Newly-sworn in Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor M. Briones is pushing for a more vigorous implementation of Alternative Learning System (ALS) to bring education to more learners across the country.
Herself a product of informal basic education during World War 2, Briones said her passion for ALS is shaped by the advocacies of a non-government organization Social Watch Philippines where she was Lead Convenor, as well as her own life experiences. Social Watch’s main thrust is increasing people’s awareness and participation in promoting social development concerns with government.
Speaking before DepEd employees during her first flag ceremony at the DepEd Central Office in Pasig City, Briones said that one can get educated in a non-traditional way. “The Department of Education had not invented ALS then but my own experience showed that one can get educated without formal schooling,” she recalled.
She shared that when the Japanese came to invade the Philippines, a university in Southern Philippines founded by American missionaries closed its facilities and its American and Filipino faculty fled to the hills.
The teachers set up a jungle university and continued to teach the mountain communities. Amidst the war, they never lost sight of the fact that they were primarily school teachers.
She said that her family also escaped to the hills where her mother, a teacher, gathered the children from the mountain villages and taught them how to read and write. “My mother, who was a teacher, did not let the horrors of war deter her from teaching,” she explained.
Her students used banana leaves with their natural lines as writing pads and sharpened bamboo sticks as their improvised pen. She was then three years old and listened to the lessons which her mother imparted.
When the war was over, children were tested to determine their grade equivalences. “The district supervisor tested me and decided to promote me by two grades. And I was not even enrolled!” Briones enthused.
ALS is a kind of education delivery in a non-formal setting. Learning space can be a covered court, barangay hall, church yard or any other common area in a community where the learners are. The ALS facilitators deliver lessons based on the capability of the learners. ALS is open to all learners and does not discriminate against age, gender, or ethnicity.
Graduates of ALS’s who passed the Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) Test can get either an elementary or high school diploma and proceed to formal schooling if they so choose.