MANILA – The limiting effect of unplanned circumstances on access to quality education has undoubtedly affected literacy in the Philippines, as the administration of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte pushed to widen the reach of the Alternative Learning System (ALS).
For the past six years, the administration, through the Department of Education (DepEd), has intensified its move to ensure no one is left behind, especially the marginalized and most vulnerable sector of society.
Since then, around 4,228,350 out-of-school youth and adults have been given a second chance at greater opportunities. This figure is 95 percent higher compared to the enrollment turnout from the past two administrations, on a yearly average.
Different walks of life
Among the millions of hardworking learners is 36-year-old mom Frendy Tesorero, who had to give up schooling in her youth to prioritize taking care of her family.
Now, she expressed great joy in finally graduating from the program, saying her educational attainment somehow gives her fulfillment as a mother.
“Kaya po ako pumasok sa ALS upang makatapos ng pag-aaral at upang maipagmalaki din po ako ng aking anak na kahit nanay na po ako… Malaki po ang naitulong ng ALS sa akin dahil po sa Sabaduhang pagkuha ng module napagsabay ko po ang pagiging ina ko po at pagtra-trabaho bilang helper,” she told the Philippine News Agency.
(The reason why I entered ALS is to finish my school, so that my child would be proud of me, even though I’m already a mom… The ALS has helped me so much, the Saturday modules, which I have managed to finish along my parental responsibilities and my work as a helper.)
Tesorero said she has to thank their ALS teacher and President Rodrigo Duterte, the former for his selflessness to ensure they learn and the latter for his administration's programs helping people like her.
“Salamat dahil sayo, sir, naka-graduate po ako halos nakita po naming mga kaklase ko po umulan, bumagyo, umaraw, malipasan ka, sir, ng kain pero nandiyan ka pa rin matapos lang namin ang aming porfolio… Lubos din po ako nagpapasalamat sa mahal na Pangulong Rodrigo Roa Duterte, ang dami ninyo pong ginawa sa bayan natin na para sa akin ang hirap mo po i-let go dahil sa sobrang magagandang ginawa mo po,” she added.
(Thank you, sir, I graduated. Our classmates saw despite the rain, storm, heat, skipping meals, you were there for us to finish our portfolio… I’m also thanking President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, you’ve done so much for the country, for me it’s hard to let you go, for all the great services you’ve done.)
Elisha Velasquez, 17, another ALS graduate, told the PNA how the program has taught her to interact with people of different ages and diverse societal orientations.
She noted that this opportunity came at the perfect time as she stopped her studies in her eighth grade.
“Si Sir Rush po, matiyagang nagse-send sa pamamagitan ng messenger, naramdaman po namin ang suporta ng Duterte admin sa pamamagitan ng pagtugon nila sa pangangailangan ng mga ALS teacher/ALS students kagaya ng modules materials, school supplies, at mga gamit na nagamit namin during our intervention,” she said.
(Sir Rush [ALS teacher] diligently sends [the modules] through the messenger. We felt the support of the Duterte administration through their provision of the ALS teachers/ALS students’ needs, like modules, materials, school supplies, and other things needed during the intervention.)
Who would have thought that the ALS would prepare Velasquez for Senior High School, where she received high honors. And now, she is dreaming to pursue either a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology or Education.
Besides Tesorero and Velasquez, Jannete Niña Garcia, 18, said ALS brought her to greater heights.
Despite the challenges it brought, the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic led Garcia to a decent job, as she now works as a call center agent.
“Nakahanap ako ng magandang trabaho at ngayon ay nakakabili nako ng pangangailangan sa bahay at nakatapos ako ng high school (I found a good job, and now I can buy for the needs at home as I finished high school),” she said.
Furthermore, ALS has not only produced empowered women in society but also promoted competency for skilled men, even in the international arena.
JR Saleo, 38, a truck driver and ALS graduate, said he managed to finish their challenging yet helpful curriculum.
“Napakatagal na nung huli akong pumasok sa paaralan, kinailangan kong magsimula muli ngunit nagustuhan ko ang ALS program dahil ang mga nilalaman nitong module ay talagang kagamit gamit sa tunay na buhay (It has been so long since I last attended school, so I need to start again, but I was hooked in the ALS program because the content of the modules are very relevant in the reality of life),” he told the PNA.
Some of his favorite learning points were, “Strand 1: Communication skills and Strand 4: Life and Career Skills”, noting they helped him develop self-confidence.
He added that a great opportunity now awaits him in Canada where he was chosen for a job position.
“Nagkaroon ako ng kaalaman sa paggawa ng magandang resume na nagbigay sa akin ng self-confidence, nakapasa ako sa interview ko para sa isang trabaho sa ibang bansa dahil naihanda ako ng ALS para sa interview na iyon at nagkaroon ako ng job offer sa kompanya (I learned how to do a good resume, which gave me self-confidence, I passed the interview for a work abroad because the ALS has prepared me, I got a job offer from the company),” he said.
In the end, Saleo acknowledged how the administration’s efforts have significantly brought an impact on his life.
“Sa administrasyong Duterte, maraming maraming salamat po sa magandang pagkakataong na ito na ibinibigay niyo sa lahat ng mga Pilipinong gustong makapag-aral at maabot ang kanilang mga pangarap. Sa pagpapaganda ng ating education system, mas maraming tao po ang nahikayat na magbalik sa pag-aaral. Sana po ay magpatuloy pa na mag-improve ang sistema,” he said.
(To the Duterte administration, thank you very, very much for this great opportunity that you’ve given to all Filipinos who want to learn and reach their dreams, for making the education system better, more people are now encouraged to finish education. I hope the system will continue to improve.)
These were just some of the attestations of how the country’s quality of education under the Duterte administration has proven to change lives for Filipinos. For the DepEd, this legacy will go beyond the current administration, holding on to education as an investment to alleviate challenges and ultimately eradicate poverty in the country.
As DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones shared in her Duterte Legacy report last May 31, ALS has brought so much fulfillment in the lives of young Filipinos and adults.
“You cannot imagine the joy, the pride, you could see young mothers bringing their infants and marching to the stage, I have seen and I have met young inmates in Davao, at the initiative of former Mayor Sara Duterte, who benefited from the Alternative Learning System. So we are reaching out not only to those in the streets, to the farmers, to the factory workers, but also to those who are in prison, and those who are in remote places,” she said. (PNA)