PASIG CITY, June 14, 2017 – Through the Department of Education’s (DepEd) continuous expansion and strengthening of the Alternative Learning System (ALS), being out of school no longer has to mean being discouraged to continue education.
“I am appealing to everyone that we do not forget our learners outside the formal system. They, too, are our children; and they, too, deserve the same amount of our attention and pledges of support and assistance in every way,” Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones implored stakeholders.
Regional ALS implementation
As part of monitoring of the ALS implementation across the country, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Service (PAS) and ALS G.H. Ambat recently visited learning centers in Region 10. During these visits, she learns the innovative approach of ALS coordinators, mobile teachers, service providers, and literacy volunteers in implementing the parallel learning system. Moreover, she assesses the learners’ concerns and needs that vary based on their geographic, socio-economic, physical, socio-psychological, and socio-cultural constraints.
In Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, the local government unit (LGU) provided a two-story building for ALS. It is here that Geraldine Mutia found direction for her and her children: education and livelihood. When not working as a masseuse at the learning center and as a security guard, the single mother of five attends class under the ALS Informal Education (InFed) where she acquires livelihood and entrepreneurship skills. Geraldine turned emotional when she attested, “Kung hindi dahil sa ALS, hindi ko alam kung paano bubuhayin ang mga anak ko.”
InFed is one of the two programs offered by ALS, where personal interest, community development, skills and livelihood, and entrepreneurship are given a premium. Meanwhile, the Non-formal Education program of ALS is comprised of Basic Literacy for learners who do not know how to read, write, and count and of Continuing Education-Accreditation & Equivalency for learners who dropped out from either elementary or secondary school. In 2016, ALS saw 691,461 learners enrolled.
“Kanya-kanya kaming kwento ng buhay, pero sana huwag kayong magsawa na tulungan kami,” Jefralin Bularon implored. Despite having a physical disability, Jefralin fled a war in Lanao del Norte, defied limitations, and finished basic education through ALS within three years. Now an incoming 3rd year student at Bukidnon State University, Jefralin is taking up Bachelor of Secondary Education Major in Philosophy to be able to continue studying through a scholarship.
Partners in lifelong learning
Even before DepEd’s expansion of ALS under the Briones administration, a number of private and LGU partners have been already implementing the program with much commitment and enthusiasm to reach all learners, regardless of circumstances. The community’s support continues to be crucial in the identification of potential learners and the provision for the requirements of the learners, mobile teachers, and learning centers.
At the Department of Health (DOH) Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (TRC) in Cagayan de Oro City, the usual 10-month ALS intervention is being offered twice a week to enable learners to finish in just six months since rehabilitation period requires just a minimum of half a year. However, there are learners who choose to stay, return, or get absorbed by other ALS learning centers outside the TRC just so they may finish the learning intervention.
In Malaybalay City, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) has been offering ALS since 2009 and takes pride in having at least one passer every year, with one batch scoring a 100% passing rate in the Accreditation & Equivalency exam. Meanwhile, in Barangay San Jose of the same the city, drug surrenderees are given a second chance at turning their lives around through ALS in partnership with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
The use of radio-based instruction is also tapped to reach learners who are unable to go to the learning centers. The LGU funded the airtime for learning interventions delivered through two local radio stations every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
“Alam ko kulang pa ang resources, ang manpower pero sana patuloy lang kayo sa suporta. Maraming salamat sa ating mga stakeholders atpartners, to the Region and Division offices for doing more than what we tell them, for coming up with innovations,” Ambat stated, recognizing the strong partnership of DepEd with government agencies and private groups in making education possible and more accessible for more learners.