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Alternative learning goes digital

Dr. Edwin Ferrer, officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Alternative Learning System (BALS) for Region 1 counts the San Carlos City Jail, public market and city plaza as places of learning for his students.

At the city jail, Edwin is teaching the inmates basic literacy skills as well as alternative livelihood to give them the chance for a fresh start and become productive citizens once they have served their sentence.

Meanwhile, at the San Carlos Public Market, Edwin teaches market vendors Math and literacy classes. For the senior citizens of San Carlos City, he would conduct regular social and recreational sessions like ballroom dancing lessons to keep these retirees active and energized.

Edwin is one of the more than 6,000 mobile teachers all over the country who would go where the students are, and by this, we don’t mean the usual classrooms in schools where formal education takes place. These mobile teachers are the Department of Education’s answer to the pressing need of making education available beyond the four walls of the classroom to out-of-school youth and adult learners.

They seek to improve the quality of life of Filipinos by raising the level of literacy in target communities such as out-of-school youth and working individuals who have no access to formal classroom learning.

Now, Edwin and other mobile teachers like him can use mobile technologies. Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) and the DepEd-BALS are working together to make mobile technologies a more pervasive tool to help enhance Philippine education.

Working through startup partner Orange Fix, Smart and DepEd have developed a mobile application that would digitize the books and other teaching materials under the ALS curriculum, making it easier for mobile teachers to teach their community of learners.

The ALS mobile app will be made available for free in affordable mobile devices like tablets bundled with Smart connectivity.  Through the mobile app, educators can now access teaching materials anytime, anywhere, online or offline from their tablets.

The project is part of Smart’s pioneering initiatives in mEducation. The materials in the mobile app are integrated under the ALS. Alternative learning can now be accredited by the DepEd through its Accreditation and Equivalency Test. The learner will be awarded Elementary Certificate or Secondary Certificate provided he/she passes the examination.

“This collaboration with BALS is part of our mEducation initiatives as we seek not only to enhance learning via mobile technologies but also hope to democratize access to devices, connectivity and content,” said Darwin Flores, Smart department head for community partnerships. “In the future, we will be introducing mobile learning for students as well.”

The tablets that are pre-loaded with the ALS mobile app can be ordered online via<

With the ALS mobile app, Edwin and the other mobile teachers of DepEd BALS are one step closer towards fulfilling their aspiration of providing inclusive education for all.