hoc programmes are implemented upon the specific request of local authorities. At the national level, a training for special education teachers has been organized by the Department of Education’s Bureau of Elementary Education, while trainings on visually impaired learners and those with multiple disabilities were provided by non-government organizations from 2007 and 2009.
According to the 2000 Memorandum Order No. 23 on Quality Education for Learners with Special Needs, teacher training institutions must include special education courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels and provide further learning opportunities for qualified special education teachers through scholarship programmes, in coordination with the Commission on Higher Education and other government and non-government agencies.
The 2009 Philippine Magna Carta of Women calls for capacity building on gender and development for teachers and personnel involved in the education sector.
Within the Basic Education Information System (BEIS), all Department of Education offices and units gather relevant data from schools, learning centres and education programmes for the effective planning and implementation of education programmes.