[Blog] Making Inclusive Education a Reality

Today’s students learn differently and educators cannot deny this fact. The learning environment in the global village is a lot different from the learning environment many of us grew up with. Time magazine coined the term “The Multitasking Generation” or “genM” to describe today’s learners1. Young people seem to be able to thrive in a world bombarded with infinite learning resources fueled by the Internet. Still, are young students truly able to cope when faced with limitless learning opportunities? Are all students able to focus and learn in this new media frenzied world?

The answer is a resounding NO. According to statistics, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is more common than we think. In the 2009 ADHD Conference in Vienna, it was reported that the Philippines has about 1.2 million children and 2.4 million adults with ADHD. This translates to about 4% of its total population. The best industry statistics also reveal that ADHD is prevalent across age groups with 8% to 10% of children2, 9.6% of adolescents3, and 4.4% of adults4 found to have the condition. Imagine if those statistics were from 2009, many of the children are now college-aged.

Aside from ADHD, which accounts for 30% to 40% of clinical referrals5 there are other types of learning disabilities (or better termed as learning challenges) which deserves our attention and care. Students with learning challenges, whether diagnosed or not, surely find the structured school environment frustrating resulting in poor performance and diminished motivation. The challenge is for educators to equip themselves and offer inclusive programs and services which caters to all types of learners.

Guided by its vision to “address various needs, interests and cultures”, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) has taken on the challenge of serving our student population with special needs. The College’s commitment is reflected in its strategic intent of increasing accessibility to Benildean education and serving special populations. Although DLS-CSB does not claim to be experts in this field since the College is still in its beginning steps, there is no doubt about its commitment and intention.

Small Moves Make a Big Difference

DLS-CSB officially began its special education program after I observed the increasing trend of applicants with special learning needs. Guided by the values of equity and consistency, I presented the trend to the Admissions Committee which lead to the creation of the DLS-CSB’s admissions policies for students with learning challenges. The finalized DLS-CSB admissions policy is very much in line with the guidelines for admission of students with learning disabilities from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).6

Armed with an understanding that success in educating students with learning challenges depends on the partnership between the family and the college, DLS-CSB also implemented the “Home School Agreement”. This is a formal agreement signed by the parents and DLS-CSB upon enrollment of students with learning challenges. The agreement contains the responsibilities of the student, the parents, and the College.

Preparing the way in is not enough, though. Preparing the faculty is even more important. Faculty development was provided in the form of seminars and trainings in the area of “Demystifying Developmental Disorders” and “Basic Management Strategies”. The training was conducted by renowned developmental pediatrician and Working Mom columnist Dr. Francis Xavier Dimalanta and respected occupational therapist Dr. Anthony Grecia.

To further ensure the success of Benildean students with learning challenges, other support systems were prepared and some already in place.

First, the College has contracted Dr. Francis Xavier Dimalanta as its College Developmental Pediatric Consultant. Teachers and administrators may approach him for advice and assistance as he devotes some clinic hours every month for the College. Second, the Center for Counseling Services has designated counselors and programs to serve the students. Third, the Student Learning Center continues to offers its free tutorial services which all students may avail. Finally, the “Ad Hoc Committee on Students with Special Education Needs” lead by the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Learning Information Systems and Services Ms. Ma. Victoria M. Dayao continues to spearhead and implement specific services to ensure the success of our students.

Moving Forward

DLS-CSB’s commitment to serving students with learning challenges is very close to its Benildean roots. Saint Benilde Romançon, the College’s patron saint, was known as an educator who did common things in an uncommon way. While Saint Benilde was alive, he grew the little school he served in into the village’s center for social and intellectual life. He also spearheaded evening classes for adults and tutorial classes for less gifted students. What a pleasure it is for all of us to have an opportunity to serve as Saint Benilde served. Together, with commitment, mutual support, and hard work, we can all contribute to the educational success of all of our students.

References

1 Time magazine, March 27, 2006

2 American Academy of Pediatrics, 2000

3 Vital Health Statistics 2008, Vol. 10 No. 237

4 American Journal of Psychiatry, 2006, Vol. 163 No. 4

5 ADHD: The Latest Assessment and Treatment Strategies. 3rd Ed., 2006

6 Guidelines in the Admission of Students with Disabilities in Higher Education and Post-Secondary Institutions in the Philippines by the Commission on Higher Education

About the Author

Dr. Catherine Deen is currently Admissions Director of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. She completed her doctoral studies in educational leadership and management from De La Salle University where she also completed her bachelor degree in psychology cum laude. Visit her personal education blog at http://www.cathsdeen.com.

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