Zoom group photo of the Australian Volunteers Program Webinar: Sharing Knowledge, Insights and Experiences on Inclusive Special Education

The Australian Volunteers Program in the Philippines hosted a webinar on 30 October 2020 to highlight the contributions of Australian volunteers in providing alternative views on education for children with special educational needs and disabilities. The Sharing Knowledge, Insights, and Experiences on Inclusive Special Education webinar helped identify good practices that can be scaled up or replicated by organisations and educational institutions, as well as areas where work is still needed.

The event was held with the support of the Department of Education’s International Cooperation Office (DepEd ICO) and the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA). A total of 42 participants from the Department of Education, PNVSCA, partner organisations, and other volunteer agencies attended the event.

Two Australian volunteers shared their experiences working in special inclusive education with their respective partner organisations.

Ms. Rhonda Sadler stressed the importance of ‘developmental thinking’ in assessing what to do next for learners with special needs. She volunteered in Bali, Indonesia, where she shared teaching strategies with the teachers of Jembatan Senang, a pre-school that supports parents and their children with special needs.

Ms. Jill Margaret Smith, a speech pathologist from Brisbane, Australia, who volunteered at Welcome Home Foundation, Inc. (WHFI) in Bacolod City, shared her approach of using individualized programs based on initial assessments and progress records. She helped build the capacity of teachers to assess and teach speech production for deaf children. Jill stated the importance of including the families of deaf children to provide a more inclusive experience for children with hearing disability.

Presentations were also shared by a partner organisation representative, and a specialist from the Department of Education.

Ms. Agnes Jalandoni, WHFI’s Executive Director, gave a presentation about the organisation and their work with deaf education through its Education Resource Center. She also mentioned the challenge of working with parents to help them become better teachers for their children, especially during COVID-19.

The Department of Education presented on current practice, and the future of education for learners with disabilities. Dr. Jose Taguinayo, Jr, the Chief Education Program Specialist of the Bureau of Learning Delivery – Student Inclusion Division, discussed data and policies for Special Education in the Philippines, the Department’s vision, and future programs for children with special education needs.

The event was conducted as part of a collaboration between the Australian Volunteers Program, the Department of Education and PNVSCA to provide innovative support to the Department in inclusive distance learning, particularly for students with disabilities. It’s proposed that the partnership will lead to Australian volunteers working with teachers, parents and guardians, to improve their capacity in the education of children with special needs.