Bernardo M. Villegas
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Profiting From Philippine Demographic Dividend (Part 2)

          The masteral thesis of Erik N. Santos aimed at investigating the motives, barriers, and motivations of ALS learners that impact on their ability to complete basic education and contribute to the country’s literacy rate and productivity.  It is assumed that ALS learners have undertaken their studies voluntarily.  They have been given a second chance to complete basic education.  It is thus expected that they are highly motivated to learn.  There are, however, several barriers to transforming their motive (externally induced by, for example, the need to improve the economic standing of their respective families) into real motivation (the self-motivated desire to learn and to improve one’s skills).  The objective of the study was to suggest measures that can promote motivation while minimizing the effects of physical and material obstacles to persistence and perseverance in the learning process.

         Like adult learners, participants in the ALS engage in education for different motives, both intrinsic and extrinsic.  The experience, though, is that the motive for enlisting is not a predictor of their perseverance in the program.  Both those who persevered and those who did not persevere were influenced by the main motives for engagement in practically the same degree.  The lack of association between enrolment motive and Effort Regulation is better appreciated in the light of the distinction between motive and motivation.  Motives are goals, while motivation is the driving force towards achieving those goals.  The interview findings during the Study revealed that what moved most of them to aspire for completing the course, and the further goals of going to college and getting a well-paying job, is to improve the financial standing of their respective families.  Enlisting in the ALS to earn a degree may be acting with extrinsic motivation, but the latter can be internalized in different degrees depending on cultural and social influences.  It was found out that because of the concrete situations of the individuals, there were obstacles that no amount of motivation or desire to persevere could surmount.  Objective barriers that caused dropping out of formal school were again found to also apply to the ALS program.  These barriers should be addressed especially by the instructors.

         Instructors should be aware of the difference between motives and motivations.  They should be open to applicants with extrinsic motives and then aim to cultivate the emotional skills of the learners so that they are able to identify and internalize altruistic motives, such as family support, aside from their personal goals.  The perception that one is capable of finishing the ALS program and passing the A&E test is crucial to boost the chances of completing the course and passing the test.  Instructors can develop the learners’ self-confidence and self-efficacy.  They can use the testimonials of those who passed the A&E test, despite having to confront similar or even more difficult obstacles.  Showing examples of successful personalities who had completed secondary education through the ALS can also reinforce self-confidence and self-efficacy.

         Effort regulation facilitates but does not guarantee course completion.  Instructors should be proactive in times of learners’ crises and disengagement, seeking them out instead of waiting for them to go back to school like regular students.  They should establish support systems to help students overcome barriers.  The supports include providing encouragement and emotional assistance, guidance and livelihood counselling, and the use of new technologies to deliver instructional materials as well as to supplement their lessons.  The sooner a drop-out resumes studies in the ALS, the greater the chance of perseverance.  Close exchange of information with regular schools can already provide ALS instructors with advance knowledge on students who are at risk of dropping out, so that they can be incorporated in the ALS quickly in case they do drop out.

         At the macro level, the government should do its share in maximizing the perseverance rate.  Given the potential of the ALS as a practical and parallel learning option to the formal education system, the Government should give it a bigger share in the DepEd budget, specifically for the training of more mobile teachers, Instructional Managers, and volunteers, to allow more school leavers, underserved individuals, and lifelong learners to benefit from the program.  Barriers to formal education can also deter completion in the ALS program.  Since the need to work and child care are also major causes of noncompletion in the ALS, financial support (e.g. partial or full scholarships, the Conditional Cash Transfer, etc.) could be applied to qualified ALS applicants as is done in regular schools.  The legal requirement for each barangay to have a day care center should be implemented to facilitate the attendance of those who have to look after young children.  Finally, the lack of conducive physical environments or accessibility of the ALS sites can adversely affect learning and perseverance. The DepEd can oblige more public and private schools to make their facilities available for the ALS program during the weekends or evenings.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.