When newly-crowned Bb. Pilipinas-Universe was asked in the Q & A (question and answer) portion of the Bb. Pilipinas 2011 Coronation night on what cause she was championing, 27-year-old Shamcey Gorea Supsup, regally answered, “Education. You can have money and fame but they can take these away from you. Education is something that nobody can take away from you.”
Shamcey is right, but how about those people who were not lucky in life to get the needed education from a school, college, or university?
The Department of Education-Bureau of Alternative Learning System (DepEd-BALS) program is the government agency that gives out-of-school learners (youth and adults) a second chance at education.
The Alternative Learning System (ALS) is a non-traditional learning delivery to out-of-school youth and children, adults, housewives, utility workers, indigenous people, persons with disabilities, senior citizens, drop-outs, and others who were unable to get formal education.
The ALS is a more relaxed learning system. Lessons are taught outside classrooms - in barangay halls, church courtyard, a cockpit, under the shades of trees, garage, or any other available areas.
DepEd stressed that in ALS, learning delivery can be by face-to-face interaction, radio or computer-based instruction, and independent learning facilitated by trained mobile teachers, ALS coordinators, facilitators, and instructional managers. The three major programs offered by ALS are: Basic Literacy, Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E), and Informal Education.
After the prescribed period of attendance, special accreditation and equivalency (A&E) exams are administered and those who pass are given an A & E diploma which is equivalent to either an elementary or high school diploma.
DedEd-ALS started in 2001 with 63,845 enrolees. There was a 16 percent increase in enrollment last year and the program aims to reach more than 390,000 this year as DepEd continues to intensify its drive to bring education to learners outside the formal system.
The New Era University is a partner in this DepEd-ALS program. This writer is one of the sponsors in its Tandang Sora area where there are around five venues. Sponsors provide minimal expenses for reproduction of modules and materials, snacks and other requirements.
Get to know some graduates and enrolees
Mang Jerry,40, did not finish his elementary education; he can hardly read or write. A tricycle driver, Mang Jerry is my sister’s neighbor. When he learned that my sister was a retired teacher, he requested her to teach him the 3Rs. As a teacher, my sister is aware of the DepEd-ALS program; she referred Mang Jerry to the program.
Mang Jerry grabbed the opportunity and for six months, religiously attended classes. Mang Jerry went back to my sister after graduation and humbly said, “Sister, nag graduate na po ako. Salamat po sa inyo at higit sa lahat sa ALS. Di na po ako mahihiya sa mga anak ko. Nakakasulat na po ako at nakakabasa (Sister, I graduated from ALS. Thank you for your assistance and especially to the ALS program. I no longer feel embarrassed in front of my children because I can now read and write)."
Ka Nelly, 65, a store owner says, “Napatapos ko lahat ng anak ko sa college, puro sila me diploma. Nang marinig ko na pino promote ang ALS, naging interesado ako na magkaroon ng diploma. Nakakabasa naman ako at nakakasulat, pero di ko natapos ang grade six ko, iba din may diploma. Baka maituloy ko pa hanggang high school. Sana maipasa ko ang test namin, graduation namin sa Oktobre. Salamat, ALS (I had sent all my children to school and they now have their diplomas. When ALS was being promoted I also became interested to have my own diploma. I can read and write although I did not finish elementary. It’s a different feeling when you have your own diploma. Now, I can even continue my high school education. I hope to pass our exams and eventually graduate in October. Thank you, ALS)."
Ate Melody is in her early 50s. Both Melody and her husband were former OFWs. She relates, “may promo ang POEA noon para sa mga anak at asawa ng OFWs. Kung makakapasa sa requirements, magbibigay ng scholarship ang POEA. High school undergraduate ako. Gusto ko naman matulungan ang asawa ko, di man sa abroad, kahit dito sa atin Iba na ang may diploma. Sa klase namin, ako nga ang class president. Ini-encourage ko yung mga batang enrollees na magtiyaga sila. Iba na pag may diploma ka (POEA then offered a scholarship program for wives and children of OFWs. I am a high school undergraduate and it’s really different when you finish school and get a degree. I want to help my husband even by just working here in our country. In my class, would you believe I am the president of our class? I encourage the younger enrolees to pursue their studies. It’s really different when you have a diploma)."
Mang Jerry, Ka Nelly and Ate Melody are proud to say “Salamat po ALS!” (RJB/EB-PIA NCR)