Most Filipinos aren't too familiar with alternative learning systems (ALS). We either have a vague perception of what it is, or have no idea that these kinds of learning programs even exist or that such an idea has ever been established by the Department of Education. Chances are, even if we have heard about it in the past, the news that ALS exists hasn't delivered the hope or the enlightenment it should bring. This is perhaps due to the lack of appropriate attention, support, and assistance by the government, as well as a failure to show just how life-changing this program can be for underprivileged individuals and communities. But it is definitely life-changing–and word on it should spread like wildfire.
The Bureau of Alternative Learning Systems (BALS) recently conducted a media forum entitled “Media Meets ALS” at the Development Academy of the Philippines in Tagaytay City, gathering media practitioners and other coordinators from the academe, in the hopes of partnering with them to disseminate information about the significance of ALS and the lack of needed government support to continually implement programs.
The ALS purpose is unquestionably noble, but to those who may not know, what is ALS, anyway? Here is a rundown of the most basic information on ALS from the bureau.
REDEFINING ALS AND COMPARING IT TO OTHER SYSTEMS
ALS, as the bureau puts it, is the “parallel learning system that provides viable alternative to the existing formal basic education educational structure.” ALS covers both informal and nonformal education sub-systems.
But what does this mean? Nonformal education has methodical and organized learning outside the formal system. Formal education (that is, the education you get from school) is graded, structured, and regulated, and it happens over a preset time within the school premises. But the informal education is an ALS program offered to all interested individuals and geared towards “providing a learning experience/s based on an individual’s or group’s needs and/or common interests on his/her/their chosen social, civic, spiritual, cultural, recreational, wellness, economic, and other work-related activities for personal or community development.”
Compared to the formal school system, ALS offers the following:
- a flexible schedule
- the choice and selection of modules and the method of learning
- a variety of alternative delivery modes based on interests and learning styles
- no strict entry-learner requirements
- the ability to create and discuss individual learning agreement
- the use of authentic methodologies like learning portfolios
Interestingly, the school teacher is referred to as mobile teacher, district ALS coordinator, basic literacy facilitator, or instructional manager.
WHY HAVE ALS AT ALL?
You may be wondering, why is there a need to create ALS programs when we already have sufficient schools–though perhaps not sufficient classrooms–in the country? According to BALS, the internal incompetency found in formal basic education is one of the reasons. BALS also realized the need to alter prevailing nonformal and informal education learning alternatives into workable ALS for education for everyone. Another reason is the existing social bias for formal education. Lastly, the constitutional order for free and compulsory elementary and secondary education is difficult to successfully implement in our country.
TARGET LEARNERS–ARE YOU ONE OF THEM?
ALS target learners are the non-literates, functional literates, out-of-school youth (OSY) and adults, elementary and high school dropouts, qualifiers of Philippine Educational Placement Test (PEPT), people who opt not to go back to formal school system, and just about anybody who would want to continue learning. It primarily targets the out-of-school individuals at least 16 years old and beyond who are in need of basic and functional literacy skills, specifically in numeracy, writing, and reading. Most ALS learners reside in far-flung areas that have limited or no access to formal schooling.
HEROES OF THE DAY: MOBILE TEACHERS, FACILITATORS, COORDINATORS
Who comes to the rescue of these target learners? These are the ALS Mobile Teachers and District ALS Coordinators who hold regular teacher items and are DepEd-employed, instructional managers/facilitators under a service provider, and ALS Gabay-Aral sa Pamayanan (AGAP) volunteers and peer educators directly hired by regional/division offices of DepEd. Other individuals in the academe and non-government organizations also help in the implementation of ALS programs. Most of these people, like the instructional managers and facilitators who provide full support to ALS programs, also undergo training.
WHERE AND HOW DO I STUDY?
While formal education is given on school grounds, ALS conducts its classes in Community Learning Centers (CLC) like barangay halls, sports centers, and even at the homes of the learners and playgrounds. This makes ALS programs more accessible to these learners. Methods of teaching include face-to-face, modular, study groups, print and audio-based learning, self and interactive learning, tutorial, mentoring, and even home visits. In terms of languages of instruction, these can be local languages or dialects, Filipino, or English, depending on the programs the learners are in.
WHAT PROGRAMS ARE AVAILABLE?
BALS provides several programs to its learners. For instance, three major programs are offered under the ALS Nonformal Education (NFE): Basic Literacy Program (BLP), Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) Program, and Informal Education (InfEd).
BLP is an intensive community-based training designed for illiterate out-of-school children and/or adults.
InfEd is an educational activity that focuses on addressing the needs and interests of the marginalized communities and other interest groups of learners. It makes use of the life skills approach for personal development.
A&E is comparable to a formal elementary and secondary education and is offers a certificate of learning for the out-of-school youth and adults who are 15 years old and above and who are incapable of attending or have dropped out of formal schooling. A clear, successful example of an A&E student is boxing champion Manny Pacquiao.
EXAMS FOR COLLEGE PREPARATION
ALS programs conduct examinations to assess the qualities and skills of the learners, as well as to help place them in a position in which they are able to further their education. For instance, the A&E tests help qualify the learner to enroll in college or in TESDA skills training. Passing the A&E tests also allows the learner to be employed in government offices in selected positions not requiring the Civil Service Examination (CSE).
INTERESTED LEARNERS: WHERE TO GO FOR ALS
There are several offices you can contact if you're interested in becoming a learner or mobile teacher or if you want to volunteer for ALS programs. You can either visit the nearest district or division office of DepEd, where they can give you a full account of the ALS programs, or you can go to DepEd schools and barangay and municipal offices to get proper information on how to join the program.
(Photos used with permission from Lorela Sandoval)