For the Department of Education (DepEd), the graduation of the first batch of Senior High School (SHS) students under the Alternative Learning System (ALS) Program is a milestone not just for the department but for the entire education system.
“Today, we celebrate not just any graduation but the graduation of the first batch of Alternative Learning System Senior High School under the new ALS K to 12 Basic Education Curriculum,” Education Secretary Leonor Briones said on July 15 as she lauded the first batch of SHS graduates of the ALS Program in the country.
“For many out-of-school youth and adults, ALS Senior High School is the completion of non-formal education,” Briones said in her keynote message. “For DepEd, it is the fulfillment of its major priority,” she added.
Briones underscored the exceptional circumstances that the ALS SHS graduates had to face before and during the pandemic. She also recognized their “perseverance to finally get to where they are now.” With the theme “Sa ALS 2.0, Kalidad ng Edukasyon lalong Patatagin sa Gitna ng Pandemya,” DepEd Region V successfully completed its pilot implementation of the ALS SHS which started in 2019.
Amid the many disruptions and unique challenges posed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Briones also commended DepEd Region V for “stepping up to the challenge” of piloting ALS SHS.
Briones delivered her message to the graduates virtually but expressed her sincere desire to be physically present during the ceremonies “to shake the hands and perhaps hug” them “who have done so well.”
Hope amid the chaos
Meanwhile, DepEd Region V Director Gilbert Sadsad thanked the graduates for not giving up on their schooling and for “not losing hope amid the chaos.” “As pioneer graduates of this hybrid and enhanced ALS curriculum, you have raised the bar of the Alternative Learning System,” Sadsad said.
“History will remember you that you are brave, courageous, and determined graduates under a unique and difficult new normal,” he added.
According to Assistant Secretary for ALS G.H. Ambat, there were 62 ALS SHS graduates from the pilot schools Ligao City National High School in the Division of Ligao City, Nursery High School in the Division of Masbate City, Federico A. Estipona Memorial High School in the Division of Masbate Province, and Tabaco National High School in the Division of Tabaco City.
DepEd said that the ALS SHS graduates – most of whom are breadwinners and single parents who had to stop attending school to put the needs of their families first – received their basic education diplomas and distinctions.
The virtual graduation ceremonies were also joined by ALS Task Force Dir. Marilette Almayda, DepEd Region V ALS Focal Person Ricardo Tejeresas, DepEd Schools Division Superintendents, Curriculum and Learning Management Division chiefs, and DepEd Division Focal Persons of the implementing Divisions.
Milestone In a press conference prior to the graduation ceremonies, Ambat noted that the event was indeed a milestone.
Ambat said that under the current administration, the first batch of SHS students graduated in 2018. Before the term of the current administration ends, the first batch of SHS ALS was able to graduate, too.
Meanwhile, Tejeresas noted that the pilot implementation of ALS SHS in the Bicol Region was made possible because of the availability of facilities, teachers, and curriculum that can serve the unique needs of ALS learners.
Tejeresas also commended the school heads “with the heart to continue” by shaing their facilities and support coming from local government units (LGUs).
DepEd also expressed optimism that other regions will follow suit.
In 2019, through DepEd Order 13, series 2019 (Policy Guidelines on the Implementation of Enhanced Alternative Learning System 2.0), DepEd mandated the inclusion of the SHS level in the ALS Program, which is equivalent to Grades 11 and 12 in the formal education system.
It ensures that all ALS learners will be equipped with competencies required for employment, entrepreneurship, middle-level skills, and tertiary education.
DepEd said that this was further strengthened with the passage of Republic Act No. 11510 (ALS Act) in December 2020, where it is emphasized that Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) Test Elementary level passers are qualified to enroll in Junior High School (JHS); A&E Test JHS level passers are qualified to enroll in Senior High School (SHS) or in selected technical vocational education and training programs through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA); and A&E Test SHS level passers are qualified to enroll in higher education (subject to the requirements set by higher education institutions), or in technical vocational education and training programs through TESDA.
DepEd said that the ALS is a “legacy program” of the current administration in line with its commitment that education continues for Filipino out-of-school children in special circumstances, youth, and adults (OSCYA) amid and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.