No decision yet on August school opening for state colleges

Ghio Ong, Helen Flores - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has not decided whether or not to move to August the school opening for state universities and colleges, even as it warned of adverse effects of changing the academic calendar on the educational system.

“CHED is concerned about the possible implications and impact of these changes should more institutions follow suit. Proper study, consultation and preparation are necessary,” CHED Chairman Patricia Licuanan said.

Licuanan explained that she is worried about the repercussions of revising the academic cycle on the educational system as well as on the scheduling of various licensure examinations. 

She cited as an example the school year of high school students, which ends in March. With the new academic calendar for colleges and universities starting in August, this would mean high school graduates would have a gap of four months before they could enter tertiary school.

The CHED created the high-level Technical Working Group on the Academic Calendar (TWG-AC) to carefully study and provide recommendations on the school calendar shift.

The TWG-AC is composed of stakeholders from the education sector and is headed by former CHED chair and University of the East president Ester Garcia. 

Other members of TWG-AC are the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations, Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges, Department of Education, National Youth Commission and representatives from large universities and small colleges. 

The CHED expects the panel to submit their recommendations to the commission before the end of next month.

The University of the Philippines, except its campus in Diliman, and the Ateneo de Manila University on Thursday announced their shift from a June-March school year to August-May calendar.

The UP System will commence the new academic year this coming school year 2014-2015, and Ateneo in 2015-2016. 

Licuanan said De La Salle University (DLSU) and the University of Santo Tomas (UST) have also informed CHED about their plans to revise their calendars.

“These changes are motivated by the desire of these institutions to internationalize their programs and the experience of their students and faculty. CHED allows higher education institutions to change their academic calendars as long as these are in accordance with the law,” Licuanan noted.

Republic Act No. 7797, section 3 states that “the school year shall start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.” 

New school calendar targets foreigners

Earlier, UP vice president for public affairs Prospero de Vera said the economic integration of the Southeast Asian region in 2015 is one of the main factors that contributed to the decision of UP to change its academic calendar.  

Most members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (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. 

UP president Alfredo Pascual said the synchronization “will create more joint programs and partnerships with other universities, allow students to get transfer credits, particularly under ASEAN and ASEAN +3 Credit Transfer System, and address the problem with semestral gaps with partner universities.”

Ateneo president Jose Ramon Villarin, for his part, said the change in the academic calendar would align the schedule of the Ateneo to more than 80 percent of its current university partners overseas and more than 70 percent of all universities around the world.

But Victor Villanueva, president of the UST Law student council, noted that many Filipino families, especially in rural areas, would be hard-pressed to adjust to the new school calendar.

“June is post-harvest season and is the time many Filipino families have ample disposable income to send their children to school,” said Villanueva, a former president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines.

“I think the real motive is to attract foreign students and for education-related businesses to earn more income,” he added.

The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), on the other hand, supports the decision of UP and Ateneo.

“We can only show our support to them for taking the step towards a globally competitive educational institution,” said CEAP Advocacy and Information Management officer Anthony Coloma. – With Janvic Mateo, Evelyn Macairan  



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