Unbeknown to many, DLSU’s Alternative Learning System (ALS) compound stands along Fidel Castro St., just a few steps down the road from Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall, near the DLSU Retreat House and beside the DLSU Pre-School. There, the University offers a non-formal educational system to some 50 out-of-school youth, children, and adults from neighboring barangays.
There, I meet three students—or “learners” as they are called under the program—Mich Salazar, Ercelie Moreno, and Raymart Santiago. For the past few months, they have been attending classes under the program, held from 1 to 4 in the afternoon, Mondays to Fridays.
The attendance in class fluctuates every day, they tell me. Sometimes, they say, some of their classmates don’t pay attention to the lessons. “Parang isang bahay, tapos puro kami magkakapatid,” is how Raymart describes DLSU’s ALS center.
In spite of this, they remain hopeful and look forward to completing the program one day, to pursue further studies in college or to seek better job opportunities.
Mandated by De La Salle Philippines, DLSU has been a service provider of ALS in the country since 2012. The Center for Social Concern and Action (COSCA), DLSU’s social development arm, is the primary office in charge of overseeing the ALS initiatives of the University. Specifically, COSCA’s University-Community Engagement and Development (UCED) Program handles the ALS program, in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd).
COSCA’s Accessible, Relevant, and Alternative Learning (ARAL) Development Specialist Leo Tadena shares that the office’s efforts towards community development are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the United Nations. Of the 17 SDGs, four indicators—education, health and wellness, environment and risk reduction, and social entrepreneurship—are given top priority by the University.
“The ALS program is a concrete manifestation of how DLSU is able to localize the SDG to give inclusive and equitable basic education for all,” Tadena remarks in Filipino.
According to Tadena, COSCA’s strategy in actualizing the SDGs is to localize its endeavors in seven pilot barangays, where a high prevalence of out-of-school youth, children, and adults was found through a profiling tool. “In the perspective of DepEd, OSY (out of school youth) refers to students who dropped out of high school, elementary for out of school children, and either elementary or high school for out of school adults,” he explains. He describes that COSCA partners with the local government units in the pilot barangays in recruiting learners to ALS.
Although ALS is primarily a program introduced by DepEd, Tadena explains that ALS was first carried out during the time that Br. Andrew Gonzalez, former DLSU president and after whom the College of Education and the iconic building were named, served as secretary of DepEd (formerly Department of Education, Culture, and Sports).
Under the program, learners are taught in different learning strands patterned after regular subjects taken in formal schooling: communication skills, problem solving and critical thinking, social entrepreneurship, personality development, and world views. ALS also focuses on andragogy or adult learning instead of pedagogy. “Here, the instructional manager (teacher) is the one who adjusts to the learning pace of the student,” Tadena explains.
ALS in the context of La Salle
“Here [at ALS], the Lasallian community plays a large role in terms of community involvement, engagement, and outreach,” emphasizes Tadena.
One of the volunteers at the ALS center is Benjamin Cruz (V, BSMS-CIV-CTM). Cruz, who started volunteering at the center in April 2014, teaches mathematics to the learners. Speaking of his experience as a volunteer, Cruz shares, “I employ my own teaching style. I applied myself as a leader in a more educational set-up.”
Throughout his stay in the University, Cruz shares that he has been a team player in the varsity and an active member both in his professional organization as well as in a political party. “All of [these] I take into consideration in molding the students to become Lasallian achievers for God and country,” he expresses.
What also makes the ALS program in DLSU inherently Lasallian is that once a week—every Thursday for this batch of learners—Lasallian brothers come to the center to teach lessons on Lasallian spirituality and values education, in contrast to other ALS centers which only focus on delivery of modules. Additionally, the learners are able to interact with different student organizations conducting outreach and community involvement programs.
Tadena cites as an example the volunteerism efforts of La Salle Computer Society in providing a basic computer literacy program to the learners, where learners were invited to computer classes in Gokongwei Hall. Tadena also mentions the Graduate Student Council, whose members were mostly psychology students, for introducing special sessions similar to guidance counseling for the learners.
Moreover, while the typical learning year for other ALS centers begins in February and ends on the last week of October or first week of November, the DLSU ALS center extends its program until December to help learners prepare for college entrance exams.
Mich, Ercelie, and Raymart are just some of the hopefuls from this year’s batch of ALS learners. Like most others enrolled in the program, they believe that ALS is another chance for them to complete their high school education.
Raymart, who is 24, simply says, “Kung makapasa kami sa DepEd exam, ‘yun na ang ganti namin sa mga nawala sa amin.”
Upon completion of the program, the learners are subject to take the Accreditation and Equivalency Test of the DepEd, with this year’s test scheduled for November 8. The learners at the center are busy preparing for the exam. Mich is set to take it for the third time, while Raymart is a second-taker this year.
Ercelie, who stopped schooling during her third year of high school, will take the exam for the first time next month. She shares, “Medyo nahihirapan ako sa tagal ko na pong hindi nakapag-aral.” She is 36 years old.
“Mahirap pero kailangan,” is what Ercelie tells me. Raymart holds the same belief, explaining, “Mahirap talaga kasing maghanap ng trabaho kung wala kang kahit anuman.”
For students, organizations, and faculty members interested to volunteer for ALS, please get in touch with Mr. Leo Tadena at [email protected] or visit the COSCA Office located at 2/F Br. Connon Hall.