The country has made great strides in the education sector with the implementation of sweeping programs that has wide and far-reaching effects.
Slowly but surely, the Department of Education (DepEd) is making sure that all Filipino children and adults who have not finished basic education have access to basic learning wherever they are. With the Alternative Learning System (ALS) in place, all Filipinos now have the chance to catch up and finish elementary and high school even outside the classroom. The ALS somehow revolutionized the education system because it fulfills the government’s promise that no one will be left behind. It gives Filipinos living in the remotest village the assurance that free basic education is within their reach.
By giving children, the youth and even adults a parallel system to finish elementary and high school, the government will also be able to stamp out illiteracy, particularly in remote villages and among indigenous tribes.
Not all Filipinos have the chance to complete formal basic education for a slew of reasons. Some drop out because the school is too far from their communities. Some stop going to school altogether because of poverty. It is for them that the ALS was tailor-fitted. The ALS fulfills the constitutional provision that the government shall establish and maintain “a complete, adequate and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society,” and also to set up “non-formal, informal and indigenous learning systems as well as self-learning, independent and out-of-school study programs particularly those that respond to community needs.”
Young or old, poor or disabled, the Education department has everyone covered. It has a particular program for all groups, even indigenous peoples.
Republic Act 9155 (The Governance Act for Basic Education) gives life to ALS, under which the Education department implements two modular and flexible programs for young and old alike.
The Basic Literacy Program aims to eradicate illiteracy among the youth, adults and children by focusing on the teaching of reading, writing and numeracy.
For school dropouts, the department has the Continuing Education: Accreditation and Equivalency Program that allows out-of-school youth and adults to complete elementary and high school.
The beauty of the Alternative Learning System is that it is community-based. Lessons are learned outside the classroom. Classes can be held anywhere – in community learning centers, village multi-purpose halls, public libraries, in basketball courts or even at home. Students need not travel or walk far because the “mobile teachers,” learning facilitators or instructional managers who go to the designated venue where classes will be held.
The Education department also has a special program for the hearing impaired: The Alternative Learning System for Differently-Abled Persons. This project seeks to deliver basic education to deaf children, youth or adults who have not attended school via a specialized system – sign language.
Then there is the Indigenous Peoples Education that also aims to provide basic education to tribes. This program is being implemented in IP communities in Ilocos Norte, Quezon and Zambales.
Also, the DepEd came out with a special program for Muslims. The Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education in Alternative Learning System was designed for Muslim migrants. It aims to deliver basic education, accreditation and equivalency, technical vocational education and entrepreneurship development.
These specialized projects, along with the implementation of the K-to-12 program that added two more years to secondary education, will surely change the education system and the lives of millions of Filipinos.
With the assurance of free elementary and high school education, and the implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act or the free college tuition law, the Filipino youth can look forward to a brighter future. But they should also strive to help themselves by trying to excel, whether inside or outside a classroom.
(The author is an Education Program Supervisor of the Field Technical Assistance Division of the Department of Education, Regional Office 2)