As part of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) commitment that education continues for Filipino out-of-school youth and adults (OSYA) amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alternative Learning System (ALS) Task Force, in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development-Education Development Center (USAID-EDC), unveiled the newly developed self-directed Life Skills modules for ALS learners through an online opening ceremony on August 5, 2020.

The ceremony, which also served as the commencement of the “National Online Training of Master Trainers on the Delivery of ALS Life Skills Self-Directed Modules,” highlighted the significance of the self-directed modules as a remote learning delivery modality since the existing Life Skills learning resources are originally designed for facilitators, and to be learned and delivered through a face-to-face setup in a classroom.

In her message, Assistant Secretary for ALS G.H. Ambat emphasized: “With the self-directed modules, we expect that as we normalize, we will still have a number of our learners who are self-aware, good at communication, collaboration, have financial management skills, and continue to recognize their role in community building, especially post-pandemic. It is with this that I would like to thank EDC and USAID for this partnership.”

The integration of Life Skills in the ALS Program was rolled out in 2019 and was welcomed by field implementers and critics alike, who acknowledge that these are helpful for ALS learners who are interested not just in academics but in having work readiness skills as well.

Omar Muktar Abdulla, an ALS learner from the Schools Division of Isabela City, shared his message on the impact of the Life Skills program on his education: “Ang magandang naidulot sa akin ng ALS, marami akong na-experience na first time namin tulad ng pagtutulungan. Nagamit ko rin itong Life Skills na malaki ang tulong na naidulot tulad ng interaction with others, communication with others, tsaka makakatulong din balang araw sa kinabukasan. Para sa mga kabataan na tulad kong huminto sa pag-aaral dahil sa mga hindi inaasahan na personal na dahilan, kunin ang opportunity na binigay sa atin na makapag-aral nang libre sa pamamagitan ng ALS.”

A total of 108 ALS Master Trainers and ALS Regional Focal Persons, who participated in the 2018 Training of Trainers on Life Skills by EDC, shall participate in this series of national online training of trainers that will run from August 5-7 for the Luzon cluster and from August 18-20 for the Visayas and Mindanao cluster.

The series of national online training of trainers is part of the Opportunity 2.0 Project between DepEd and USAID-EDC that aims to orient the ALS Master Trainers on the delivery of Life Skills self-directed modules, learning assessment, and tracking of learners participating in the Life Skills Program of ALS. It likewise targets to develop a rollout plan on the conduct of training and distribution of learning package to the Regions and Divisions.

According to Dr. David Hall, Chief of Party of EDC-Opportunity 2.0, this training of trainers is an important stepping stone in delivering strengthened second chance education program for Filipino OSYA and in achieving the goal of enabling them to “have better education, employment and livelihood outcomes. . . and to transition from out-of-school youth to outstanding youth.”

In his keynote speech, Dr. Thomas LeBlanc, USAID Philippines-Office of Education Director, expressed his gratitude for the participants: “Today is particularly meaningful because even as all of us are grappling with the impact of COVID-19 on our personal lives, you, the teachers and officers of the Department of Education, continue to push forward to heed the call that education cannot wait. This is particularly true for those already at the margins who have dropped out of school for many different reasons but would like a second chance at a better future. . . I would also like to thank the master trainers of ALS. Your commitment to improve yourselves, to improve your capabilities so that in turn, you can strengthen the learning and teaching of ALS across the Philippines is highly commendable.”

ASec. Ambat further noted that the training of trainers will play an important role in the continuity of learning, especially through the ALS Program, given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education: “If we have 27 million learners last year and for this school year only about 23 million, that leaves us at about four million learners who are not enrolled this school year. Depending on how we rise, heal, and recover, the enrollment numbers may still be the same in the next year or two. What does that mean for us in ALS? Number one, we have to be preparing for the next year, the next two years because we understand that the messaging is clear for the Department of Education, that there is a program for the learners that will not be able to enroll in the next two or three years.”

Joining the online opening ceremony were Dir. Marilette Almayda, ALS Task Force Head; Dr. Maria Theresa Mokamad, Deputy Chief of Party on Technical Programs of EDC-Opportunity 2.0; Robinson Wee, TESD Advisor of EDC-Opportunity 2.0; Angelique Roux, Private Sector Advisor of EDC-Opportunity 2.0; and members of the DepEd ALS Task Force.