De La Salle UniversityHow can we improve alternative learning in the Philippines?

How can we improve alternative learning in the Philippines?

In the Philippines, out-of-school youths, non-readers, working Filipinos, and even senior citizens who have never had the opportunity to earn their high school diploma before can now do so, through the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System (ALS).


DepEd describes ALS as a ladderized and modular non-formal education program for dropouts in elementary and secondary schools. The program allows students, especially those who are already working, to attend their preferred schedules.


To give an understanding of its effect on society over the years, School of Economics Dean and Full Professor Dr. Marites Tiongco conducted the study titled, “Alternative and Inclusive Learning in the Philippines,” which is an impact evaluation of the effectiveness of ALS on returns to education of learners or the economic returns from obtaining skills from ALS in addition to getting the academic equivalence of a high school diploma. Funded by World Bank and DLSU University Research Coordination Office, the research provides DepEd an empirical evidence on the effectiveness of ALS and the value of spending limited resources on it.


According to Tiongco, the unique analytical output of the study is an important input to the current education policy reform to improve the quality of basic education and to support the government’s ambitious vision of universal functional literacy.


One of the major findings of the project is the importance of targeting specific groups who need support in enrolling in ALS. Students who left high school because of financial problems are likely to continue education through ALS as their dropping out was not related to their ability. The study also notes that females who left for marriage or pregnancy, although small in number, are the least likely to be enrolled in ALS compared to males in the same situation. The data shows these females have higher opportunity costs as they would likely spend more time taking care of children at home and doing household chores.


The study likewise notes that the major reasons for leaving the ALS programs are the inability to afford the expenses of the learning sessions and the possible work income that the student would be giving up to attend school again.


Tiongco’s study looks into the work efficiency between facilitators delivered and procured by DepEd and found no clear difference between the two groups. With this, she proposes a performance-based payment particularly to DepEd-procured facilitators (on contract) to create sound work incentives that potentially boost their work efforts and improve learning outcomes. Consistently, facilitators prefer performance-based payment if they have performed well.


On the effectiveness of ALS, the research notes that it is important to make a collective effort to improve the passing rate to materialize the gains at both the individual and institutional levels. There is small gain unless program participants pass the A&E test, something that they need to pass with good marks to send a positive signal to potential employers in the labor market. Currently, there is very low performance on the A&E test of learners.


Undertaking a comprehensive research like this was not without challenges. Tiongco remarks that tracking the ALS learners and non-learners proved to be the most challenging part of the study since there was no proper database for ALS learners.


She shares that the recommendations of the study have been considered by DepEd for its programs, specifically the decentralization of the provision of learning modules and the revision of the modules to include skills training in partnership with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the government agency that administers technical and vocational education. With this, the consideration of including a K-12 equivalent on skills training in the ALS curriculum encompasses the formal education system and provides supplemental programs to reduce dropouts.


She says that with the study, DepEd and the Department of Budget and Management could further make evidence-based budgetary decisions to provide educational opportunities with more creative and innovative delivery schemes. It will also help them determine the potential value of ALS not only in achieving education objectives but also in facilitating the transition of the poor out of poverty, as they graduate from social assistance programs.



Dr. Marites Tiongco |

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