Alternative Community Education Programme (ACEP)

Country Profile: Philippines


96,471,000 (2012)

Spoken Languages

Filipino, English, Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Ilokano, Pampango, Pangasinense, Tagalog, Waray

Poverty (Population living on less than 2 US$ per day):

42% (2009)

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP

2.7 (2009)

Access to Primary Education – Total Net Intake Rate (NIR)

96% (2011)

Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)

Female: 98% (2005–2010)
Male: 97% (2005–2010)
Total: 98% (2005–2010)

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over)

Female: 97% (2005–2010)
Male: 98% (2005–2010)
Total: 98% (2005–2010)

Staistical Sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleAlternative Community Education Programme (ACEP)
Implementing OrganizationPopular Education for People’s Empowerment (PEPE)
Language of InstructionT’boli (mother tongue); Ilonggo (local lingua franca) and Filipino (national language).
Programme PartnersOxfam Great Britain
Date of Inception2005 –

Context and Background


Although the Philippines has made significant progress towards the provision of Education for All (EFA) and, in turn, achieved high enrolment rates (91.4 per cent) in primary education and high youth and adult literacy rates (94 per cent), pockets of illiteracy and people with limited access to education remain. According to a Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS, 2003), about 3.8 million Filipinos aged ten years and over are unable to read and/or write, while a further 9.2 million are functionally illiterate. The FLEMMS further noted that 11.6 million children and youth aged between six and 24 years were out-of-school. Of these, 1.2 million were children of primary school age (6–11 years old), 1 million were of secondary school age (12–15 years old) and 9.4 million were in the tertiary age group (16–24 years old).

There are ethnic, regional and gender disparities with regards to access to quality education. Overall, a disproportionate majority of people with limited access to education and therefore high levels of illiteracy is found among ethnic minorities and indigenous people living in remote and economically marginalised areas. Of these, women are further disadvantaged due to socio-cultural and economic factors including poverty and the practice of early marriages.

The Ubo and T’boli people (indigenous Filipinos living in the poor and conflict-affected province of Mindanao) are among the most socially marginalised groups in the Philippines, with limited access to basic socioeconomic services such as health and education. In particular, T'boli women have been disproportionately marginalised from accessing education due to their traditionally ascribed social roles as mothers and care givers for their families. Given that these roles are perceived to require no more than cultural education (socialisation), women are often married early while families prefer to invest their meagre resources on the education of boys.

However, given the changes in the indigenous people's way of life and traditional education, due to economic development, urbanisation and the transformation of livelihood practices, it is now imperative to promote and particularly target women with community education programmes in order to enhance their capacity to effectively function in the emerging socioeconomic environment. Furthermore, in light of the threat posed to T'boli culture and cultural traditions due to the influences of urbanisation, educating women will enhance the capacity of indigenous people to preserve their culture, principally because women as the primary childcare givers, will be empowered to socialise their children into their culture from an informed position. Thus, recognising that family wellbeing and development directly correlates with the educational standards of women, PEPE initiated the Alternative Community Education Programme (ACEP) in an effort to combat illiteracy using traditional knowledge systems as the principal basis of learning.


The ACEP is a community education programme which is being implemented in line with the EFA goals. It endeavours to enable socially marginalised and illiterate girls and women to be functionally literate. The programme is currently being implemented among the T'boli indigenous people living in South Cotabato, Mindanao province in partnership with the local Department of Education (DepEd). This has made it possible for the ACEP graduates to be officially accredited by taking the test from the DepEd’s accreditation and equivalence programme.

The ACEP is based on the Contemporary Cultural Continuity Framework (CCCF) which advocates for the adaptation and integration of traditional knowledge and education systems to contemporary learning contexts. Thus, instead of merely promoting the ‘preservation of tradition and culture’, CCCF-based community education initiatives encourage learners to reflect on the positive and negative aspects of T'boli traditions, knowledge and cultural systems and their adoption to enhance the learning process. To this end, learners are encouraged to use the positive aspects of their cultural and knowledge systems as principal learning instruments while, on the other hand, critically reflecting on how to transform the negative aspects in order to ensure both individual and community development. Reflections on cultural systems are juxtaposed with reflection and discussions on the modern beliefs and life systems (e.g. nutrition and food patterns, traditional and modern medicine) which are now central to their lives. Overall, the CCCF enables the learners to benefit from both traditional and contemporary (modern) practices through a learning process that promotes the development of critical thinking skills rather than the passive internalisation of knowledge, skills and traditions.

