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ALS in the Philippines: A Reaction

Adeline C. Mendoza[2]
The governments vision for nonformal education is revitalized and epitomized
through an Executive Order No. 358 S. 2004, renaming and reinventing of the Bureau of
Nonformal Education to Bureau of Alternative Learning System (BALS) whose vision is
to view the Philippines as a nation where all the citizens, especially the marginalized
individual or group of learners who could not equitably gain access to formal education
because of unwanted conditions, be given equal access to quality education by taking
an alternative learning system that will enable them to become productive workforce
and members of the land.
The Jomtien Declaration of 1990 was a landmark because it stated that initial
basic education was an absolute priority in order to ensure equity for all, and that this
was impossible without expanding nonformal approaches to education. It stressed that
complementary policies were needed to take into account adult learning, basic
education for children and school leavers. Basic Education for All means that people,
whatever their age, have an opportunity, individually and collectively, to realize their
potential. It is not only a right; it is also a duty and a responsibility both to others and to
society as a whole. It is essential that the recognition of the right to education
throughout life should be accompanied by measures to create the conditions required to
exercise this right.
Researches on citizenship and democracy are pointing that contemporary
society cannot function effectively without adult basic education. The informed and
effective participation of men and women in every sphere of life is needed if humanity is
to survive and to meet the challenges of the future. Adult education thus becomes more
than a right; it is a key to the twenty-first century. It is both a consequence of active
citizenship and a condition for full participation in society" (Hamburg Declaration: 1-2)
In the Asian region, initial attempts in adult education were primarily focussed on
imparting basic literacy skills. Basic literacy is a foundational part of lifelong learning.
Literacy is seen as a tool for self-empowerment and a step in lifelong learning. Lifelong
learning is not an abstract concept but the daily practice of ordinary people. It is context
and culture specific, and relevant not only to rich countries but also to developing and
least developed countries of the South.
There are commitments in several Asian countries to re-organize their
educational systems from the perspective of lifelong learning and to systematize the
learning which is already reflected in traditions, knowledge, experience and personal
fulfillment that are rooted in the daily lives of the ordinary men and women. Alternative
learning systems are being set up in every country. Non-formal education to continue
post primary and post-secondary education is being offered to out-of-school and
disadvantaged youth and adults who have been deprived of access to the formal
system for various socio-economic reasons. Programmes have been established to
focus on improving access to education for women, cultural minorities, rural and remote
communities, the ageing population, street children, and persons living in conflict areas
and in poverty conditions.
There is also a shift to a creation of literate societies and networks of lifelong
learning in which many factors other than school come into play, such as the practice of
writing integrated into the daily living and working environments, celebration of oral
traditions in print media, and reflection of community life in newsletters. The focus is on
making learning more relevant, maintaining an ongoing relationship with learning
content and life experience, revitalizing local cultures and learning in the mother tongue
and giving special attention to community participation.
All Asian countries, including the Philippines is putting education as their priority.
Their goal is to eradicate illiteracy and make each citizen literate functional and
productive. In this regard, they came up with alternative learning systems to address the
educational needs of the citizens especially to those who cannot afford education due to
their condition.
The Philippines has been targeting the Education for All. This goal of the
government in terms of the education of the Filipinos cannot be addressed alone by
the formal systems of education, those who cannot afford to go to formal schools are
addressed to by the Alternative Learning Systems and Programs implemented by the
Department of Education. The ALS has been of great help in the literacy program of
Dep.Ed. Those drop-outs from formal schools were accepted in the ALS and were
mainstreamed to the formal schools, while others were qualified to work as a result of
their trainings provided by the ALS programs. At present, the ALS in our country is not
yet successful in the attainment of its goals. To compare it to other ALS in other Asian
countries, I would say they are at the same wavelength. The ALS programs of the Asian
countries may have helped in addressing the educational needs of the less privileged
citizens but still there are more citizens who were not able to avail of the education
provided by the formal schools or even the alternative learning systems. Much effort has
still to be done. The formal schools should tie up with the alternative learning systems to
fully address the needs of all the citizens of each country.
Moreover, it may be true that the ALS of the Philippines as well as other Asian
countries have been of great help, but the education that they offer to the learners
cannot suffice the educational needs for them to qualify for higher education and even
to land in good and decent jobs. The students may have acquired the basic literacy but
that is not enough for them to qualify for pursuing higher education especially if they go
back to formal schools. The quality education is at risk. They may have learned the
basics of education but then again, in our current society wherein it is very competitive,
the need for higher education is the demand to qualify for jobs.
It was also noted that more male students drop out from schools, be it in the
formal schools or in the alternative schools. The cited reason why more male learners
drop out from school than female is due to poverty. More male students are asked to
look for jobs that would contribute to the income of the family. This has to be addressed,
or else time will come when more male will not be qualified to work due to being
uneducated or worst being illiterate.
In summary, most of the regions in our country have performance classified as
falling further behind or with performance getting lower each year. While substantial
investments have been poured into the establishment of basic education facilities, these
were not enough to ensure that those who finish the ALS programs in elementary and
secondary levels complete basic education with satisfactory achievement level. The
basic education system should be responsive to the differentiated needs of learners
where a one-size-fit all or conventional interventions are not enough or will no longer
For the country to achieve its target in 2015, the various basic education
stakeholders should focus their efforts and resources in assisting the regions, divisions,
schools or groups of learners who are lagging behind. In addition, the following are
highly recommended as policy of actions and programs:
Operationalize the Joint Circular on establishing local literacy coordinating councils and
literacy implementing units.
Fast track the introduction of methodologies to incorporate basic and functional literacy
skills development in existing community development programs of various partners.
Increase DepEds budget for the Bureau of Alternative Learning System to enable it to
continuously undertake policy/standard setting, national coordination and quality
assurance (providing technical support and monitoring and evaluation.)
Redesign the ALS program viz. Ladderized Technical and Vocational Skills Program of
Intensify the Parent or Adult Education program to develop parents functional literacy
and to advocate the value of being educated.
The Alternative Learning

Historical Context of ALS
As always, it is best to trace the source of an educational system such
as the ALS to the basic and fundamental law of the land. The
Philippine Constitution provides for free and compulsory elementary
education and free secondary education through the Department of
Education (DepEd). This means that all Filipinos have a constitutional
right to basic education, and the DepEd is mandated to provide this
service to all Filipinos.

In the 80s, the global community launched a campaign called
Education for All (EFA) that aimed to eradicate illiteracy and promote
functional literacy for all people of the world. Our nation was a
signatory to this and as such, committed to providing education for all

ALTERNATIVE LEARNING SYSTEM is a parallel learning system
that provides a viable alternative to the existing formal education. It
encompasses both the non formal and informal sources of knowledge
and skills. In summary, we say:

Basic Education = early childhood education (kindergarten) and
elementary education (Grades 1-6) and secondary education (1st-4th
year) and ALS (for out- -of- school age children, youth adults and
those with special needs).

Alternative Learning System = Non Formal Education (NFE) and
Informal Education (IEd)


On September 13, 2004, the office of the President of the Republic of
the Philippines renamed the DepEds Bureau of Non Formal
Education the Bureau of Alternative Learning System (BALS) through
this Executive Order signed by Her Excellency, President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo. The order directs BALS to provide a systematic
and flexible approach to reach all types of learners outside the school

Philippine Alternative Learning
System (ALS) for drop-outs and out of school youth
The Alternative Learning System (ALS) is a free education program implemented by the
Department of Education (DepEd) under the Bureau of Alternative Learning System which
benefits those who cannot afford formal schooling and follows whatever is their available
schedule. The program provides a viable alternative to the existing formal education instruction,
encompassing both the non-formal and informal sources of knowledge and skills. How does it
work In ALS, students have to attend 10 months of school or 800 hours in the classroom. Then
their performance are then assessed. Since ALS is a module-based learning system, students
come in on a set time and choose a module to read. A quiz is given after each module to test their
learning. Instead of teachers, facilitators are always present to answer any questions and
sometimes lecturers would discuss a certain module. After several months, the students will take
the Accreditation and Equivalency Test (AET). If they pass the test, they will be given a high
school diploma and can now enroll in college.
Manny Pacquiao took and passed the (AET) under the ALS program. He was presented a high
school diploma, making eligible to pursue college. After getting a certificate upon passing, the
students have the option to enroll in ALS again orgo to a college. I have learners who are maids,
fishermen, and babysitters, and a saleslady, In fact, they do not even have to go to class five
times a week to finish high school. Participants of eSkwela just sit in front of a computer for
about three hours a week. They learn according to their need and speed. The eSkwela has five
main learning strands: Communication skills, critical thinking and problem solving, sustainable
use of resources and productivity, development of self and a sense of community, and expanding
ones world vision. Each student in every session uses a computer loaded with digital modules
with videos and animation. A teacher called facilitator helps students navigate the digital
modules and monitors his/her progress to determine if the learner is ready for the A&E. There
are two ways in which you can take the Alternative Learning System, through the modules (and
just months of classroom preparation for the test?) and through the Internet (with also just
months of classroom with the computers as