By Merlina Hernando-Malipot from the Manila Bulletin, Published

^ DepEd Sec. Leonor Briones
(MB PHOTO/FEDERICO CRUZ / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

The Department of Education (DepEd) announced that completers of the Alternative Learning System (ALS), who undertook the old basic education curriculum before the implementation of the K to 12 Basic Education Program and passed the Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) Test-High School Level, are now eligible candidates for higher education beginning school year (SY) 2018-2019.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in a statement, announced the said development and stressed that the “work with ALS never stops” and “as persistent as our out-of-school youth and adults who seek to further their knowledge and skills through education.”

The DepEd, Briones said, is determined to continuously provide the learners who are outside the formal education system with more options in life. “Our tedious review of existing policies on the transition of learners and our close consultations with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) resulted in this DepEd Order, and hopefully, in better opportunities for our learners outside the formal school system,” she said.

Briones said that under the newly signed DepEd Order 27, series 2018 (DO 27), or the “Amendment to DepEd Order No. 42, s. 2015 (High School Graduates who are Eligible to Enroll in Higher Education Institutions in School Year SY 2016-2017) in Relation to the Alternative Learning System (ALS),” ALS completers who passed previous A&E Tests for High School Level, including those held in November 2017 and March 2018, are already considered high school graduates under the old curriculum.

“Similarly, ALS learners who will finish the program’s high school level in 2018 are also undertaking the old curriculum, thus, are considered high school graduates when they complete the program and pass the A&E Test to be conducted in 2019,” Briones said. “Therefore, they are also eligible to pursue higher education,” she added.

Based on DepEd data, the ALS saw 96,634 of its learners pass the A&E Test-High School Level in 2016. “Despite setbacks in the development of the ALS curriculum to cover SHS equivalent in formal education, its completion and full implementation is expected in 2019,” Briones said.

Briones noted that with DO 27, A&E Test-High School Level passers “will now have more options after completing the program.” They may choose to either, a) enroll in college/university as first year students (subject to admission policies and requirements of higher education institutions); or b) take skills development programs being offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and/or other accredited government and private skills training institutions.

“These A&E passers are also given the option to enroll as Grade 11 in any public or recognized private schools offering Senior High School (SHS) and choose a specific track based on their field of interest,” Briones said. This is in accordance to DepEd Order 41, s. 2015, or the “Senior High School Career Guidance Program and Early Registration.”

Meanwhile, Briones said respective school division superintendents, with the assistance of the division testing coordinators, shall duly certify A&E passers by issuing a High School Level Certification based on the certificate of rating (COR) for the November 2017 and the March 28 tests.

Boosting ALS

While the focus of DepEd is primarily set on public formal schooling, it continues to strengthen its program for those who are outside the system especially this year.

One of flagship programs of Briones under her term is strengthening the ALS –a parallel learning system under DepEd that provides a practical option to the existing formal instruction.

ALS Assistant Secretary G.H. Ambat, in an earlier interview with the Manila Bulletin, noted that DepEd will intensify its efforts for strengthen the ALS program in an effort to reach out to those who might be left behind by the formal school system.

“Overall, the reach of DepEd is improving but we can’t deny the number of out-of-school children and youth (OSCY) is still big,” Ambat said. “[But], we have to admit that the program [ALS] was side-tracked because more priority was given to the formal [schooling],” Ambat said.

Despite this, Ambat noted that DepEd will strengthen the ALS under this administration to “give the same equivalent to formal school.” Among the efforts to being initiated to improve the ALS program is the development of a new curriculum for ALS which is aligned with K to 12 curriculum, the offering of ALS Senior High School, and deploying 2,000 additional ALS mobile teachers in 2018.

In 2017, Ambat said that there were 641,584 enrollees in ALS in the Basic Literacy, Elementary and Secondary levels. The ALS is a 10-month program from January to October. However, certain adjustments are being made depending on the capacity of learners. “We have individual learning agreements [ILA] where the learners would say what they need to achieve but we’re really pushing that they could finish and proceed to higher level,” she said.

Based on enrollment for 2017, the top 5 regions with highest number of ALS enrollment include Region 5 (63, 632); Region 11 (47,256); Region 4-A (46,573); Region 12 (46,010) and the National Capital Region (45,106). These regions, Ambat said, are considered the areas with highest number OSCY and dropouts or those who leave school.

Meanwhile, Ambat said DepEd is also trying to reach out to OSCYs and adults in other countries. She noted that “there are Filipinos who are out-of-school abroad due to various circumstances.”

Currently, DepEd has been tracking those who are OSCY in Sabah, Malaysia as well as those in countries like Italy (who are usually children of undocumented workers) and even in United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Hong Kong. “We receive reports that there are many Filipinos in these countries who were not able to finish basic education that went there using fake diplomas,” she said.

Overall, Ambat said there are about 15-million Filipino who did not finish or did not start basic education or those considered as out-of-school children, youth, and adults.

The number of OSYCs as well as adults, Ambat said, indicates that “there is so much” that needs to be done. “We have so many partners it’s just that we have to get our act together to reach them,” she ended.

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