By Hannah L. Torregoza
With 22 affirmative votes, the Senate approved on third and final reading the measure institutionalizing the Alternative Learning System (ALS) which aims to provide more Filipinos outside the formal school system a chance to complete their basic education.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate basic education, arts and culture committee, and principal author of the proposed Alternative Learning System (ALS) Act, welcomed this development as this would be useful as the country adjusts to a “new normal” amid a COVID-19 pandemic.
“The ALS Act is, in its very essence, a bill about second chances. It is a bill about providing opportunities for a better life to our fellow Filipinos who have fallen into hard times,” said Gatchalian.
The bill also seeks to establish an ALS Community Learning Center (CLC) in every city and municipality in the country.
The measure also seeks to utilize a mix of learning modalities such as digital learning, modular instruction, and radio and television-based instruction to help ensure the safety of learners.
The Department of Education (DepEd) introduced ALS as a parallel learning system for those who cannot access formal education due to economic, geographic, political, cultural, and social barriers, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, children in conflict with the law, persons deprived of liberty, migrant workers, and other marginalized sectors of the society.
Compared to a formal education setting, ALS is a non-formal education system that can be conducted outside the classroom. It is community-based, usually conducted at community learning centers, barangay multi-purpose halls or at home at an agreed schedule and venue between the learners and learning facilitators for free.
Gatchalian expressed hope the bill would be signed into law as soon as possible by the President to help the more than 24 million Filipinos aged 15 and above who have not completed basic education, based on a May, 2018 Philippines Education Note by the World Bank.
The measure would also stand to benefit an additional 2.4 million children aged 5 to 14 who were not able to go to school, he said. In 2019, there were 738,929 learners enrolled in ALS.
“Kung bawat lungsod o munisipyo sa bansa ay magkakaroon ng ALS Community Learning Center, mas madali nating maaabot at mabibigyan ng dekalidad na edukasyon ang bawat Pilipinong napagkaitan ng pagkakataong tapusin ang kanilang pag-aaral, (if every city or municipality in the country will have a chance to have an ALS CLC, it’s much easier for us to achieve and provide quality education to each Filipino who had no chance to finish their studies,” the senator said.
“Malaking hamon ito para sa lahat ng stakeholders lalo na’t pinaghahandaan natin ngayon ang tinatawag na new normal sa muling pagbubukas ng eskwela, (This is a challenge to all the stakeholders, more so now that we are adjusting to a new normal as we prepare to reopen classes),” he added.
Aside from the establishment of an ALS CLCs in every city and municipality, the ALS Act also seeks to revive the Bureau of Alternative Education (BAE), which will serve as the focal office for the implementation of ALS.
Gatchalian said the Bureau of Alternative Learning System was dissolved in 2016 and its functions integrated in other bureaus of the DepEd.
The measure also strengthens the ALS Teacher Program to address the shortage of ALS teachers and facilitators by mandating the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to create teaching positions for ALS teachers.