MANILA, Philippines -- National boxing hero Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao has scored what the Department of Education (DepEd) calls a "one-two knockout punch."
In a news conference on Thursday, Education Secretary Jesli Lapus named Pacquiao special ambassador for the agency's Alternative Learning System and "People's Champ for Education."
This came as Lapus announced that Pacquiao passed the DepEd's Accreditation and Equivalency or A & E test for high school which Pacquiao and brother Bobby took last February 3 at the Ireneo Santiago National High School in General Santos City.
Pacquiao "serves as an inspiration to the youth, especially those who were unable to push through with their studies due to difficult and unfortunate situations," Lapus said.
On Pacquiao?s successful equivalency test, Lapus said, "That makes him a bonafide high school graduate and eligible for college education."
Lapus signed Pacquiao's A & E certificate before a huge crowd at the DepEd headquarters in Pasig City.
A visibly elated Manny Pacquiao said, "God is great!" as he also thanked the education department for helping him make his dream of finishing high school a reality.
On his A & E test, Pacquio recalled: "Para akong binugbog ng anim na oras. Talo pa ang 15 rounds ng boxing." (It was like being punched for six hours. It?s worse than 15 rounds of boxing.)
"I had a hard time answering questions in mathematics and science,? he said. ?But I concentrated. Talagang ginalingan ko I really did my best)."
At the same time, he announced he was planning to take up a college course -- "either political science or management."
He promised to "really think about it."
In brief remarks, Pacquiao urged the country's 11 million out-of-school youth and adults to pursue education even outside of the formal education system.
"All of us have talent,? he said, affirming Lapus's claim that education is the "number one equalizer versus poverty."
In a statement, the education secretary noted the Pacquiao brothers had "dropped out of high school because of extreme poverty."
"And like many of his victories in the ring, Manny successfully passed the A & E examination," Lapus said.
He did not say, however, if Bobby Pacquiao also passed the same test.
Lapus called Manny Pacquiao an "excellent model for out-of-school chilren, youth and adults who are determined to learn and are able to gain functional literacy skills outside of formal schooling."
"Here's a man who pursued education for education's sake...His desire to complete his high school education despite his age and stature through alternative forms of education and learning is truly very admirable," he said.
Last year, 50,000 persons took the A & E test but "only 20 percent of examinees" passed, according to Lapus.
This year, the same number took the test in various parts of the country.
Test results are processed and analyzed by the Center for Educational Measurement or CEM, a non-government organization specializing in testing and evaluation.
In a briefing paper furnished the Philippine Daily Inquirer, DepEd states it has been providing various alternative education interventions for out-of-school children and young adults, including indigenous peoples and those living in conflict areas.
The agency's alternative delivery modes or ADM include distance education and multi-grade schools in the elementary level and open high school and the Easy and Affordable Secondary Education (EASE) program in the secondary level.
DepEd's Alternative Learning System or ALS, meanwhile, includes what it calls "Strong Republic School" distance learning package for children in conflict areas, basic literacy program, Balik-Paaralan for Out-of-School Adults (BP-OSA), a "modular learning package that provides education through mobile teachers or community-based instructional managers for those living in unique or difficult situations."
In addition, of course, to the accreditation and equivalency program. DepEd's other major reform initiatives include the following:
? Basic education sector reform agenda, a comprehensive reform package anchored on the principles of school-based management and community involvement.
? Early childhood education program where the agency provides pre-school education to some 176,300 children nationwide
? Every Child a Reader Program or ECARP, the department's flagship program which aims to ensure that each child learns to read by Grade 3.
? Computerization program where the agency provides computer laboratories to 3,500 or 73 percent of public high schools nationwide.
Lapus also stressed the need to strengthen alternative systems of education for the poor.
"That is why, I have placed technical and vocational education on top of our agenda," he said. "We need to provide our students with the education they can use."
Technical and vocational education, he added, "provides them the competitive advantage they need to become viable in the cut-throat global marketplace."