SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House committee on basic education and culture this week approved the proposed “National Vision Screening Program for Kindergarten Pupils” which aims to detect early childhood visual problems for immediate attention and treatment.
The committee chaired by Rep. Evelina G. Escudero (1st District, Sorsogon) approved House Bill 2822 authored by Rep. Estrellita B. Suansing (1st District, Nueva Ecija), HB 1387 by Rep. Alfredo D. Vargas III (5th District, Quezon City), and HB 3222 by Deputy Speaker and Taguig-Pateros Second District Rep. Pia S. Cayetano.
Escudero said a similar bill was filed in the 16th Congress which was approved on Third Reading and sent to the Senate. But due to lack of material time, it was not enacted into law.
In her bill sponsorship speech, Suansing said early detection of visual impairment and eye conditions is important especially among kindergarten pupils who initially learn using the sense of sight. Immediate attention and cure are, hence, imperative, she said.
“For low-income households, a visual screening test is not as urgent as putting food on their tables and addressing more immediate needs of their families. By establishing a national vision screening program, not only will we relieve low-income households from additional financial burden, but we will also take care of our schoolchildren’s eyesight through early detection and correction of visual impairment,” said Suansing.
Dr. Leo Cubillan, director of the Philippine Eye Research Institute (PERI), stressed that early detection is crucial and believes that the proposed “National Vision Screening Program for Kindergarten Pupils” can easily be implemented, in collaboration with the Department of Education (DepEd) and Department of Health (DOH).
Cubillan said in a recent eye screening test, four out of 40 children failed. The three children who failed the test have eye problems that can be corrected through wearing eyeglasses while the other one could have a visual impairment, similar to lazy eye or other conditions, which needs immediate attention.
Cubillan said the institutionalization of the screening test will ensure that funds will be made available for the purchase of visual screening tools, eyeglasses, and treatment of eye conditions. He said they will also support and help train teachers conduct the screening test themselves using visual tools like charts, among others, through the program.
Education Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali said the DepEd also supports the passage of the bill as it did on a similar bill filed in the 16th Congress. He said the visual screening test program is already being done by DepEd, but its institutionalization, through an enabling law, will guarantee that its administration to everyone is covered by law.
Reps. Mark O. Go (Lone District, Baguio City) and Romeo M. Acop (2nd District, Antipolo City) proposed to broaden the scope of the program to include children up to the secondary level.
Cubillan then recommended the utilization of the previously developed visual tools/charts for older age groups. He also proposed the conduct of a yearly visual screening of elementary and high school students during the annual celebration of Sight Saving Month in August.