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DepEd wants alternative learning for youth in drug rehab

MANILA, Philippines – Aside from teaching about the evils of illegal drugs in schools, the Department of Education (DepEd) wants to provide alternative learning services to young people in drug rehabilitation centers.

"We have asked the [Philippine National Police] to provide us further information, because all we have is the total….We want to know how many of [those who have surrendered] are youth and are of school age," Education Secretary Leonor Briones said on Thursday, August 4.

The Department of Education (DepEd) plans to conduct a census to check whether patients are studying or not, and to find out the level of their skills and competencies.

"I'm willing to bet there would be those who do not know how to read and write, and I'm willing to bet there are those in the elementary [and high school]," she added.

The Duterte administration's crackdown on drugs has seen hundreds of alleged drug suspects killed in police operations and the voluntary surrender of over 120,000 alleged drug addicts to authorities. (READ: Rising number of users seeking drug rehab is a 'happy problem' but...)

DepEd's proposed census also aims to find out where the concentration of young patients are, and how many of them are staying in government facilities, or at home.

"Kailangan talagang i-survey 'yan, i-classify, pero we're not going to wait until December – we have to do it simultaneously. Schooling right where they are confined. Anong grade sila? Nag-aaral ba sila? Anong status nila? Para matutulungan kaagad, hindi natin hihintayin 'yung paggawa ng [rehabilitation] centers kasi physical structures 'yun," Briones explained.

(We really have to conduct a survey and classify them, but we're not going to wait until December – we have to do it simultaneously. Schooling right where they are confined. What grade are they in? Are they studying? What is their status? So we can help them immediately, we won't wait for the rehabilitation centers to be built first because those are physical structures.)

DepEd's Alternative Learning System (ALS) – a module-based, non-formal way to learn designed for learners who cannot afford to go through formal schooling – has become a priority program under the Duterte administration.

Briones lamented that during the previous administration, DepEd's rationalization program resulted to the merging of the Bureau of ALS with another bureau.

"Therefore the program did not receive the attention that it should have received, and so that one sentence about ALS is very, very meaningful because this time, it will have equal footing, equal attention, as formal education," she said, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte's mention of ALS during his first State of the Nation Address.

With the President's full support, Briones said ALS will be the "centerpiece" of the Duterte administration that will complement the K to 12's senior high school program.

In fact, ALS has a P700-million ($14.88 million)* allocation under DepEd's proposed P571-billion ($12.14-billion) budget for 2017. Aside from that, the program has an unspent P2.5-billion ($53.11 million) allocation from the 2015 and 2016 budgets.

"We have been given more than adequate budget support by the President himself," Briones said.

DepEd also created a position for an assistant secretary who will focus on the ALS program alone. 

Since classes opened in June, Briones has repeatedly emphasized the need to expand ALS, especially if it wants to cater to students who might drop out of school because of the challenges of the controversial K to 12 program. Rappler.com

*US$1 = P47.03

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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