The Alternative Learning System or ALS is a parallel learning system that provides a viable alternative to the existing formal education instruction (Guerrero, 2007, p. 2). It is a program by the Department of Education (DepEd), through its Bureau of Alternative Learning System that helps disabled people, cultural minority members, out-of-school youth, former inmates and/or rebels, industry-based workers, and others who cannot afford or missed the opportunity to go through formal elementary and secondary schooling.
It was first called Non-Formal Education when it began in 1984. Its main focus back then was to help its students acquire technical skills that they can use for livelihood. Its focus diversified after its name was changed into Alternative Learning System in 2004. It now includes literacy classes that are aimed at eventually offering elementary and high school diplomas to students who have the same above-mentioned backgrounds.
The source of the ALS educational system can be traced to the basic and fundamental law of the land. The 1987 Philippine Constitution provides for a free and compulsory elementary education and free secondary education through DepEd. Also, the Governance of the Basic Education Act of 2001, which is also known as Republic Act No. 9155, dictates that it is the primordial duty of the State, through DepEd to promote and protect the right of the citizens to quality education and shall initiate steps to ensure the accessibility of education to all.
Among many of its provisions, this law recognizes ALS as a complement of formal education and a major component of basic education with a clearly defined role within the overall educational goals (Guerrero, 2007, p. 9). The Executive Order 356 of 2004 renamed DepEds Bureau of Non-Formal Education to the Bureau of Alternative Learning System (BALS). Not only does this Order repeat the bureaus mandate to address the learning needs of marginalized learners, but it also directs BALS to provide a systematic and flexible approach to reach all types of learners outside the school system.
In the 80s, the global community launched a campaign called Education for All (EFA) that aimed to eradicate illiteracy and promote functional literacy for all peoples of the world by the year 2015. The Philippines was a signatory to this and as such, committed to providing education for all Filipinos and resulted to the formulation and adoption of the Philippine EFA 2015. The goal is to have in place a credible ALS that will increase functional literacy among the marginalized groups of learners.
The country also affirmed its commitment in reducing poverty and any form of human deprivation as outlined in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which is also aimed to be attained by the year 2015. DepEd is primarily tasked to implement the 2nd major goal of the MDG which is to achieve universal education. In summary, the EFA plan for 2015 distributes urgent tasks that will guide DepEd in fulfilling the spirit of RA 9155 and EO 356, and ultimately the vision of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. It embodies the various programs, projects, and activities necessary to achieve the goal of quality ALS for all marginalized Filipino learners. ALS in Cagayan de Oro City
DepEd, in close coordination with the city government of Cagayan de Oro, implemented the program of ALS in the city and aims to attain the indicators and goals of Education for All (EFA) 2015 and of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Since 2007, the city government, as part of its implementation strategy, has been conducting advocacy socialization and mobilization in all its Barangays through the ALS Coordinators in order to determine the number of out-of-school youth, illiterates, and school leavers. Massive information campaigns were conducted. Consultations and meetings were also initiated discussing the importance and benefits that may be derived from the literacy program by focusing on the empowerment of the learner and of his/her potentials towards personal growth as he/she participates in the development of his/her community.
As a beneficiary of technical assistance from World Bank through the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), the city government has formulated its own City Development Strategy (CDS), which serves as the guide in implementing its various programs and projects. The ALS ranked third among the top priority programs and projects reflected in the CDS. Various City Ordinances, Resolutions, Executive Orders and others were passed and issued to support the implementation of ALS. Through the Local School Board (LSB), all the Barangays in Cagayan de Oro City are major stakeholders supporting the various local departments and offices assigned by law to attain the goals of the program.
The local Special Education Fund (SEF) and other available resources of the city government provides certain appropriation to support the program through the construction of training venues, the salaries of the employees, coordinators and teachers, acquisition of equipments and supplies, and others. The ALS program was implemented in the 57 urbanized and 23 rural Barangays in Cagayan de Oro City since 2007. Of the Barangays covered, the program faced some problems especially in the 11 hinterland Barangays of the 1 st Congressional District of Cagayan de Oro City. These Barangays are agricultural areas and have a relatively higher incidence of poverty and unemployment. These are: Pagalungan, Tagpangi, Taglimao, Tuburan, Pigsag-an, Tumpagon, Bayanga, Mambuaya, Dansolihon, Tignapoloan and Besigan. These are the areas we are focusing on in our P.P.B.S. paper and presentation.
The ALS in our paper is meant to reduce the illiteracy rate in the said localities by providing an alternative avenue for achieving a high school equivalent diploma among the illiterate adult population through its existing adult specific curriculum. We are doing this by introducing our own incentive program.
The adverse issues confronting the implementation of the program in the fringe Barangays of Cagayan De Oro are the low rate of participation among the illiterate adult population and the low level of survival and/or retention among those who choose to participate. Rough estimates in the concerned areas indicate very low participation in the ALS program. Of those who avail of it, only very few actually commit to graduate. Insofar as the goal of attaining the highest participation among the total number of potential beneficiaries is concerned, the ALS program translates into a dismal percentage of the estimated success rate.
