ALS, Look and Learn

Slow learners, school dropouts, poor students—we commonly associate these terms with students of the Alternative Learning System (ALS). For the full Nonformal (NFE) experience, our class was tasked to conduct an ALS session at our assigned school. We were Team Bago Bantay. It was exciting, I wanted to see firsthand the difference between ALS and a formal school. Prior to that, we have learned that ALS is structured similar to a formal school, with the usual classroom-teacher-student-setup, but the nature of the learners are different and the time they spend inside the classroom.

We were able to meet the ALS teacher during our first visit in Bago Bantay Elementary School. Segue: If you wanna go there, you have to tell the tricycle driver to drop you off at “Puti” Elementary School. It is more popular by that name because of stories that the school is haunted. Awooo!

The teacher has been informative in telling us about their program. He even told us that students who will pass the A&E can now be eligible to take the Civil Service subprofessional exam. So we were given a little introduction on how the program works in that school. We were told there are around 70 learners, but usually, only 10 to 15 students attend classes. They are required to attend just four hours in four days. But why is the number of attendees not even a fourth?

We realized the answer during the whole process of our session plan.

We had a hard time getting an assured schedule from the teacher. I’m not sure if he is not interested, or that’s just how he is as a teacher. In the other groups from our class, the teachers were cooperative with regards to the schedule and suggestion of lessons.

Students come in an hour or two late. When they come in, according to them and the teacher, they are given a topic and are asked to write a three-paragraph essay (in Filipino) about it. I appreciate that the essay required to be completed in the exam is in our mother tongue, but sad to say, a lot of people, including these students are not that good in composing grammatically-correct essays in Filipino.

We have no idea how the teacher assesses the essays. On the second session, we some learned that the teacher tells them how to start or finish an essay. As I’ve read through their own compositions, the composition must be taken into consideration. I am very particular about Filipino grammar, since I’ve been working as a copy editor for a publishing company and my projects mostly include Filipino textbooks.

From the expected 10 learners, five attended for the first session plan, and two remained for the last session. Matira matibay! Haha! I guess it was because of the rescheduling (from the teacher, sorry, it’s true), and the students are also busy with either work or taking care of their younger siblings or pamangkins. Just imagine, they’re 16 to 18 years old and they’re busy with work. When I was that age, I had to be busy in school. Sometimes, privilege makes the difference. Education in the Philippines is expensive. To get a good one, pay well.

We had learners who wishes to pursue college after passing the exam—they are only financially-challenged. The others, mostly males, intend to get a good work if they pass. Different learners, different plans for the future.

If teachers will not help these kids, they will be left behind by those who “have.” If students will not get a fair treatment in education, they will always fall under our bad notion of those taking NFE. Every one is entitled to a beautiful future—even the ALS learners.


To Mount Spiraling, K to 12 and MTB-MLE

It was an approximately 3-hour trip away from the city of Baguio. The town of Buguias, Benguet meant passing through  zigzag roads, which I called a trip to Mount K to 12, because it’s spiraling. JK. It was a trip that made me excited—first, because it’s far from the city proper, and second, I’ve always been curious about Buguias. I had a lot of oooh’s and aaah’s while marveling at the majestic sight, the van just moving up at the side of the mountainous terrain.  I have lived in Baguio for almost five years and I’ve never seen such wonderful part of the province.

somewhere up the road, wooo!

I have been familiar with the name of the place because of my co-workers who used to come there for their mission trips some years back. The travel used to be 8 hours long, and I was quite surprised that our trip (hello, 2015!) was less than half of it. Their trips were conducted by churches—no wonder that when you look around the towns going to Buguias, you could see a lot of Christian churches.

With regards to the town’s climate, it was a little cooler than it had been in Baguio, probably because it’s summer. But, what the heck, I appreciate the scenery and the cool breeze. In Baguio, what you see nowadays is a “colder” version of Metro Manila—structure after structure after structure.

So, going back, the real purpose of our class visit was to conduct a seminar about the K to 12 curriculum and Mother Tongue-Based Multi-Lingual Education (MTB-MLE) to parents of the students in Loo Elementary School. The natives of Loo speaks Kankana-ey, a traditional language of the region. It is completely different from Ilocano which is widely spoken in Baguio, although they sound similar, and speakers of each language can understand each other.


