MANILA - Sen. Pia Cayetano on Thursday urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to consider "small classroom set-ups" in areas with few COVID-19 cases to help learners with disabilities.
Under Cayetano's proposal, only 15 students will be allowed in each classroom to ensure that physical distancing is observed during classes.
"During the new normal, DepEd can assess the possibility of having smaller classroom sizes by creating these scenarios in areas safe from the virus," Cayetano said.
"They go to class in 3 batches... Instead of complete learning from home, it could be 15 students per classroom," she said.
The Philippines may need to construct bigger classrooms in the long run to accommodate students with disabilities, Philippine Normal University special education expert Zhanina Custodio told the Senate panel.
"We need bigger classrooms to accomodate wheelchair-bound students and interpreters," she said.
"Meron na po tayong ganito [para sa mga children with disabilities] pero sana meron pong nagche-check kung maayos po yung ramps, comfort rooms," she said.
(We already have these but hopehully there is someone who can check if the ramps and comfort rooms for children with disabilities are in good condition.)
Cayetano urged the government to "remove all barriers in our education system and allow Filipino learners with additional needs to have access to quality education."
"Given the limitations of our education system, it’s sometimes hard for teachers to accommodate kids with additional needs," said the senator, whose third child had a rare condition called Trisomy 13.
"We need to end this stigma, as much as we need to push for more policies ensuring inclusive education in our schools," she said.
Education officials said there are about 230,000 students with disabilities in the Philippines. The DepEd has yet to determine how many of those children would enroll this school year.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier barred face-to-face classes while a COVID-19 vaccine has yet to be discovered.