TO address the impact of prolonged school closures and help struggling students, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian filed a bill that seeks to give struggling learners access to a free national remedial program, which includes well-systematized tutorial sessions.

The senator said under Senate Bill 2355 or the "Academic Recovery and Accessible Learning (ARAL) Program," those who did not enroll in School Year (SY) 2020-2021, those who are lagging academically, and those who are at and marginally above the minimum level of mastery required in Language, Mathematics, and Science can get tutorial lessons.

The ARAL Program shall cover the most essential learning competencies under Language and Mathematics for Grades 1 to 10, and Science for Grades 3 to 10.

Reading shall be prioritized to develop the critical and analytical thinking skills of learners. The program also aims to build on the foundational skills of kindergarten learners to strengthen their literacy and numeracy competencies.

Under the bill, the tutorial sessions can be via face-to-face, online, or blended learning. They may be held on weekends during the SY or semestral breaks.

The tutors can be teachers and para teachers who shall be given proper remuneration for their services. Tertiary level students who meet certain criteria can volunteer as tutors. These volunteer tutors have to pass a mock tutoring session administered by the Department of Education. Their services for two semesters shall be deemed as completion of the Literacy Training Service under the National Service Training Program.

"Through the ARAL Program we are pushing, we can avoid the regression of knowledge of learners and we can help them cope with their studies. This is going to be a part of the recovery of the education sector from the negative effect of the pandemic," Gatchalian said.

He added the ARAL Program also seeks the adequate provision of nutritional, social, emotional, and mental health support to learners.