Is there real education beyond the classroom?  How should that Basic Learning Need be availed and be useful to one’s life and journey?

To start fulfilling the promise I made re; the origin, vision and philosopy of ALS, I reproduce below the message I penned to the Teacher Education and Development Loop years ago:

It’s a matter of great academic and technical interest to all members of the Loop, hence, I feel constrained to respond to this latest posting on the ALS – Alternative Education question via the TEDPLoop.

This is also intended to reach the bigger education community (especially the DepEd) to understand the antecedents and rationale of this “systemic” educational innovation introduced by the Education for All (EFA) Plan of Action 1991-1999, put in place by the ADB-funded Nonformal Education Project (1993) and recognized and awarded by the UNESCO through its prestigious Nomah Prize in 1997. Ultimately, the Republic Act 9155 not only legalized the term but also institutionalized the concept and its future program translation. The Inter-Agency Committee on Education Statistics (IACES) has also followed suit and adopted the rightful definition of the term.

All of us did not only have angst (we also had reservation) about the term “alternative” way back in the 1990-91 consultations before we enshrined it in the EFA-PPA.

To find better justification, we had reference to the “Alternative Education Program” which the Association of Major Religious Superiors and their lay supporters espoused in the early 80’s (with the late Dr. Malu Doronila as spokesperson). However we found that the “alternative” spoken of was really just the “other” kinds or persuasion of contents of what Filipinos should learn to respond to the socio-political ferment at that time. These things were still largely very much about school-based learning. Other than the contents or curriculum, there was not seen any need for alternative to formal education or schooling.

In short, after many workshops and collecting the doubts and objections to the term, we still ended up with the term ALS in 1991. Why, because in essence, the point of reference was the school AND WHAT WE COULD DO (LEARN, TEACH, RESEARCH, ETC) OUTSIDE THE SCHOOL SYSTEM which pedagogically, financially, technically and socially, had so many limitations as foreseen by the original prophetess of the ALS, Dr. Liceria Brillantes Soriano, the founding Director of the INNOTECH. During the last few months of her life when we heard her articulate the natural constraints of schooling in bringing about real education, we did not really have any inkling that we would call that banana ALS. All we had in mind was to find what appropriate term would best describe the vision,the program and the setup and the eventual machinery to carry it out.

Why is it a system? (or a subsystem to be more accurate). First, schooling or the school system was seen as something synonymous with the educational system. We all grew up with that idea that education means schools and schooling. Yet, we all realized that there is a much larger world of learning where people can learn or acquire education (formally, nonformally and informally). It has become a universal truth that learning (sometimes a better one) is not a monopoly of the establishment called schools. In a way, the ALS is really a subsystem of the total learning system which the EFA PPA 1 sought to reconfigure in 1991. Its graphical illustration can be sent upon request.

ALS just followed this line of reality and truth: there must be an alternative way of learning which need not be conducted or take place in the well-established system called schools or within the four walls of the classroom. That set up, NOT JUST THE LEARNING CONTENTS, must be the ALTERNATIVE to the school system. The truth is that there is a better classroom according to the Mother of Philippine EFA, Dr. Lourdes Quisumbing: THE WORLD IS THE CLASSROOM, she philosophically proclaimed during the launching of the EFA 1.

I think it is time to get over the angst or other nasty notions we might associate with the world “alternative.” Director Carol Guerrero of the Bureau of Alternative Learning System could not have justified it in a better way: It is an alternative with the best and legitimate intention and it is an alternative that works (and can succeed, if I may add).

Much of our problem, I think, is that certain connotations stick like a sore thumb and we cannot just shed them off from our mindset. It’s the same way with which the “Grand Alliance” for EFA was received and perceived in 1991. Despite being enshrined in the World Declaration of EFA as one of the cardinal principles around which EFA was to be pursued, Filipinos still viewed it with suspicions and something akin to the famous or infamous Grand Alliance, a political coalition that was born in the early 60’s. Until now, the Jomtien and Dakar Declarations, notwihstanding, people are still affected with unexplained and unknown fear about the term Grand Alliance. But that’s the way it is with its noble philosophy, and we have legitimately constituted the National Committee on EFA (PPA 1) and EFA National Committee (2001-2015) as the expression of the Philippine Grand Alliance for EFA.

For practical, social and legal reasons, we had to create an artificial boundary for the original ALS. (Note that the CHED and TESDA -launched ETEEAP is a higher or post-basic education level of ALS). Because of our commitment to Universal Primary Education which should be COMPULSORY, ALS should preferably be offered and availed by learners who already had enough foundations for “disciplined” learning and who should benefit from especially the hierarchically ordered system of science and mathematics via formal education. To ensure that primary education can be universalized amidst the known limitations of both children and formal education itself, we have to reach out to them through creative but non-restrictive way called Alternative Delivery Modes of formal education (ADM). At age 15 (the viable boundary), learners with capacity to learnd how to learn can already learn further on their own and tackle ALS or indpendent learning with or without help from the schools. This is why ALS in the Philippines is basically for youths and adults. Higher ALS can be had through the Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP).

It’s all right for academic institutions like UPCollege of Education to offer courses that will cover ADMs. Basically, they are classes or kinds of educational innovations/technology. And the new TEacher Education Curriculum already has provisions for that. Just ask TEDPLooper Allan B about it and see how we can maximize schoolchildren’s exposure to many more kinds of ADMs both here and overseas.

But to combine it with ALS and call it Alternative Education, I’m afraid (sorry for being personally defensive) might not just distort the vision, intention and program. It might even subvert that which is already set in place by law, unless we amend RA 9155. It bears repeating, that other contents alone do not ALS constitute; it is the machinery, philosophy, and learners/workers that do.

I hope that I have adequately clarified and that this may spark further debates that will lead ALS to the equilibrium point as they are offered in the higher education institutions, not necessarily in education faculties.

nbi: 11/06/06