Unfamiliar to many, other Lasallian learners are found in the heart of Taft Ave., beyond the confines of the campus. Aside from the familiar sight of establishments along Fidel A. Reyes St., a learning center has been continuously operating since 2011–serving elementary and high school dropouts, out-of-school youth, non-readers, working Filipinos, and even senior citizens through the DLSU Alternative Learning System (ALS). Under the management of the Center for Social Concern and Action (COSCA), the initiative also recruits student volunteers to their aid.
In partnership with DepEd
As mandated by the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the Department of Education (DepEd) heads the nationwide implementation of the ALS program. Its advent as a program in the University came during Br. Andrew Gonzalez FSC’s tenure as DepEd secretary from 1998-2001.
Leo Tadena, DLSU-ALS instructional manager, deconstructed the programs of COSCA relative to ALS. He explains that the Lasallian Sustainable Development Program (LSDP), one of COSCA’s main programs, consists of several components and one of which is the Lasallian Accessible, Relevant, and Alternative Learning (L-ARAL), in which ALS functions under.
In response to the country’s growing socio-economic divide and need for inclusivity, Tadena says that “L-ARAL promotes lifelong learning through a multi-sectoral development approach.” He explained that it puts in place a “full learning year implementation of the ALS Program [which lasts for 10 months].” Instead of subjects, education in ALS is carried out by learning strands such as Communication Skills, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Sustainable Use of Resources, Personality Development, World Views and the recent addition of Digital Literacy. According to Tadena, ALS also provides the students with basic education needs.
Looking into the program
The educators of ALS are composed of COSCA’s staff and student volunteers, who teach various subjects, while Junior La Salle Brothers are assigned to the students’ spiritual development.
Mark Chavez (BSE-MAT, ‘17), a former student volunteer for Math is now the full-time L-ARAL coordinator and instructional manager. Other student volunteers from previous batches are Miguel Belen (III, MEM-BME) and Joseph Benjamin Cruz (CIV-CTM, ‘18) who were also volunteer teachers for Math. Tadena says that “many former student volunteers have been recipients of Gawad Lasalyano for their active and sustained involvement with the ALS.”
The standard schedule of ALS begins every school year, in the month of March. They cater to students from 1pm to 4 pm, Mondays to Fridays. However, the diversity of learners in the ALS program creates a conflict in their schedules, with workers and parents who have other priorities to look into. Tadena emphasizes that “many of our students are either working at the same time or are also taking care of their families thus, [there is a] possibility of missing their subjects.” He says that as long as there is a general understanding of commitment to producing outputs rather than a requirement of perfect attendance, then students will be encouraged to join the program.
After finishing the ten-month learning program, students are required to take DepEd’s ALS Accreditation and Equivalency Test (AET). Tadena explains that ALS has no constraints in accepting any student, but to qualify to take the AET, the student must be at least 17 years old. Passers of the test receive a diploma bearing DepEd’s seal and the signature of the incumbent DepEd secretary, certifying their competence as comparable to graduates of formal education.
The development of ALS
Over the years, the DLSU-ALS program has helped hundreds of students in acquiring supplementary skills that would aid in their respective career paths. According to Tadena, this is manifested through the increase in the number of AET passers every learning year.
Just like any proper education system, improving the program as the years go by is no easy task. Despite this, the program still continues to strengthen the students due to the subtle efforts put forth by teachers, Local Government Units (LGUs), and even student organizations such as the DLSU Economics Organization (EconOrg), Civil Engineering Society (CES), and Management of Financial Institutions Association (MaFIA), all working together.
As explained by Tadena, LGUs continually search for out of school youth or potential students for the program especially among poor families and specifically in District 5 of Manila. Qualified full-time teachers and instructors like Chavez are also hired to increase the quality of education in the program.
Inviting Lasallian volunteers
Even with the efforts of the government, NGOs, and other sectors of society, inclusivity still remains at large. Aside from the goal of eradicating ignorance towards the uneducated, ALS is a way to concretize sympathy to action. In effect, COSCA strives to invite more student volunteers in hopes of expanding its reach to involve as many Lasallians as possible.
Tadena emphasizes that student volunteers play a big role as proven by the work of previous batches who contributed significantly to resource mobilization, additional education through math or financial literacy tutorials, and even scholarship opportunities for the ALS students.
COSCA strongly welcomes student volunteers for the ALS program as this will provide not only a lifelong experience for both parties, but may also provide a different perspective of life in the Philippines.