Gatchalian pushes DepEd to reinforce ALS program for 4 million out-of-school-youth

The Department of Education (DepEd) should reinforce the Alternative Learning System (ALS) program for the benefit of the four million students who did not enroll for the next school year due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture, said he finds the information discouraging as it means that there are now more out-of-school-youth in the country aggravated by the pandemic.

“Discouraging itong information na four million out of school youth. Madami tayong kabataan na maiiwanan ( This information of having four million out of school youth is discouraging. We will have many young people who would be left behind in their studies),” Gatchalian said in a virtual interview.

“Right now we just have to strengthen our Alternative Learning System (ALS). ALS is a second chance for our students,” the senator said.

During the last Senate hearing, DepEd officials expressed concern that the number of out-of-school youth may increase to four million due to the pandemic as they noted the “extraordinary non-participation” of some students due to COVID-19.

DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan told senators that around 2.75 million of those who did not enroll used to go to private schools, while over one million students who attended public schools did not register for this coming academic calendar (2020-2021).

The government is focused on those students who have decided to push through with their education under the “new normal” and will pursue their studies through blended learning modalities.

Gatchalian said it is at this point that the government should use the ALS program to encourage the out-of-school youth to go back to school.

“The ALS can encourage them to go back to school. In the short term, we need to  strengthen our ALS to make sure this is available to everybody,” he said.

The senator said the number of enrollees in ALS is far from the ideal.

“Ang ALS program na ito ang sasalo sa mga hindi makakapag-aral. Importante may mekanismo na sasalo sa kanila. Di pwedeng putulan yung paghihikayat na pumasok itong mga out-of-school youth (This ALS program will take charge of those who cannot pursue their studies. What is important is there is a mechanism that they can lean on. We shouldn’t stop encouraging the out-of-school-youth to pursue their studies),” the lawmaker said.

“Sa ngayon, para sa akin kulang pa. Evident yan sa mababang enrollment rate ng ALS na nasa less than 45.1 percent (For me, it’s obviously lacking. It is evident with the low enrollment rate in the ALS which is less than 45.1 percent). We really need to ramp up the ALS program,” he said.