(K)uwestiyons about Grade 11-12

The seminar, or I should say the talk, was lead by my professsor, Teacher Ched’s other class. I personally enjoyed the talk and I admit that it was one of the discussions on K to 12 and MTB-MLE that I understood well. Maybe because most seminars I’ve attended about these were dedicated for teachers—words come in big and too intellectual, while the one we had at Loo was light, easy to comprehend and every one can relate to because the guests were parents who, we must admit, are part of the education system.

Before the K to 12 talk, small groups were formed and we were assigned to take the parents’ questions and thoughts about the topic. Their questions were interesting. Most of them had the same thoughts: “Gastos na naman ‘yan. (It will be expensive),” “Sigurado bang may trabaho ang anak ko ‘pag nakatapos? (Will my child be assured of a job once he finishes K to 12?)” These are valid parents’ concerns. See, they are the ones who send their kids to school. One question from our small group caught my attention and I agree: “Bakit pinapatanggal ng mga senador ang K to 12, e, sila naman ang nagpatupad niyan? Naguguluhan kami.” (Why do the senators want to abolish K to 12 when they were the ones who approved it?) Really, why? Maybe, they are not ready to finish anything. Wild guess.

On K to 12, Teacher Sharry tackled about Grades 11 and 12 which is questioned by a lot of teachers and parents. Here are some of its highlights (if I can remember correctly):

  1. A student will not be considered a high school graduate unless he finishes the whole course until Grade 12. He may opt not to continue after Grade 10 or Fourth Year high school but he will only be awarded an NC-I certificate. This is recognized by TESDA and may be used for employment when required. Otherwise, he finishes Grade 12, get an NC-II certificate, and a high school diploma.
  2. In public schools, like in Loo where we had been, the so-called tracks are offered in a particular school in the same town and they will learn for free. The students can continue studying without moving to another town. My personal question is, how about those in private school? Their parents will surely have additional expenses, which causes their rants and nonsupport of the new curriculum.
  3. Grades 11 to 12 offers eight tracks, or simply the career path they want to pursue. One who wants to be a biologist for example can choose to enroll in the academics track and continue the path until college. One who is passionate about sports can take the athletics track. All eight tracks are meant to lead the students to what they want to pursue in their future career.
  4. If the GE courses in First Year college will be taken up in Grades 11 and 12, the usual four-year course in college is supposed to be shortened to just three years. But with this, the Education department haven’t really planned what happens next.


So, what do you think? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? For me, we can give it a try but as long as the Department of Education (DepEd) has no concrete plans and implementations, I am just as confused.


Can I Kankana-ey?

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Kankana-ey is the native language, or mother tongue of the people in Loo. The new K to 12 curriculum includes teaching in mother tongue for Kindergarten to Grade 3 levels because according to studies, teaching in one’s mother tongue improves the learning style of the students. DepEd has specified 19 mother tongue languages to be used as medium for teaching across the Philippines. Unfortunately, Kankana-ey is not one of those. Mrs. Hermie Osting, principal of Loo Elementary School initiated efforts to keep their mother tongue alive by using this in their school. With her team, they made materials in their language, including grammar guides and had it checked by DepEd (?). Her initiative was not in vain. The school has been allowed to use their language as medium. People in the Northern part of the Cordilleras can speak Ilocano, Kankana-ey, Filipino and English (and I’m not sure about the most northern parts). If the school in that area will only teach in either Filipino or English which is supposedly a second language only, the students will be confused when talking and relating to other people in their place. Studies have shown that children learn language easily. If you teach them in mother tongue, which is spoken at home, code-switching or translation becomes easier. Also, the children can understand well the lessons and can even comprehend the discussion when the teacher talks in their own native language. As a matter of fact, in Teacher Aubrey’s example in her talk, she used a scene from the famous telenovela. When she read it in English, the audience were adamant. Then, she asked volunteers to reenact the scene using Kankana-ey; the audience cheered.

Not only is the language contextualized in MTB-MLE, but also the examples and illustrations used in classes. Students can relate and interact more if they discuss about farming instead of fishing, because the former is the industry in their area.

