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No one gets left behind

04:00 AM November 10, 2019

I know that there are many people who dream of finishing school. Fortunately, for some of us who lack the resources to acquire formal education, there is finally a solution that can benefit many of our out-of-school youth and adult learners who just want to get their hands on a diploma.

The Alternative Learning System (ALS) is a parallel learning system implemented by the Department of Education under the Bureau of Alternative Learning System that serves as a viable option to the existing formal instruction, so that learners can complete basic education in a mode that is beneficial to their distinct situation and needs. For those who do not have the chance to attend formal schooling, ALS is the substitute. Unlike in the formal education system where students are taught in a classroom within a strictly implemented time period, ALS learners are taught in places like barangay halls, private homes, community centers and even libraries, within a schedule that they themselves choose. Therefore, while formal learning is “pushed” on learners, learners are “pulled” toward informal education.

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No matter what age, ethnicity, color or religion, ALS welcomes people with open arms, giving them a taste of what it is like to learn things at their own pace, or what’s convenient for them. ALS can apply to everybody: primary and secondary school dropouts, out-of-school youths, nonreaders, working individuals and even senior citizens who are interested in either brushing up or developing new skills.

My journey with ALS began in the early months of 2018. I was one of those going through some family-related issues that back then caused me to withdraw from my school. I was a year below my supposed grade level; among my friends, I was the one who had gotten left behind. I lacked the experiences and involvement they already had from attending classes every day.

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We were only informed about the ALS program through one of my father’s co-teachers. At first, I was hesitant to try it, because I didn’t know what to expect. Upon entering the classroom, I was greeted by a group of strangers of different age categories. There were people younger than me, as well as people twice my age. It was a sight that required processing. I sat in the back of the room quietly. I made no attempt to talk to others unless I was spoken to. I was shy because it looked as if most of them already knew each other.

But then we were greeted by the friendliest teachers I’d ever had at that point. From then on, I became at ease. They did their best to reassure us that we were going to be accepted and not belittled for our bearings, and that’s exactly what it felt like.

As the months went on, I found ALS all the more exhilarating. They don’t just simply teach us a subject and move on to another one the next day. Every day, we were guided to understand the depth of each subject of study, as well as supplied with modules or tests at the end of each lesson to further familiarize ourselves. We weren’t just taught something and then left to comprehend it on our own. Our teachers were there  every step of the way. They taught us that we shouldn’t shy away from asking questions. If we were confused about a module, they would explain it again and again until we understood. In ALS, there is no such thing as “every man for himself.” Here, no one gets left behind.

Informal education is not a bad thing. If I were to compare it with formal education, I think I’ve learned so much more within a shorter time span here than if I had been in a regular school for a year. Also, within only a few months of becoming an ALS student, I had already made a lot of memories, moments in life that I would forever cherish and never forget. My classmates and I might have striking differences when it comes to interests and backgrounds, but despite our diversity, we all have one common goal—to graduate.

ALS has benefited me and my classmates in more ways one can imagine. I used to be so unwilling to get assistance, especially whenever I was having a hard time. But because of ALS, I have learned that there’s nothing wrong in wanting and asking for support. Achieving something on your own is triumphant, but achieving something with the people around you is transcendent. Success isn’t just something you can accomplish by yourself. It’s the guidance of other people that can take you on the right path, and that’s truly what ALS has been able to do for me. My ALS classroom has easily become my second home, and my classmates and instructors my family.

We must remember that burdensome circumstances in  life cannot be so easily avoided. Everyone experiences particular challenges and mistakes. We all have struggles, and at least one missed opportunity that we didn’t take and we are not proud of. But these predicaments should not be the source of our downfall. We should let them be a reflection of what we are capable of, because regrets cannot be altered, adjusted, undone or forgotten. So let us take them as lessons learned,  and move on. While we’re vulnerable, we must learn to not crumble under the circumstances. Our backgrounds and attributes do not determine our worth. Thinking about the wrong choices you’ve made in your past is okay, because there’s always time to change — but only if you’re willing to commit to  it. These are only a few of the many lessons this wonderful  program has taught me.

I genuinely believe I speak for my fellow learners who have also been under the program when I say that ALS has not only given us hopefuls a second chance at pursuing our individual ambitions, but has also taught us that we do not have to go through our ordeals alone. Having the right kind of support is the kind of boost we need to get us through the present, and to help us decipher our future.

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ALS is not just a program for out-of-school youth. It is also a support system. There are so many values that I was able to attain, and I’ve also gained a new kind of confidence from discovering things I never thought I was capable of. Thanks to ALS, I was able to explore another side of me, while constantly being reminded to have the utmost faith in God.

Every single one of us deserves an opportunity like this, and I am one of the lucky ones who had the honor of experiencing it firsthand. With ALS, I’ve learned that a dream can very well  become a reality.

* * *

Kim Alexis V. Sta. Ana, 17, is a graduate of the ALS Program of La Salle Greenhills, and is now a freshman mass communication student under the AMA University Online Education.

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