By LEILANI B. CHAVEZ
When Pinoy boxing champion Manny Pacquiao decided to go back to school early last year, he not only gave alternative learning its much needed publicity, he also gave out-of-school youths and adults something far more important – hope.
A grade school drop-out, Pacquiao had to take the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Accreditation and Equivalency (A & E) Test for elementary and secondary levels in order to pursue college education.
The A & E Test is an exam that is equivalent to an elementary and secondary diploma, making out-of-school students eligible for pursuing college degrees. Most of the takers lacked the finances and time to finish formal schooling, and had been out of school for more than a year.
Since the DepEd started administering the exams in 1999, a total of 218,179 youths and adults have already taken the test. However, only 38,031 or roughly 18% had passed the exam. Despite this number, the number of takers still continues to surge.
After Pacquiao took the exam last year, the number of examinees rose from 51,979 in 2007 to 83,063 this year. This number only includes the takers last February and June. There will be another batch of tests on October.
In the results of the 2007 A&E Test, the highest percentage of passers hailed from the Davao region (34%) followed by Central Visayas (30%). NCR tied with Region IV-A in the third spot with 29%. The ARMM region has the smallest percentage with only 3%.
According to Sevilla Panaligan, DepEd Assistant Chief for the Continuing Education Division, the exam is open to all out-of-school youths and adults.
One should be at least 11 years old to qualify for the Elementary A&E Test and 15 or above to qualify for the Secondary exam.
The tests are free of charge. Examinees do not have to pay to take them. Examinations are administered in public schools selected by DepEd division heads for the purpose.
Aside from Pacquiao’s testimonial, Panaligan added that the number of examinees increased due to increased resources and publicity efforts for the program after Jesli Lapus became secretary of education.
No Easy Feat
But even though there is a remarkable increase in the number of takers, the passing rate remains a low 20 percent on average.
Students, after failing in their first take may retake until they pass, which sometimes means trying for two more tests.
Test results are released in two to three months, after which passers can already claim their diplomas from the school that administered the exams.
During abs-cbnNEWS.com’s visit to the Alternative Learning Systems office, one student inquired about his diploma. He passed the exam two years back and is completing the enrolment requirements for a college degree at a small college in Pasig. Panaligan told him that their office does not give out diplomas; it is given by the schools where they took the exam. “We only give certifications.” Panaligan told the student.
The exam usually consists of questions based on the new definition of functional literacy. It measures communication skills, problem solving and critical thinking, resourcefulness, development of self and sense of community, and expanding the world vision of a student.
These areas of knowledge are what DepEd believes elementary and secondary students could acquire in formal schooling, according to Panaligan.
To avoid retaking the exam, students can attend the regular learning group sessions that are free and open for all. “The regular group session has functional literacy practice tests that determine if they are ready to take the test,” Panaligan added.
Opening a Door
The ALS office is fast becoming a popular nook within the DepEd’s central office in Pasig City, receiving at least 20 visits and calls from interested parties in a given day. It is even busier soon after an examination was administered.
The program is opening doors for those the regular education programs were unable to help, regardless of their background or age.
While Panaligan was explaining the earlier diploma inquiry, another group walked into the office. The visitor wanted to know if her brother’s diploma is already available. The brother took the examinations while he was confined at a rehabilitation center in Pampanga. He plans to continue his studies this school year.
The oldest exam taker who took the A&E Test for High School was 77 years old. In the last June 12 exam, the oldest examinee was 75 years old.
Pacquiao, the most popular of the A&E examinees, is currently in first year college at the Notre Dame University of Dadiangas in General Santos City. – with a report from Gemma Bagayaua