Of Free Education and Online Learning

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By Art Tibaldo

Consumer Atbp.

Monday, March 24, 2014

DID you know that there are remedial measures and catch-up learning programs for those who missed primary, secondary and even tertiary education? I knew of practicing members of the mass media profession who eventually received their diplomas after complying with certain requirements and not necessarily attending regular classes. Their years of experience and actual exposures in the occupation that they have chosen was credited by an institution as equivalent to subject units upon submission of required documents and after certain assessments.

The Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP) is an assessment and accreditation program in which prior work experience and other non-traditional means of education are awarded corresponding academic credits. Run by the Commission on Higher Education, in partnership with colleges and universities all across the country, the academic credits awarded through the program can be used to work towards a corresponding degree in the applicant's preferred field. There is the national integration study grant program for members of cultural minority groups. The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)-Ched study grant program is intended for returnees and their dependents. It is a program of Ched with the Department of National Defense, and the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges.

For high school drop-outs and out of school youth who may have left school and decides to go back to schooling even after a decade or so can actually consider taking the Philippine Alternative Learning System or ALS. The Alternative Learning System (ALS) is a free education program implemented by the Department of Education (DepEd) under the Bureau of Alternative Learning System which benefits those who cannot afford formal schooling and follows whatever is their available schedule. The program provides a viable alternative to the existing formal education instruction, encompassing both the non-formal and informal sources of knowledge and skills.


Once enrolled in ALS, students have to attend 10 months of school or 800 hours in the classroom. Since ALS is a module-based learning system, students come in on a set time and choose a module to read. A quiz is given after each module to test their learning. Instead of teachers, facilitators are always present to answer any questions and sometimes lecturers would discuss a certain module. After several months, the students will take the Accreditation and Equivalency Test (AET). If they pass the test, they will be given a high school diploma and can now enroll in college. According to the CHED website, boxer and now congressman Manny Pacquiao took and passed the AET under the ALS program. Pacquiao was presented a high school diploma that made him eligible to pursue college. After getting a certificate upon passing, the students may now opt to enroll in a higher ALS curriculum or go to college if passed the ALS for high school. The Save Our School Children Foundation of which I am a board of trustee member is also conducting remedial classes under the ALS program and at present, we have already graduated over a hundred ALS takers in both elementary and high school.

With the establishment of community e-learning centers in partnership with the DepEd-Bureau of Alternative Learning System, there are already ICT-enhanced educational opportunities for the country’s out-of-school youth and adults. The eSkwela Project for example is a flagship project of the Commission of Information and Communications Technology (CICT) and DepEd-BALS that gets funding from the e-Government Fund provided by the National Government.

Under this project, community-based e-Learning Centers are being established across the country where ICT-supported alternative education programs are taking place. With the use of relevant interactive e-learning materials, blended and collaborative modes of instruction, and performance-based assessment in a problem/project-based learning environment, it seeks to bridge the widening digital divide and social chasms between those who are educated and those who are not.

Participants of eSkwela just sit in front of a computer for about three hours a week. They learn according to their need and speed. The eSkwela has five main learning strands: Communication skills, critical thinking and problem solving, sustainable use of resources and productivity, development of self and a sense of community, and expanding one’s world vision.

For those who finished high school and opts to take up a technology-vocational course under the Technical Education Skills Development Authority may check on the available skills-based tech-voc courses offered in their locality. Tesda develops competency standards for middle-level skilled workers. Particulars can also check on the offered Tesda Online Program (TOP) which aims to make technical education more accessible to Filipino Citizens thru the use of internet technology. It provides a more effective and efficient way to deliver technical education and skills development services to the majority with less cost and more reach. The program is created for students, out-of-school youths, unemployed adults, workers, professionals, overseas Filipino workers who would like to take Tesda courses at their own pace and at their own time at the comfort of their computers. The courses offered by Tesda in their online courses for Information Technology are; Basic Computer Operation, Computer Hardware Servicing, Game Programming NC III and Web Development using HTML5 and CSS3. In the field of Tourism, Tesda offers Food and Beverage Servicing, Waiter Servicing, Room Attendant Servicing, Bus Boy Servicing, Housekeeping, Guest Room Attendant Servicing, Valet Servicing, Public Area Attendant Servicing and Laundry Servicing. Under other technical courses, Tesda also offers Cellphone Servicing for Electronics, Fruit Growing for Agriculture, Diesel Engine Tune Up for Automotive including Heating, Ventilation and Air Condition Servicing. Those interested to avail the free program must first register an account with the Tesda Online Program. Those who will finish the online course may take the face-to-face assessment for National Certification at any Tesda accredited assessment center.

Also, private institutions like the University of Baguio provide scholarships, discounts, financial assistance, and grants to deserving students. Having taught in UB, I know for a fact that high school valedictorians, salutatorians, Science High school graduates, Science Section graduates and those who are best in Math, Science, or English are given varied grants and discounts. These include school Editor-in-Chief or Associate Editor, President or Vice President of Student Council but subject to scholarship examination. There are other schools like the University of the Cordilleras that offers scholarship grants to working students and most if not all schools provide free tuition to band members and to athletes that represent their schools.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 25, 2014.


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