Alternative Learning System: Transform existing non-formal and informal learning options into a truly viable alternative learning system yielding more EFA benefits
Action: Cost-effective alternative learning options for achieving adult functional literacy in first language, Filipino and English are defined and propagated. National government funding is provided to finance the integration of these alternative learning options for the effective acquisition of functional literacy of adults as an essential and routine part of every public, private and civil society socio-economic development initiative reaching disadvantaged persons and communities. Adult literacy organizations work more closely with organizations already involved in community development and poverty alleviation.
Over the years, many non-formal and informal learning options emerged initially as remedial responses to meeting the basic literacy needs of people that the school system had failed to equip with the necessary basic education competencies. Meanwhile, it has been increasingly recognized that diverse educational needs of different groups of people in society are both legitimate and urgent to meet. Yet the mainstream public schools, even in the best of circumstances, are largely unable to meet these educational needs even as effective nonschooling methodologies for meeting these different needs rapidly developed. Thus, the country now aspires to evolving an alternative learning system (alternative and complementary to schools) that is organized and governed in order to provide choices for learning not just as a remedy for school failure but as an addition even to good schools.
This evolution is envisioned to unfold in three over-lapping stages to enable everyone to obtain school-equivalent competencies and, if so desired, school-equivalent credentials through learning processes within as well as outside schools. The first and most urgent stage is to make fully functionally literate the core population of adults and youth outside schools who do not yet possess essential functional literacy competencies. As this stage progresses to cover all those who are functionally illiterate, second stage interventions have to be implemented that serve the wider population with other educational needs that require learning options in addition to those provided by good schools. This population includes legitimate minorities, such as differently abled children who can best achieve their learning goals outside schools and children from ethnic communities who want to acquire basic competencies desired by all Filipinos while preserving their own unique ethnic identity and culture. The successful implementation of these two overlapping stages, i.e., meeting the needs of the functionally illiterate and serving the educational needs of minorities, would eventually converge towards a third stage which involve the emergence of a true, coherent and organized system for lifelong learning that will include, but will extend beyond good elementary and secondary schools.
Two specific strategies in developing the alternative learning system will maximize its contribution to the attainment of EFA goals. First, the most cost-effective alternative learning interventions for achieving adult functional literacy would be integrated with the wide variety of socio-economic and cultural programs reaching disadvantaged people who are also likely to be educationally disadvantaged. Second, a parallel delivery system dedicated to providing alternative learning programs to those who cannot meet their needs through schools would be evolved. As the school system improves its efficiency and effectiveness and the large pool of youth and adult illiterates shrinks, the diverse educational needs of various groups in society assumes greater importance and visibility. Meeting these needs would become the impetus for the emergence and organization of the alternative learning system. Finally, as good schools meet the common needs of most children, the parallel alternative learning system grows and develops to meet the special needs of different groups of children and adults. This alternative learning system initially focuses on meeting basic education needs of all but eventually serves other education needs even beyond basic competencies.
The specific actions to be undertaken are the following:
1. The existing Bureau of Alternative Learning System of DepEd and the Literacy Coordinating Council should be developed, strengthened and mandated to serve as the government agency to guide the evolution of the country’s alternative learning system. Among BALS functions should be to promote, improve, monitor and evaluate but not necessarily deliver alternative learning interventions for functional literacy of out-of-school youth and adults, for ethnic minorities and other groups with special educational needs that cannot be met by schools, and for desired competencies that are part of lifelong learning. Such an agency for ALS should be able to harmonize and assure the quality of programs by various service providers. It should also be able to contract with or provide grants to providers of non-formal education, define and set standards for adult literacy programs, accredit and recognize providers meeting standards, and monitor and evaluate adult literacy outcomes among individuals and populations.
2. Public funding made available for ALS programs of various government and private entities should be subject to the policies and guidelines of the proposed ALS reconfigured structure. Public funding for basic literacy of out-of-school youth and adults should be allocated in order to integrate adult literacy interventions into the most effective socio-economic programs already reaching many communities of educationally disadvantaged people. A survey should be made of socio-economic programs most likely to be reaching communities with high concentration of educationally disadvantaged or illiterates. Such a survey should cover national and local government programs, as well as programs of the private and non-government sectors. Programs should then be assessed in terms of their potential for integrating adult literacy interventions such as their current reach among illiterates, level of demand by illiterate potential clients, and opportunities available for integrating adult literacy in program operations, among others.
3. Effort should be made to build and develop a constituency for ALS development. There are many groups and persons who already recognize the value of non-school options for meeting education needs. They may not readily step up and advocate alternative learning system because of the dominance of schooling in education. Positive examples and promising initiatives in alternative learning should be recognized and given greater appreciation. Media as an alternative and potent source of informal education should be strengthened.
4. The actual form and structure of the delivery system for alternative learning is still not yet
clear. Research and development work will be needed to test cost-effective options for delivering high quality and reliable alternative learning.
5. The ALS agency should undertake an inventory of available resources in localities for adult literacy interventions outside schools. Service providers, course-ware, teaching materials, and facilities with special usefulness to adult literacy programs should be identified for potential use by various welfare and poverty alleviation programs. Available local capacities for high quality non-formal education for adult learners should be promoted among managers and operators of socio-economic programs reaching the poorest households which also likely to have members who are illiterate or educationally disadvantaged.