"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Free Appropriate Public Education

Providing every eligible child a "Free Appropriate Public Education" is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the United States. The Supreme Court of the United States has just ruled unanimously that schools cannot settle for "minimum progress" specifically in the case of a child with disabilities. "When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all", according to the opinion issued by the Supreme Court. With this decision, the court clearly takes seriously what "Free Appropriate Public Education" means.

Above copied from the supremecourt.gov
The case involves an autistic child whose parents have sued the Douglas County School District for not providing "Free Appropriate Public Education". With the IDEA act, a child with a disability such as autism is entitled to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The public school in Douglas did provide an IEP but the parents argued that the IEP was not producing any meaningful result. The parents took the child to a school that specializes in educating children with autism. The school employs a "behavioral intervention plan" and there is evidence that the child has begun thriving in school. The district, however, refused to reimburse the parents for their tuition expenses at the private school for autistic children, making the claim that the public school has already done what was required by law.

This recent decision made by the US Supreme Court is inspiring. The high court basically states that one should not look at the law to determine how a child needs to be educated. Instead, one must look at the child. "No law could do that—for any child", says the opinion by the court. What is good for a child needs to be supported by both evidence and application of expertise.

In stark contrast, the Supreme Court in the Philippines still has not decided on the various petitions filed against Republic Act 10533, the law that authorizes DepEd's K to 12 curriculum. While justices in the US leave the decision to educators and gives a stronger voice to parents who advocate for their children's education, the justices in the Philippines seem to have chosen not to listen to parents, teachers and students, leaving the future of basic education in the Philippines to the whims of its lawmakers and politicians.


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