WE STARTED this school year with no less than the admission by our Department of Education (DepEd) of the increasing number of school dropouts.

Aside from the usual scholarships for "the poor but deserving" and the alternative literacy system (ALS), which is really just about literacy and nothing about keeping children in step with the fast-changing curriculum of elementary and high school education, there isn't much that can be perceived as concrete steps.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

As pointed out in the June 2010 publication Education Insights by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) "Research on the causes of dropout suggest that school-level factors -- for example, poor teaching methods, persistent learning difficulties, poor attendance and corporal punishment -- act singularly or in combination to produce dropout."

Are our teachers even trained to detect signs of dropping out and intervene so as to encourage the child to stay in school. Do schools even have strategies to address the learning needs of those vulnerable to dropping out and the often absent.

Most likely, these children, are just silently excluded because the poorly-trained and harried teacher fails to respond to the gaps that a child can drop into on his way to dropping out.

Thus, it is worth to learn more about this new buzzword in the development circles -- inclusive education.

Inclusive education, while it first started off to just focus on children with disabilities or special needs to cover those who are marginalized and excluded from basic education.

As defined by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco), inclusion is "a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing exclusion within and from education".

As 2015 nears and more and more countries are lagging behind their commitments for the Millennium Development Goals, which includes "education for all", Philippines included as children continue to drop out; the systems remaining unresponsive, those tasked to live up to the commitment unwilling to make compromises to make quality education really within reach of all.

For one, have we really ever wondered how all those public schools are earning the tag "child-friendly", when we should all be assuming that all schools should be child-friendly, otherwise, why are our children there?

Child-friendly schools, as the human development world would define it are "child-centered and child-seeking." Meaning, these do not just ensure quality education for those in school but also seek out those who have been excluded and bring them into its fold. Can we really say our public schools are like that? Given the huge population these schools have to attend to, there will be no place left for those excluded. Suddenly, even those already tagged as child-friendly no longer sound as friendly.

But that is the state we should demand of our public education: a child-centered and child-seeking one.

No less than the DepEd Secretary said it when following President Benigno C. Aquino's statement that the people are his boss, Sec. Armin Luistro said DepEd's boss is the child.

The marching order has been given, especially because a lot of children are just as fast marching out of schools.