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Gatchalian’s answer to 0.4M senior high dropouts: Institutionalize Alternative Learning System

Photo by George Calvelo (The students in the photo are not ALS students nor high school dropouts.)

Senator-elect Win Gatchalian committed to immediately file in the Senate his measure institutionalizing the Alternative Learning System (ALS) to help solve the estimated 400,000 students dropouts of senior high school.

“It is the responsibility of the government to protect the right of all its citizens to all levels of education and to make sure everyone, especially the marginalized, has access to it,” said Gatchalian, whose victory in the recent senatorial polls is attributed to his education- and development-focused legislative agenda.

“Institutionalizing the ALS will guarantee funding so it will continue to help those who need it the most. We vow to immediately re-file our bill as soon as the 17th Congress begins next month,” added the rookie senator.

The ALS, implemented in the field by mobile teachers and district coordinators, caters to street children, indigenous peoples, farmers, fisherfolks, women, adolescents, solo parents, children in conflict areas not reached by the formal school system, rebel returnees, and others.

Under Gatchalian’s “Alternative Learning System Act,” a measure he filed with the House in 2014, local school boards would be required to automatically allocate for the ALS a portion from the proceeds of the Special Education Fund.

The Education department would also be mandated to set aside an appropriate amount from its regular budget to support the ALS.

Gatchalian’s proposed law is in line with incoming Education Secretary Leonor Briones’ suggestion to expand the ALS to address the issue of dropouts, which she linked with poverty.

“With or without K to 12, you will have 50% of those who graduate from elementary who cannot proceed – that is the record,” Briones was quoted by news reports as saying. “With or without K to 12, you will have fallout, you will have a level of casualty, because of poverty.”

Only 530,000 students enrolled in the senior high school program, but outgoing Education Sec. Armin Luistro said many schools have yet to provide data on their enrollment.

The Education official also said 200,000 to 400,000 students students could drop out of senior high school, but he noted that he already asked local education officials to visit students at home and urge them to stay in school. (Monica Cantilero)