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11 Dec

Defining the scope and purpose of Alternative Learning System (ALS) in the Philippines is still an evolving process. According to a paper by Doronilla, there are two strands of education tradition in the Philippines – the mass-delivered national education system and the real life context-based informal education.[1] The paper argued that it is this gap between the knowledge imposed in the formal system and the lessons learned in the family and community that makes academic education irrelevant to the lives of the Filipino learners.

In this regard, both informal education and non-formal education, being sub-components of the Alternative Learning System, occupy a strategic place in the Philippine national development thrusts because they have the potential to develop a more context-appropriate and socially inclusive Filipino basic education system.

At present, capturing the nature of ALS in the country produces diverse results. Pockets of practices have been developed over time by individual communities or social organizations. The challenge now for the Philippine government and the Department of Education (DepED) is to facilitate the growth of ALS in the country by providing and strengthening the institutional support to the Bureau of Alternative Learning System (BALS).

The Bureau of Alternative Learning System (formerly the Bureau of Non-Formal Education) has been in place even before the 1987 Philippine Constitution. As an office, it was intended to help Filipino learners gain employment. However, with the expansion of its scope from non-formal education to alternative learning system, it becomes necessary to realign its organizational structure and systems to effectively perform its mandate.

The Omnibus ALS Policy Guidelines tells the story of the growth of ALS in the Philippines as reflected in the organizational development of BALS. Unlike other entrenched government agencies, BALS is in an exciting phase of development. Most of its concepts are still for discussion. Practices and processes are still being tested. This policy document is the intended to reflect the next steps in the institutionalization of ALS as an integral part of basic education and one that is equal and parallel to formal basic education.

The Omnibus Guidelines for ALS will serve to standardize practices, processes, and procedures in the delivery of ALS programs in the Philippines. As a background for the Omnibus Guidelines, the succeeding discussion narrates the legislative and policy frameworks that propelled the development of BALS as an organization and ALS as a legitimate learning system in Philippine basic education. The background also explains the relationship of those policy and legislative measures to the goals of the Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda (BESRA), with some detailed discussion on the ALS component of BESRA categorized as Key Reform Thrust 4.

[1] Maria Louisa Canieso-Doronilla, “A Research and Development Approach to the Delivery of Comprehensive Functional Education and Literacy in the Philippines,” in Asia Literacy Regional Forum (Galleria Suites, Pasig City1997), 1-2.