Senator Sherwin Gatchalian

MANILA – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is seeking to strengthen the Alternative Learning System (ALS) as part of the education sector’s recovery efforts from the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, especially in reaching out to more than 4 million learners who did not enroll this coming school year and give them a second chance.

Though the economic downturn and fears of the virus are pushing the spike in the number of out-of-school children and youth, Gatchalian explained that the ALS program will bridge these learners’ reintegration in the formal school system when the virus is suppressed and the economy bounces back.

ALS is the Department of Education’s (DepEd) parallel learning system that increases learning opportunities for out-of-school youth, adults, and children in special extreme cases.

It also covers those who cannot access formal education due to economic, geographic, political, cultural, and social barriers. These include persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, children in conflict with the law, persons deprived of liberty, migrant workers, and other marginalized sectors.

According to Gatchalian, DepEd should tap the ALS program in a final stretch to reach learners who are at risk of dropping out of school.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture, pointed out that enrollment turnout for ALS has been dismal for this coming school year.

As of August 27, there are 361,398 ALS learners enrolled for this school year, only 49 percent of 738,929 learners enrolled last year.

Based on the World Bank’s May 2018 Philippines Education Note, at least 24 million Filipinos aged 15 and above have not completed basic education.

“Ang ALS program na ito ang sasalo sa mga hindi makakapag-aral. Importanteng may mekanismo na sasalo sa kanila. ‘Di pwedeng putulin yung paghihikayat na pumasok itong mga out-of-school youth (ALS program will help those who cannot go to school. This is an important mechanism to assist them. We should not stop convincing these out-of-school youth to study),” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian is the principal author and sponsor of Senate Bill 1365 or the ALS Act, which will institutionalize ALS under the proposed Bureau of Alternative Education and put up an ALS Community Learning Center (ALS CLC) in every city and municipality, making the program more accessible to potential enrollees.

Like DepEd’s Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP), the proposed measure also utilizes a mix of learning modalities such as digital learning, modular instruction, and radio and television-based instructions, among others.

The Senate approved the ALS Act on third and final reading last May. The House of Representatives has passed its version of ALS on third and final reading this August. A bicameral conference committee will soon convene to reconcile differing provisions on the measure.

“Sa pagbangon ng ating sektor ng edukasyon mula sa pandemya ng Covid-19, mahalagang mabigyan natin ng pangalawang pagkakataon ang mga naudlot ang pag-aaral. Sa pamamagitan ng ALS, hindi lamang mga kabataan ang ating aabutin, mabibigyan natin ng pangalawang pagkakataon ang bawat Pilipinong napagkaitan ng edukasyon (As the education sector recovers from Covid-19, it is important to give those who failed to finish school another chance. Through ALS, not only the youth but every Filipino will be given a chance),” Gatchalian said. (PR)