August 27, 2009
Stephen – Amidst the Conventional Society…
When you were asked what learning is all about, or specifically, what education is, you’d probably think of an average classroom in an average school. You might picture it in your mind – a room with a desk and a blackboard in front, with a teacher constantly speaking throughout the class; with stuffs such as a globe, maps, books of all sorts and sizes, and many more. Lastly, there are the chairs on which seated are the most important characters in this scene – the students. You’ll find a variety of students in an average classroom: one who is busy drawing his favorite cartoon character in his notebook, another whose head already on his desk, dreaming of becoming the next big superhero, and then there’s the kid whose eyes are fixed on the board and his ears catching every word the teacher is saying, with a frequent “raising-hand” habit every time a question was asked. But no matter how different they may be, these students have one thing in common – their lives revolve around a schedule of waking up, going to school, spend almost a third of the day in that four-walled classroom, go back home, study his lessons, go to bed, and, the day is over, repeating this five days a week. But, let us ask ourselves. Is this really what education means? Is this what’s learning really all about?
Back in the primitive years, when we were still free from any foreign regime, there were no classes, chalks, chairs, and uniforms. Back then, learning was done merely through the passing on of knowledge through generations, taught by the parents to their children, or some religious figures such as the Katalona and the Babaylan. Although formality didn’t exist, the inheritance of knowledge and skills needed for everyday life prevailed.
But then, the foreign hands have made their way to our lands; first the Spaniards, then the Americans, and lastly the Japanese. Formality flourished throughout the archipelago; classes were initiated, instructors were hired, proper attire and values were inculcated, and tuition fees were imposed to attain this basic necessity of life. And thus began the gap in the society, the gap between the powerful and the oppressed, the educated and the illiterates. Throughout the years, it has been a norm and trend that, if one wants to succeed, then he must finish up a lot of years staying in school, receiving formal education.
Centuries passed after this trend was initiated, it was later realized that formal education isn’t the only way for a person to learn and to gain skills and knowledge. Certain projects and studies were conducted, one of which is the Education For All movement which stated the right of every person of gaining proper education, and to become literate in various disciplines and parameters. Further studies in the country, such as the EDCOM of 1991 and the PCER of 2000 showed great relevance of alternative means of educating the Filipinos. RA 9155, the Governance for Basic Education Act of 2001, also started creating the Alternative Learning Systems for those who can’t afford formal education. And thus ALS programs commenced, with further strengthening through the EO No. 356 of 2004, which also restructured the former BNFE into the present BALS. This institution was tasked to give those who are in dire need of support for acquiring basic knowledge and skills, for them to be more productive and efficient not only in their own lives, but for the development of the whole country as well.
The creation of ALS paved the way for those less fortunate to be able to acquire necessary skills and information relevant to everyday life. In a way, it somehow brought the gap in our society close, for it allowed education to be achieved by all. It also dissolved the common trend before that affording the tuition fee to enter school is the only way to learn and eventually succeed in life. Through ALS, we now all have the same and equal chance of gaining knowledge, of getting a better life and future.
It is really a great thought that each and one of us, no matter who or what you are in the society, would be able to learn in a very different way, without even getting stuck inside a classroom for several years. Although proven effective, the movement is yet to be challenged by what colonialism and intensive globalization has caused us: how will a society, where the mind set is that formal education is the only way of learning, be able to grasp a new non conventional means of obtaining necessary skills and knowledge? How will we be sure that in taking up ALS programs we are able to succeed and get employed the same way if we had graduated from formal schooling? Through the course of history, through centuries, we have been under a regime where what is important is going and graduating from school, and that that is the only way we can uplift our quality of life. Through the course of time, through further influences from developed and rich countries, we patterned our education system on them in order to meet what we thought of as the “standard”. The proponents and creators of the ALS were already aware of the problem of quality assurance, that the results and outcomes will also be the same for the formal school system. They said much effort have been taken in order to set high standards and assure quality of the education obtained though this innovative way. But how are we to convince people that this is really true? We may run a lot of tests and show results for verification, but our mind set caused by a long time of foreign intervention has somewhat closed our minds into what we were taught was the right way of learning.
Although much has already been done, and more can still be, there really is an uncertainty in this problem we are facing today for the education of our fellow Filipinos. What we can do is combine our efforts of advocating and propagating information about this ALS, for as we all know, not every one of us knows this unique chance of raising one’s quality of life. Through proper dissemination of information and inculcating the benefits and opportunities the ALS programs has to offer, and through certain time, we would be able to change what education is all about; free our minds from the mind set the foreign nations have instilled in us; and finally realize that learning is wider and vaster than the four walls of classroom formal education.
Nuqui, John Stephen M.
0836101, BS Economics, UPSE