DepEd extends school year amid the pandemic to July 10

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
DepEd extends school year amid the pandemic to July 10
A student is seen in this undated photo attending an online class under DepEd's distance learning, which was extended to July 2021
Philstar.com / Irish Lising

MANILA, Philippines — Classes in the country will stretch to July 10 with the education department announcing on Tuesday the extension of the ongoing school year, which has been marred by difficulties due to the pandemic.

DepEd in an order amending the academic calendar said "there has been an identified need to address learning gaps" for students to meet the learning competencies it has set.

With this, the third quarter will now be from March 22 to May 15, with the last from May 17 to July 10.

The move effectively extends the school year, which was originally set to end by June 11, by a month.

"These learning gaps are attributable to reduced academic opportunities at home and substantial loss of live contact with teachers," Secretary Leonor Briones said in the agency's order.

News of DepEd possibly making the move was first reported by GMA News' "24 Oras" last month and Briones confirmed the department was studying the possibility.

Teachers' groups have since objected to this, saying the need for an extension is "clear proof that the current curriculum and the over-all learning designed are not sufficiently attuned to their real situation under the health and economic crisis."

"This is an added burden and not a solution to the education crisis," said Raymond Basilio, secretary general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers in a February 18 statement, stressing that DepEd should instead ease the workload of students and teachers. 

ACT added that such a move is a "grave labor injustice" to teachers who have struggled in carrying out lessons amid the health crisis.

Teachers' Dignity Coalition, meanwhile, said it was dismayed over DepEd making the extension without granting them a dialogue. On Monday, TDC asked DepEd to clarify reports of a possible extension, saying students and teachers need a break from the already exhausting school year.

DepEd has yet to comment if the break between schoolyears will be cut short. But, in the order, it said that the "additional two-week period shall be compensated by a similar adjustment in the school break between SY 2020-21 and SY 2021-2022."

Classes in the Philippines began in October 2020 and have been carried out online in urban areas that can support them. Apart from the internet, DepEd tapped as well television and radio stations to broadcast its lessons, while those without the means opted for printed modules.

But the new learning setup is far from perfect, an admission that officials have long made. Difficulties in internet access, availability of gadgets and errors in learning resources have been prevalent, and recent surveys have shown that students' participation in classes is already waning.

Significantly, two weeks after classes begun, an expert from the Philippine Psychiatric Association said they have already seen signs of mental stress from students and parents.

There had been calls too even by groups and lawmakers for government to allow the resumption of physical classes in areas with low coronavirus transmission, only to be shot down by President Rodrigo Duterte. He said in-person classes might resume by August.

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