DepEd chief, UP professors buck new school calendar

Ghio Ong, Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - January 8, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - There is no compelling reason to change the academic calendar for elementary and high schools, the Department of Education (DepEd) said yesterday. Although they are not convinced on the urgency and necessity of the move, Education Secretary Armin Luistro said they are open to proposals to change the school opening from June to August or September.

At the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, faculty members have voted not to endorse the proposal of its administrators to move the opening of classes from June to August.

But UP vice president for public affairs Prospero de Vera said the position of the faculty of the university’s flagship campus to conduct further study on the issue is only a recommendation.

He said the decision is up to the Board of Regents (BOR), the university’s highest policy-making body.   

Top universities in the country have announced plans to move the school opening to September in preparation for the economic integration of the Southeast Asian region in 2015. 

This means that from the current June to March cycle, the academic year will run from September to June. Under the scheme, Philippine universities are expected to attract foreign students and facilitate the enrollment abroad of Filipino students and faculty members.                

DepEd Assistant Secretary Jesus Mateo said they would discuss the matter in their next meeting.           

Luistro said unlike in tertiary education, there is no common school opening among ASEAN countries. He said schools in Brunei Darussalam open in January, Cambodia in October, Indonesia in July, Laos in September, Vietnam in August, Thailand in May, and Myanmar and the Philippines in June.

“Student mobility is very limited among grade school and high school students in ASEAN,” he said, adding that changing the school calendar would mean that classes would run until the hottest months of the year.

He said public schools have no air-conditioning system and it is during summer when traditional celebrations like Holy Week, Flores de Mayo, and town fiestas are held.

“These might affect attendance,” Luistro said as he expressed concern the hot months of April and May could have a negative impact on learning.       He said moving the school opening does not necessarily solve the problem on flooding during the typhoon season as weather patterns keep changing.

Luistro said the agency has been exploring various means to allow students to catch up with their lessons, particularly when classrooms are used as evacuation centers.        

“School heads and field officials also employ strategies such as holding of make-up classes to ensure continuity of learning,” he said. 

No endorsement

In a text message to The STAR, UP-Diliman chancellor Caesar Saloma said the Diliman university council – which is composed of all tenured faculty in the campus – voted against the proposal during its meeting on Dec. 2.

He said a forum is set in UP-Diliman next month “to study the history of academic calendar in the Philippines, and to discuss the effectiveness of learning and knowledge transfer to college students when there are differences in the school year schedule and the fiscal year.”

The forum, however, may take place a little late if the 11-member BOR decides to vote on the proposal later this month. The issue was discussed during the November and December BOR meetings.

De Vera said the position of the Diliman university council does not reflect that of other UP campuses, which have finished consultations and expressed readiness for the shift.

UP has seven constituent universities – Diliman, Manila, Los Baños, Baguio, Visayas, Mindanao, an Open University and an autonomous college in Cebu.

De Vera said UP president Alfredo Pascual wants the new school calendar implemented this year.

Aside from Pascual, the other members of the BOR include Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Patricia Licuanan, Sen. Pia Cayetano and Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo.

Three other members are Malacañang appointees and the rest are representatives from the alumni, faculty, students and staff. 

Asean integration

De Vera earlier said the ASEAN integration in 2015 is one of the main factors that contributed to the decision of Pascual to push for the change in the academic calendar.  

“One of the components of ASEAN integration is the free movement of trade and services across the region. It has an impact on higher education. We’ll have movement of students and faculty members,” he said.

The five-page policy proposal of the university noted that the shift “is consistent with the provision of UP’s charter to be a regional and global university, and addresses current developments in the region and the world.”

It said that most members of the ASEAN University Network – as well as China, Japan, Korea, European Union, and the United States – start their classes in August, September or October.

The Philippines is the only country with universities in the network that start their academic year in June, said the proposal.

“Moving of classes in August will allow greater synchronization of our academic calendar with that of ASEAN, Northeast Asian, and the American and European Universities as well... There will be less problem with semestral overlaps and students can easily get credit transfer on a per semester basis,” it added.

De Vera said there should be no problem about the longer break of high school students who will graduate in March, noting that they could use it to look for scholarships and enroll in bridging programs.

He said the calendar shift could also have a good impact on classes, as there will be no interruptions during Christmas break, which will be the new semestral break if the shift is implemented.

De Vera said the proposed shift does not need the approval of CHED since UP is an autonomous university.  â€“ With Janvic Mateo

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