by Larren Jo N. Basilio
“There will be an ALS exam on October 2016,” it was announced; but it did not take place. It was postponed to March 2017. Later on the exam was moved to April, then July, August, September and October. It finally took place in November 2017.
“There will be an ALS exam on October 2016,” it was announced; but it did not take place. It was postponed to March 2017. Later on the exam was moved to April, then July, August, September and October. It finally took place in November 2017. One can imagine the anxiety the members of the unfortunate batch of Alternative Learning System (ALS) suffered throughout those eight postponements, which spanned two long years. The waiting period usually takes five months, 10 at most.
ALS is a government initiative that aims to help overaged out-of-school youth (OSY) accelerate to 7th grade or 11th grade. A number of KKFI scholars have passed those exams and are now studying in formal school set-up.
Past ALS exams included 50% of multiple choice tests from five learning strands and the other 50% is comprised of essay exams. The passing score for multiple choice exam was 75% and you need to get at least a score of 3 out of the possible perfect score of 5 in order to pass the essay exam. But the most recent one was different. Without consulting the stakeholders, DepEd changed the rules.
There still was the 50% multiple choice exam but, in lieu of the essay exams, the students were made to submit their “portfolios.” This “portfolio” should include 50 essays, 50 answered modules, exams and quizzes, pictures of families and other information about the learner, projects with essays, livelihood seminars or trainings, and arts and crafts.
We were given only two weeks to complete the portfolios, including their required trainings. The alteration totally caught everyone off guard. Some learners had to quit their all-important part-time jobs to spend sleepless nights to prepare their portfolios. It was a total risk on the learners’ part. Their families scolded them for over-extending their studies, aside from the unending requirements, dates and deadlines that tested their patience and purses.
Since most of them came from urban poor communities and broken families, it was a difficult, tumultuous and expensive journey. They were mocked. Their confidence withered. The postponements brought anxiety to a lot of learners. Many experienced depression and some even became suicidal. A number quit altogether but some plodded on.
Finally, 63 learners from Batches 3 and 4 took the exam. The excitement turned to frustration when they found out that the actual exam was totally different from the DepEd-issued reviewers they were required to study.
We, the instructional managers, were speechless with shock. Only one among the 63 passed when the results were announced last February. On the national scale, the passing rate dropped from 55% to less than 10%. Where did things go wrong?
Unexpected things happened, like when the policies were changed mid-stream without consultation; the portfolios, it turned out, had no bearing on the results, of the test questions 50% came from the formal education curriculum, such as math and science; the ALS students were all along taught in Filipino and asked test questions in the mother tongue, but the ALS exam questions were written in English, and the passing score for ALS remained at 75% while that of the formal education was at 50%. There were protests and petitions online demanding that the passing score for ALS exam be changed to 60%.
“Na-train kami bilang isang atleta pero sinabak kami sa giyera,” a learner quipped. But there was no time for moaning for we only had two weeks to prepare for another exam, which was set in February 2018. The DepEd released the topics for the next ALS exam.
To our surprise, the topics were way different from the ALS curriculum. Higher percentage of the learning strands were totally different from original announcement and prescribed reviewers. And there was not enough time to study them.
We had to scramble for the next two weeks, although we knew it was not enough. Three days before the exam, a light came that brightened the dream of every ALS learner. The DepEd granted the request to lower the passing mark for ALS exam to 60%.
Needless to say, we were overjoyed. We have 24 ALS passers as of posting time. The star starts to illumine and the joy is uncontainable. With this rejuvenated spirits, 25 learners retook the exam last February. They may expect the results to be announced two months after. It is still a long way before the end of the journey, but they know the destination is reachable. They still need to master the subject-verb agreement, the difference between planets and stars and other subjects but they learned so much more. They learned how to be patient in real life, to never surrender, to strive and to keep stoking the fire because success can be just around the corner.
No one guaranteed anybody that they would not suffer scars when they journey in life. But one is assured that, if one will display patience and determination, he or she will enjoy the illumination of the stars for the rest of his or her life.