Thematic Focus

In light of the CCCF, the ACEP revolves around three major themes:

The thematic-based ACEP curriculum was developed through the integration of T'boli traditional and modern practices and knowledge systems as highlighted above. For example, the culture and family relations module combines cultural and modern perspectives of gender relations, equity and human rights. In order to enable learners to gain from the two frameworks, community elders are often invited to literacy classes as guest teachers/facilitators to offer guidance during discussions on indigenous systems while PEPE facilitators offer the modern perspective. Apart from merely promoting learning, the strategy also combats potential social resistance to the inevitable cultural changes. Similarly, the health and nutrition module combines indigenous and modern knowledge systems and practices to health education such as traditional medicine and modern nutritional practices. With regards to the latter, PEPE has developed learning gardens to promote literacy and gardening skills development by raising awareness on affordable and nutritional food crops (see below).

Aims and Objectives

The ACEP endeavours to:

Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies

Recruitment and Training of Facilitators

PEPE, with technical assistance from the Civil Society Network for Education Reforms (E-Net Philippines), has recruited and trained 21local community volunteer educators/facilitators. The educators are responsible for facilitating the community-based learning processes with ongoing assistance and mentoring from senior PEPE and E-Net personnel in order to improve the quality of the programme.

Teaching-Learning Methods

The ACEP employs a variety of teaching-learning aids (including modules, audiovisuals, plants and traditional artefacts) as well as learner-centred participatory teaching-learning methods in order to foster effective learning and critical thinking. The following are the principal methodologies:

Practical Lessons

ACEP emphasises learning-by-doing (practicals) in order to foster the development of both basic literacy and functional literacy skills among learners. For example, health and nutrition education is promoted through cooking various indigenous and modern foods and demonstrations of appropriate breastfeeding methods. The development of functional literacy skills is promoted through practical lessons in sewing, bead making and weaving and often involves experienced and traditionally qualified women artisans teaching others. This process facilitates the propagation of cultural knowledge and art. In addition, the programme has also developed the learning garden which involves learners in the production of plants and vegetables (e.g. onions, tomatoes, oregano, traditional herbs and spices). Each crop/plant is appropriately labelled using T'boli and Filipino terms. The labels also include, for example, the nutritional or medicinal value of the crops. This strategy is intended to foster the development of bilingual literacy (reading and writing) skills by relating written information to the physical plant as well as knowledge about the best available local vegetables.

Storytelling, drama and focus group discussions

Storytelling is central to the T’boli’s culture and is traditionally used as the principal instrument of community education. The culture and love of storytelling has been adapted as a central ACEP teaching-learning tool. As a result, community elders are often invited to share local stories with learners, particularly in the discussions of culture and family relations. Afterwards, small groups of learners discuss the lessons of the stories before presenting the same to the whole class. The same principle is used when drama, song and dances are used as teaching instruments. This method has the added advantage of promoting learning and cultural preservation by stimulating the creative imagination of learners. It also generates interest and thus attracts learners to continue attending literacy lessons. Finally, by limiting the role of the facilitator to that of a moderator, these methods ensure that learners become teachers in their own right and the learning process is made more contextually relevant and appropriate.

Visuals and videos

The ACEP also uses local accessories and artefacts appropriately labelled to help learners to identify their names in writing. Local educators also designed the visuals they used during their sessions while short videos borrowed from the PEPE and E-Net were used as starting points for class thematic discussions.

Drawing and reflection sessions

Adult women find it difficult to draw but when they are encouraged to do so, and by thinking about their experiences and how to put them into symbols and drawings, they are able to reflect on the process. The attention of learners is centred on the drawing instead of the participant, thus making it easier for women to share even bitter experiences. Drawing-reflection, as with the other method, has to be guided by clear yet substantive guide questions.

Overall, the learner-centred methodologies enable women to be conscious and confident of their individual capacities and thus to improve their families' wellbeing. The strategies ensure that the learning process is promoted by building on the learners' experiences and knowledge systems.

Programme Impact

An internal programme evaluation survey undertaken by PEPE in conjunction with E-Net Philippines revealed the following key programme impacts:

Lessons Learned

The success of the ACEP is primarily due to the adaptation and integration of indigenous knowledge systems into the literacy learning process. This has engendered a strong sense of community ownership and support of the programme. It motivated facilitators to volunteer to work for the good of their communities.

In order for community education programmes to be effective and sustainable, they should involve the active support and participation of the government and the communities. In addition, national financial and technical support should be sought.


The sustainability of the programme is based on the active support it has received from local communities, E-Net Philippines and the local government administration. The latter has pledged financial and technical assistance for future programme activities while E-Net Philippines has promised technical support to upgrade and expand the programme. E-Net Philippines has also documented the programme as one of good practice for Alternative Learning System (ALS) and will use this as a case to support its advocacy for more state investment in ALS.



Cecilia V. Soriano
E-Net Philippines
Door 2 Casal Building, 15 Anonas St.
Project 3, Bgy. Quirino, Quezon City
Philippines 1102
Email: cecilia.enetphil (at) / cecilia_soriano (at)
Tel: +632 421-4773 / +632 433 5152

Last update: 19 July 2010