By the end of the talks, the parents and the teachers including Mrs. Osting held a meeting for their Brigada Eskwela and some clarifications on what we were promoting, MTB-MLE. They were participatory because they spoke one language. And we, who cannot understand the words, could only nod in agreement. Well, we try to get some clues from what they were talking about. That is, by the way, one technique to learn a new language—just listen.


An MT classroom

Meanwhile, the class visited a Grade 1 classroom. I was surprised by its setup. The cabinets, chairs, desks—most stuff have names in Filipino/English and Kankana-ey. My visit in a school in Baguio during my NSTP in 2007 did not have something like this then.

Charts and bulletins are also posted in their language.



They also have an alphabet setup which is similar to the Marungko Approach (Filipino) but in Kankana-ey.

Alphabet starts with A-N-I in Kankana-ey instead of M-S-A in Marungko

The principal also initiated writing stories as instructional materials in Kankana-ey. They were able to produce about a hundred big books in their language. Subjects of stories were highly contextualized for the young learners.

“Remember Duck”

"Ang Mga Maiingay na Patatas"

“Ang Mga Maiingay na Patatas”

After all the learning we had that day, it was time to rest, eat (the veggies were superb!) and spend the next day for another adventure. Thanks to them, too. I brought home more than five kilos of freshly picked potatoes!


It was a truly fun and unforgettable learning experience. And yes, I would like to travel next to the South to learn of other languages. Aren’t the Filipinos gifted? 😀


Faith and Jessica from NFE course





A transactional classroom, from Freire’s pedagogy

I’ve heard about Paulo Freire and the Pedagogy of the Oppressed back in my undergraduate program, during the orientation for our Literacy Training Service (NSTP-LTS). I knew it was about teaching but I have not understood it better until it was discussed again in my graduate course, Nonformal Education (NFE).

NFE has always been competing with formal education. It becomes more special because of the challenges NFE learners have to face in terms of identifying with the professional world, and the benefits it gives the learners. NFE has always been associated with out-of-school-youths and those who cannot afford to go beyond the basic reading and writing skills. It was surprising to learn that although many NFE learners came from poor economic backgrounds, the top reason for students’ high dropout rate was not poverty, but lack of interest.

What would make a student uninterested to learn? From my experiences as a student, school becomes boring when I do not understand what my teacher’s lecture. This is when my teacher would just keep on talking, occasionally ask for questions or opinions, then ends the discussion with a homework. Class hours become monotonous. For Freire, a dialogical setup of a classroom works. In communication arts, we call this transactional communication — “I speak, you listen; you speak, I listen.” Learning becomes two-way, thus, unlocking knowledge that each party may have not yet encountered. Also, in a dialogical or transactional method of teaching, the teacher would only act as a facilitator. The discussions on a particular topic becomes a common field of experience, especially when the learning is authentic. The teacher speaks not a dominant language, which draws a line of hierarchy between the teacher and the learners, but the common language of the learners. For example, requiring the students to speak English even if the subject is too hard to understand in English. It doesn’t mean that we should not learn oral fluency in a second (or third) language, but as a student, if I cannot express myself well in English, does it mean the teacher has to fail me?

The most common example where our teachers today implement the use of common language is through the use of mother tongue in class lectures. In a few public lectures and seminars I’ve attended, it was reported that classes who speak in mother tongue or native language are more active and cooperative. In fact, according to studies presented, teacher-facilitators in these kind of classes were able to generate ideas that they did not expect to hear from their students.

Now, why are there students who fail in class? It’s not because they are not smart enough, but maybe because they are not able to express themselves in the way their teacher always expects them to do. The students become like machines — they just do what they are told to do because traditionally, that’s what we expect from students but learning may not occur. And then I ask myself, “What kind of teacher will I be in the future?”

After reading Freire, I want to teach myself, or rather, learn not to become an oppressor in the eyes of my future students by only giving them what I want. There should be interaction and free expression of ideas, as long as it is about the lesson. Of course, as a teacher we should still implement discipline, but when we talk about teaching knowledge, it must be shared — from both the teacher and the learners.