The Senate passed on third and final reading a bill that seeks to institutionalize the Alternative Learning System (ALS) and establish an ALS Community Learning Center (CLC) in every city and municipality in the country.
Senate Bill No. 1365 was approved with 22 affirmative votes.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, the bill’s principal author, said putting up ALS CLCs in every city and municipality will give more Filipinos outside the formal school system a second chance to complete their basic education.
“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,” the chair of the Senate Committee on Basic Education Arts and Culture said in a statement.
He said the proposed measure also reflects the need for continued education amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
The bill, he said, utilizes a mix of learning modalities required under the “new normal’ such as digital learning, modular instruction, and radio and television-based instruction to help ensure the safety of learners.
The ALS is the Department of Education’s (DepEd) 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.
In comparison to the formal education system, ALS is a non-formal education that happens outside the classroom, 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.
According to the May 2018 Philippines Education Note by the World Bank, at least 24 million Filipinos aged 15 and above have not completed basic education. The same report said that an additional 2.4 million children aged 5 to 14 were not in school.
In 2019, there were 738,929 learners enrolled in ALS.
Before the Senate passed the ALS bill, at least 738,929 learners were already enrolled in the system, according to data from Gatchalian’s office.
Aside from establishing ALS CLCs in every city and municipality, SB 1365 establishes the Bureau of Alternative Education (BAE), which will serve as the focal office for the implementation of ALS.
In 2016, the Bureau of Alternative Learning System was dissolved and its functions were integrated in other bureaus of the DepEd.
The proposed measure also strengthens the ALS Teacher Program to address the shortage of ALS teachers and facilitators.
In 2019, there were 10,214 ALS learning facilitators, which include mobile teachers, District ALS coordinators, and literacy volunteers among others.
The bill mandates the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to create teaching positions for ALS teachers. It also expands the recruitment program for ALS teachers to ensure that the system would reach far-flung communities in need of education.
Under the policy, the national government “shall create teaching positions and allocate the corresponding salary grades”.
“The CHED shall likewise develop a standardized and formalized ALS curriculum for a specialized degree in ALS teaching,” the measure said.
Measures shall likewise be undertaken for the general public, especially educational and training institutions, government agencies, and employers to recognize the nature and value of certifications provided to ALS learners. (By Jose Cielito Reganit, PNA)