Getting young people’s help in addressing the problem of out-of-school youth

alternative learning system review 2016
The Technological Institute of the Philippines - Quezon City organizes review sessions for ALS students every year.

The persistent high number of out-of-school-youth (OSY) is a nagging problem for the Philippines. According to a 2013 estimate by the National Youth Commission, there are around four million OSY nationwide.

That staggering figure poses a big challenge for the national and local government alike. In the long term, those who are unable to complete their education will surely have a hard time finding a stable job – meaning, they’ll not likely to have much chance to break the odious intergenerational transmission of poverty.

Meanwhile, local government units are also concerned about the effects these OSY can have in their respective communities especially if they engage in risky activities like petty crimes, premarital sex, and vices including smoking and drinking liquor.

I became conscious of this problem when I entered college. From casual conversations with former high school classmates, I learned that some of our friends stopped studying because their families can’t afford the tuition.

Every morning in our community for instance, I can’t help but notice that while I am busy preparing for school, some of my neighbors who are around the same age as I am will spend the whole day playing basketball or Counter Strike. While there’s a silly side of me that somehow gets envy of them because they don’t seem to get stressed at all, I know that the future will not be very kind to them.

alternative learning system review 2016
The Technological Institute of the Philippines – Quezon City organizes review sessions for ALS students every year.

Given the severity of the problem, it is not surprising that the national government through the Department of Education (DepEd) in partnership with local government units are doing steps to address the situation.

One of this is the Alternative Learning System (ALS), which is primarily intended for students who were not able to finish high school or go to college because of financial difficulties.

“The ALS is a way for the informal and busy students to achieve elementary and high school education without need of going to attend classroom instructions on a daily basis just like the formal education system,” one website explains. After the crash course, ALS students will take a standardized test which will determine if they are equipped enough to advance to college or vocational school.

Regular ALS classes are usually done in public and schools while private education institutions usually organize review sessions for those students. My previous employer, the Technological Institute of the Philippines, is one of those.

Faculty members like me offered our services as review facilitators. Most of our participants are from nearby communities, Barangay Mangga and San Roque in Cubao, Quezon City. I relished the opportunity not only to share my knowledge to the participants but also to share their personal stories. As much as I’d like to talk about that, I’d like to focus on something that’s more noteworthy.

Our department was able to get help from the members of the Humanities and Social Sciences Society, a student organization recognized by the college, in teaching ALS participants’ basic math.

It’s really heartwarming seeing those TIP students helping their fellow youth even in such a small way. And you know, I realized that through initiatives like that (and I believe it is a model that can be replicated elsewhere), Pinoy youth can have a more active and sustained role in boosting the ALS program of the government.

It must be pointed out that our department’s project wouldn’t have happened without the cooperation of the concerned barangay officials. Now, the question is, how can the youth be encouraged to take part in similar projects in their respective communities?

First of all, there must be a project initiator. Unless a teenager is very well connected, he/she is not likely to accomplish much on his/her own. It can be the local barangay, a community church, a school org, or whatever.

Then, a specific project meant to address a particular problem that the concerned youth can relate to must be conceived. In our case, we were able to get student volunteers for the project because the problem of OSY is very familiar to them.

ANSA-EAP competition
Meg Abano (second from left) won first place while Dion Lorenz Romano (first from left) took the second prize during the 2014 ANSA-EAP blogging competition.

The youth of today are trying to juggle their time between so many tasks, so if you ask them to volunteer for something, their role must be clearly defined from the onset.

And although giving them clear-cut guidelines on how they will do their thing is a must, they should be given the space necessary to show creativity. For example, you can tell them to discuss about the Cartesian coordinate system, but the teaching methodology should be up to them.

Lastly, it is important to make sure that the results of their effort can be determined. In our case, we were able to achieve that last year. I can still remember some barangay officials proudly telling us teachers that most of those we reviewed last year passed the ALS qualifying exam.

If you are pouring your heart out in doing something and you are told that you are actually making a difference, won’t you feel inspired to keep going?

In the end, it must be kept in mind that most youth are willing to do their share in making their respective communities a better place. They should just be given the right opportunity and the right rationale to do so. 

This article won third prize in the 2014 blogging competition organized by the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP). 

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About Mark Madrona 1191 Articles
Mark Madrona is a prize-winning blogger, online journalist, and educator from the Philippines. Previously a book editor, he is now teaching communication subjects for two public universities in Manila. His blog The Filipino Scribe won 3rd place in a blog competition organized by the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP). In 2015, it was one of the finalists in the 2015 Lasallian Scholarum Awards for Best Online Feature Article in Youth and Education. He also won the Best Blog Award during the 2011 Population and Development Media Awards, the youngest recipient of that recognition. Know more about him here: http://www.filipinoscribe.com/about/.

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