Alternative education caters to multifarious groups of students or unprofessional classified according to their needs and circumstances in life. Alternative education programs were designed because of pressures from concerned parents, teachers, students and government officials to ameliorate substandard education and dangerous environment in most public schools. Seeing its benefits, educators and educational institutions broaden the scope of this alternative to promote education and extend it to working adults to further their training and professionalism.
Its main goal is to provide opportunities for millions of students, achievers or not, across the United States to maximize their potential for success. First, and on a more positive note, Unger (1998) claims that alternative education offers practical instruction that will convert the basic skills, talents and interests (p. 10) of those individuals who opted not to pursue a college degree, but undertake vocational courses, career education workshops, and on-the-job training instead.
Professions that developed out of the latter ature include computer operators, chefs, plumbers, air traffic controllers, postal workers, actors, mechanics, barbers, and the like. It is noted that several of this occupations bring in more income than some jobs earned from a four-year course in a college or a university where the cost of learning is far more expensive (Unger, 1998). Second, and what usually brings a negative connotation to the term alternative education, is that type of education and schooling that caters to at-risk and developmentally handicapped students enrolled in a regular school system or setting.
At-risk student populace consists of dropouts, drug and alcohol dependents, truants, troubled children, and those with behavior problems. Alternative education programs seek to aid the needs and interests of these students by offering positive school experiences which are geared for achievement, enhancement of self-esteem, incentive, reduction of truancy, reduction of disruptive behavior, reduction of teenage pregnancy, dropout prevention, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation (http://www. cambia. k12. fl. us/instres/alted/intro. html).
On the other hand, developmentally handicapped students are those who have brain damage or infirmities at birth. Abnormalities of this kind include mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, mongolism and the like that could be diagnosed at a very early age even at birth. Students stricken with this ailment are afforded utmost loving care and holistic approach.
More options for alternative education developed in quest of the community for safe schools, cultural diversity, neighborhood learning, safe and drug-free schools, charter schools, and home schooling (http://www. escambia. k12. fl. us/instres/alted/intro. html). Programs that emerged out of these concepts use a non-traditional approach to curriculum employing alternative teaching strategies. Teachers, parents and volunteers undergo rigorous and continuous schooling as they tackle this very challenging job.
Students at any level of education, from pre-school to high school or college, may avail and profit from this type of alternative learning program suitable for their needs. One implication why alternative education was conceptualized and carried out is the breakdown of family and social values. While the deteriorating status of both are going down at a rate faster than anything in our society, alternative education is more likely here to stay. The current voucher proposal hopes to further support and strengthen this new trend in education.