WHEN Reynalyn Manansala, a native of Guagua, Pampanga, stopped schooling at the age of 15 to work and help support her family, that did not stop her from believing that her dream of finishing her studies will come true sooner or later. Even as she married and became a mother of two at an early age, she saw the opportunity to go back to school through the Alternative Learning System (ALS) implemented by the Department of Education.
Or when the 65-year-old Aida Morales of Gapan City in Nueva Ecija became one of the 15,102 successful takers of the Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) Test held in February 2019 after being able to complete her elementary education through the ALS Program, anyone who has that same desire to get a diploma will be encouraged to follow suit and become one of the countless people who believe that with ALS, everything is possible.
With thousands of ALS passers including famous celebrities like Manny Pacquiao and Heart Evangelista to name a few, this non-formal education system serves as a spring of hope for all, especially those who are not given the chance to complete their basic education in the formal system. Young or old, rich or poor, anyone who wishes to take that second chance in life has the ALS program waiting for them.
As the parallel learning system in the Philippines that provides a practical option to the existing formal instruction, ALS is the alternate or substitute for those who were not able to complete their studies. With various reasons such as poverty, early marriage, family problems, and the like as the common causes that are cited for the school leavers, the ALS Program is able to provide all Filipinos the chance to have access to and complete basic education in a mode that fits their distinct situations and needs.
It is the mandate of the government to provide other forms of education as it is enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution wherein it is stipulated in Article XIV, Section 2, Paragraph (1) that “the State shall establish, maintain and support a complete, adequate and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society;” and paragraph (4) concisely encourages 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. In the same manner, the Governance Act for Basic Education otherwise known as the Republic Act 9155 stipulates the establishment of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) to provide out-of-school children, youth and adults population with basic education.
Before being known as the Alternative Learning System, it was called the Non-Formal Education. First launched in 1984, it was primarily focused on helping its learners acquire technical skills that they can use to earn a living. In 2004, its focus widened to include literacy classes that are aimed at eventually granting Elementary and High School diplomas to deserving learners who were forced to drop out of primary and secondary school.
ALS aims to open more educational opportunities for Filipino citizens of different interests, capabilities of demographic characteristics, socioeconomic origins and status as well as addressing the needs of marginalized groups. It is more flexible and it happens outside the classroom, community-based, usually conducted at community learning centers, barangay multi-purpose hall, libraries or at home, managed by ALS learning facilitators, such as mobile teachers, district ALS Coordinators, instructional managers at an agreed schedule and venue between the learners and facilitators.
The ALS Program also needs to adapt to the changing world, and as a response to this, DepEd issued DeEd Order No. 13 s.2019 or the Policy Guidelines on the Implementation of Enhanced Alternative Learning System 2.0 that introduces the ALS K to 12 Basic Education Curriculum. This upholds DepEd’s commitment to expand and strengthen ALS and ensure that ALS learners will develop the necessary knowledge and 21st-century skills. The new ALS curriculum is benchmarked on the DepEd K-12 Formal School Curriculum and focuses on the 21st Century Skills of Information, Media and Technology, Skills, Learning and Innovative Skills, Communication Skills, and Life and Career Skills.
Along with this development, the ALS-Education and Skills Training or ALS-EST was also launched in 2018 which allows the integration of skills training in the existing ALS curriculum. This added component of ALS envisions that all ALS completers are not only able to catch up with basic academic education, but also possess the technical competencies suitable for immediate employment.
On January 4, 2021, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11510 or the Alternative Learning System Act. Otherwise known as “An Act Institutionalizing the Alternative Learning System in Basic Education for Out-of-School Children in Special Extreme Cases and Adults and Appropriating Funds Therefor,” Republic Act No. 11510 shall provide adequate support to ensure that more out-of-school youth and adults (OSYA) will be able to have access to quality basic education. We thank our partners in the legislature, especially the Committee on Basic Education chaired by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian in the Senate and Representative Roman Romulo in the House of Representatives for championing the noble cause of empowering OSYAs.
In its official statement, the Department of Education said that "the timely passage of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) Act reaffirms DepEd’s commitment to ensuring that no learner will be left behind, even amid a pandemic. It likewise underscores the country’s trust in the potential of young and adult Filipinos who have been out of the formal school system to be able to live gainfully and contribute effectively to their community and the country."
The ALS Program, with its many improvements through the years, will ensure that no one will be left behind. Through it, anyone who feels like they no longer have a chance to pursue their dreams, let Reynalyn, Nanay Aida, and the thousands of those who serve as living proofs say that with ALS, there is indeed hope and endless possibilities.