EDUCATION authorities must immediately set up a system for identifying and locating learners with disabilities, as mandated by a new law, to address the drop in enrollment among this group due to the coronavirus pandemic, a senator said on Wednesday. 

“We need to intensify our search for young people with disabilities so that they will not be left behind to have a better future,” Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who sponsored the bill and chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, said in Filipino in a statement. 

Republic Act 11650 requires the rollout of a “child find” system that will identify, locate, and evaluate learners with disabilities up to 24 years old to ensure they receive basic education. The law was signed last month.  

The education department recently announced plans to increase enrollment for this group.  

The number of enrolled learners with disabilities dropped by almost 74% to 93,895 in the current school year from 360,879 before the coronavirus pandemic that prompted school closures and other restrictions starting March 2020, according to data released by the education department. 

It also reported a decline in the number of schools enrolling learners with disabilities to 13,408 from 21,270 in the same period. 

The new law provides support services for learners with disabilities and requires the implementation of various inclusive education programs. It also mandates the establishment of at least one Inclusive Learning Resource Center in every city and municipality. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan