EDUCATE AT ALL COST KLIKme facilitators Josie Ayson and Estela Millena join the virtual DepEd update on Aug. 25, from home base in Payatas

Not all teachers and learners are based in a classroom. And for this academic year, no teachers or learners are based in a classroom. 

The difficulties posed by remote learning and the limited access to educational resources for learners is nothing new. These are all pre-existing shortcomings that have plagued the Alternative Learning System (ALS). The ALS is a “second chance” parallel learning system that caters to out-of-school youth and adult (OSYA) learners unable to enroll in a formal education.

Almost one out of 10 Filipinos aged six to 24 years old is not enrolled in formal education. That is roughly 3.6 million Filipino children and youths who have had their education disrupted even before the crisis. This may be due to family matters, financial concerns, or any multitude of reasons. For them, and for the adults who were unable to finish their formal education, ALS provides an opportunity to attain an elementary or high school diploma. More important for them, ALS is seen as an avenue to greater employment opportunities despite their socio-economic or situational disadvantages. And ALS teachers, perhaps even more than formal teachers, have a difficult task with limited resources and support.

Discussions on the public education system have often focused on expanding the traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. The same institutions and systems that are failing our youths with overcrowded classrooms, teacher shortages, and declining educational standards. 

Meanwhile, the ALS is rarely discussed and barely funded, with less than one percent of the budget of public basic education spending. Now, as all students are forced to be out-of-physical-school learners due to the health crisis, there is little policymakers can turn to in the ALS for guidance and support.

The introduction of the ALS K-to-12 Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) in 2019 initially seemed promising. It was meant to enhance the alignment between the formal and alternative learning systems so that OSYA learners would not be left behind. As the school year went on, however, it became apparent that refining the ALS curriculum content by aligning learning competencies and objectives with the K-to-12 curricula would not be enough. 

What was, and still is, needed are guidelines for ALS teachers on teaching methods and delivery platforms that would take into consideration the disadvantaged situation of ALS learners. The same disadvantaged situation that most Filipino students learners are now going to experience.

KEEP ON LEARNING The parellel learning system in the country, ALS, setup before the pandemic

The World Bank found that only 10 percent of potential ALS enrollees between the ages of 15 and 30 joined the program in 2017. Between 2014 and 2016, only 60 percent of ALS enrollees attended the physical learning sessions regularly. That is why it was disheartening, but not shocking, that only 30 percent of test-takers passed the Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) Test. The current ALS does not effectively reach the Filipinos it is meant to help through a means and method that appropriately take into consideration their disadvantage: that they are not in a formal education setting because of certain issues that they continue to be burdened with while studying under the ALS.

Currently, our educational system entrenches divisions based on educational opportunities with knock-on effects on our society. Private versus public school learners. Formal versus alternative learning systems. Families who cannot afford better quality education may be stuck in a cycle as our institutions and our systems fail to provide for them, and the whole country suffers. ALS teachers are tirelessly working to overcome those divisions, but need greater support.

Re-working the education system bottom-up, based on the requirements of the most disadvantaged of society, could ensure inclusivity for all types of learners, support for all types of teachers. The way we approach education today should not be seen as temporary in the midst of the pandemic. There is potential to create real systematic changes as the ALS and the formal K-to-12 system learn from each other and grow together, strengthening the public education system on all fronts.

Of course, there are still a lot of difficult questions to answer, such as what about the lack of Internet access for some learners in both the formal and alternative learning systems. Some of those in formal education have called for the suspension of classes on those grounds. I find that there is a silver lining as I am relieved to hear these questions finally being asked. I am optimistic in thinking it brings us one step closer to finding a solution. A solution that benefits all so that none are left behind.

Source: Manila Bulletin (