On closer assessment, the identified causes for this mediocre success rate appear to be the lack of incentives to avail of or sustain participation to the ALS program due to economic constraints. These constraints are characterized as follows: 1) Participation in ALS education implies unacceptable daily income loses among potential participants. In the fringe hinterland localities where incomes are hardly sufficient to meet minimum daily living costs, participation during school days will mean abdicating daily incomes needed to insure the provision of basic living needs like the days food supply.
2) ALS Participation also implies incurring added education related costs. While enrolment, facilities and learning materials are free, travel costs and other miscellaneous allowances are required to insure that participants are physically present and whos mental and health dispositions are conducive to learning. Sustaining these costs for repeated learning sessions are often enough to deter potential participants.
Scope and Limitation of the Paper
There is a wide choice of perspectives and plenty of levels to approach ALS as a topic. In this paper, the existing ALS program we are attempting to improve using our version of the same are the following eleven hinterland fringe Barangays in the 1st Congressional District of Cagayan de Oro City: Pagalungan, Tagpangi, Taglimao, Tuburan, Pigsag-an, Tumpagon, Bayanga, Mambuaya, Dansolihon, Tignapoloan and Besigan. Our focus customers here are the resident adults (18 years old and above) in the said areas.
The ALS Assessment and Evaluation phase, Accreditation and Equivalency processes (ALS A & E), livelihood programs, and its curriculum are only part of the paper as an assumption that they are there, functioning as they should. Because our topic is not focused on them, they are not discussed here. And of course we think they are very important since we are drawing our strategies from the existing overall mechanism of how the ALS program works. We are asking the questions, How do we increase the participants and make them commit to actually finish the program? and How do we motivate those employed or volunteered directly in the ALS program to participate and meet their objectives? These are the concerns that this group is attempting to manage.
Figure 1 shows the Strategic Framework of the proposed ALS Incentive Program.
The focus of our P.P.B.S. is to add a set of incentives to continually help improve the mechanisms that operate ALS. The Planning, Programming, and Budgeting are at work separately along this framework. It is our desire that this model will cascade smoothly to our target learners.
Substantial reduction of illiteracy among adults in the fringe Barangays of Cagayan de Oro City through the Alternative Learning System and where human dignity is restored thereby resulting to personal growth and community development.
To improve the ALSs participation and completion rate among the illiterate adult population in the concerned areas of Cagayan de Oro City through the participation incentive program.
Figure 2 shows the S.W.O.T. Analysis for the proposed ALS Incentive Program.
The programs Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats will help clarify the present situation and strategies that can be developed out from them, and will determine the salient indicators of success, the abilities of the program managers and stakeholders and the available skills and resources. The S.W.O.T. Analysis conducted is grounded on knowing Where the program is now? and in identifying What are the strategies needed to attain its goals? The Strengths and Weaknesses are inside factors within the control of those involved in the ALS organization (inside environment).
They are: Strategy, Structure, System, Staff, Skills, Style, and Shared values. On the other hand, Opportunities and Threats are outside influences that impact the ALS organization
S and O are strategies that should be executed, given that the Strengths and Opportunities are there. W and O asks the question, How can we use our Opportunities to offset or even reverse our Weaknesses? S and T asks the question How can we use our Strengths to offset or even reverse our Threats? W and T is the combination of Weaknesses and Threats. It shows that they are part of the organizations identity since no organization is perfect. Because these factors cannot be fixed, it contains strategies that manage or minimize the damage caused by them.
Figure 3 shows the organizational structure of the proposed ALS Incentive Program.
Figure 4 shows the Strategy Map of the proposed ALS Incentive Program.
The objectives shown in the map have a causal relationship as traced by arrows along each of the different functions in the ALS Incentive Program, namely: Financial Perspective, Learning and Growth, Internal Process, and Client Perspective. As you can see, the goals here are Increase Participation, Increase Completion, and Decrease Illiteracy.
And each of these is supported by our proposed incentives. The Balanced Scorecard in Figure 5 below will elaborate on the different incentives mentioned in this paper so far. It will also describe how the objectives from different functions in the ALS Incentive Program can be achieved by concentrating on and satisfying its three parts: Measures, Targets, and Initiatives. The Balanced Scorecard will be a helpful guide in carrying out the functions of each member of ALS in helping themselves and their learners keep motivated and be on track towards achieving their goals.
While this group acknowledges the current efforts made by the LGUs, DepEd, BALS, and ALS in their cooperation and hardwork, the daily operations to help reduce illiteracy in the involved barangays is still far from what they should be. Our emphasis here, as already mentioned, is the introduction and proper management of an incentive program in the ALS program. As what we have presented, we believe this would optimize the operations in each step and level of the program. And thus, in the long run, the reduction and even total elimination of illiteracy is then achieved. It is our hope that this P.P.B.S. be part of the many considerations that may help the functions of the current ALS program.