Virlanie Foundation, Inc. held its annual event for Inclusive Education, Inclusive Education Dialogues  2019 (IncluED) to identify concrete steps in advancing inclusive education system in the Philippines. The event was held in SDA Theater, De La Salle College of Saint Benilde last July 25, 2019 with a theme of addressing learner’s diversity through needs-based education.  The event was made possible with De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde, the official venue partner and Offcrowd, online media publication, the official media partner.

“We need to break the stigma of children in need of special protection in education,” said Thomas Mouliac, Virlanie Executive Director in opening the event.

Various members of civil society organizations and education sector joined the event. Among the highlights of the event are the panel discussions composed of Annalyn Aquino (Department of Education), Mitzi Chan (E-Net Philippines), Mara Eala (The Ultimate Learning Accelerator), Ma. Mercedez Arzadon (University of the Philippines Diliman- College of Education), Kit Atienza (The Asia Foundation) and Arlyne Fernandez (Virlanie). The discussions were moderated by Derik Tabuñar, a development practitioner who used to serve in Habitat for Humanity and Virlanie Foundation Inc.

The dialogues were divided into three parts. The first segment of the program talked about the current situation of the Philippine Education system. Chan mentioned, “Of the 3.6 million children with special needs, only 350,000 are enrolled in basic and secondary SpEd centers. As of now, there are 3.2 million child laborers (children who are now pushed into labor because of poverty) and 5 million school-aged IP children with only 2 million enrolled.” With these figures, she, along with the other panelists said that the current education system is far from being inclusive.

Aquino shared DepEd’s vision for inclusive education, “My vision is in the future when we talk about basic education, it will be the same as inclusive education.”

The second part discussed the issues and challenges faced by diverse learners. During this panel, Arzadon highlighted the challenges faced by learners in her work of researching and advocating for Alternative Learning System. She specifically cited that “the current system does not recognize the informal knowledge of children.”

The third part discussed how to make education truly inclusive where the guest speakers provided visions and advices how to make inclusive education happen. Fernandez said, “We need to form a collective action to pass law on education, incorporating ALS and SpEd, which should be implemented properly.”

Eala said that “Inclusive education should be in three levels: ensuring equality, securing equity and providing a good learning environment for kids.” Atienza reiterated the importance of accessibility and addressing the mindset of Filipinos towards children in need of special protection and children with disabilities, “One important thing to consider is the physical accessibility of schools and lack of inclusive values of some Filipinos.”

Addressing Diverse Learners’ Needs

Virlanie recognizes the need to bring together experts from the education sector to talk about and identify solutions to ensure that education will be inclusive for all types of learners. This way, advocating for policy changes will be easier because different sectors such as the academe, civil society and event private companies work hand in hand.

IncluED 2019 is an event under Virlanie Give2Achieve (G2A) campaign, Virlanie’s campaign for inclusive education. Most of the children under Virlanie’s care have educational delays mostly prior to their admission to Virlanie because they did not have access to school or they are drop-outs or they lack proper guidance. This results to lack of self-confidence and social exclusion and eventual loss of their love for learning.

Moreover, the Philippine public schools do not have fully equipped teachers to handle the diverse dynamics and personalities of the students.

Virlanie works towards bridging the educational gaps that our children are facing through Education Programs such as Magellan Learning Center, Special education and SiBuHi Center for Creativity and Development. The G2A campaign aims on providing children educational needs that couldn’t be met in formal schools.

Virlanie’s G2A campaign is still ongoing. Find out how you can help advance inclusive education: