Marcos backs revert to old acad calendar in 2025

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Extreme heat driven by climate change has forced the government to speed up its return to the old school calendar, with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself asking Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte to provide a "concerted plan" for schools to go back to the June-March schedule by "next year."

"Mukha naman hindi na tayo kailangan maghintay pa at mukha namang kailangan na (There seems to be no need for us to wait anymore and it looks like we need it now)," Marcos said in an interview with reporters on Monday.

"I don’t see any objections really from anyone, especially with the El Niño," the president added.

The Department of Education initially planned to return to the old June-March calendar in phases every year up to school year 2027-2028 to avoid shortening students' and teachers' vacation days. 

However, amid calls to ease students' and teachers' discomfort in the sweltering heat, DepEd Assistant Secretary Francis Bringas told a Senate panel last week that they have proposed an "aggressive" timeline to the president that ends SY 2024-2025 by March 31, 2025, two months earlier than scheduled.

This "aggressive" timeline, if approved, will reduce the total number of school days in SY 2024-2025 to 165 days, lower than the 200-220 days required by the law.

Bringas said that the more compressed school year may also require classes to be held on weekends and holidays through alternative delivery mode (ADM) to make up for lost time.

Without elaborating, Marcos said that the government's plan is to "bring (back) already the old schedule... hopefully by next year." 

No plan yet for 'climate-ready schools' 

Record-breaking temperatures in the past week have already forced over 7,000 public schools to suspend class instruction, reverting to the same remote learning setup that made students' learning uneven during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.  

Latest DepEd data sent to reporters on May 6 show that 15% or 7,372 out of 47,678 schools have suspended face-to-face classes and are implementing ADM. 

In response to the announced calendar shift, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), the country's largest network of teacher unions, challenged Marcos to go beyond school calendar adjustments to ensure enough facilities and resources can accommodate students.

ACT Chairperson Vladimer Quetua said that the government's decision to revert to the old calendar comes a year after the group first raised concerns over public schools' "overcrowded classrooms with poor ventilation that jeopardized our health and deteriorated learning" during the dry season in 2023.

RELATED: Teacher survey finds 'intolerable' summer heat affecting attendance, learning

“Addressing the dire learning environment should not end in an administrative act of changing the school calendar but should continue with more substantive steps of hiring more teachers and building more classrooms to reduce the class size, and ensuring proper ventilation in all learning spaces," the group said.

Quetua also said that the government must address the "worsening climate crisis, largely brought about by corporate destruction of the environment, that adversely affects not only the education sector but the whole socio-economic life of our people."

Marcos said in his second State of the Nation Address that one of the government's priorities is to retrofit schools and facilities to be future-ready, which include being "climate-ready and disaster-proof."

However, to this date, neither Marcos nor DepEd has announced a detailed plan for making school infrastructure climate-resilient.

More frequent heat waves in the future

Climate change, driven by emissions, is leading to more frequent and severe extreme weather events, including prolonged heatwaves and droughts.  

A 2023 report by UNICEF East Asia and Pacific states that Philippines is among the world’s most dangerous countries in the world for children in terms of exposure to multiple types of overlapping climate and environmental shocks and stresses.

At least 96% of children in the Philippines face more than three different types of “overlapping” climate-related hazards or stresses in their lifetime, much higher than the global average of 73% and the regional average of 89%, according to the report.

While DepEd has made climate change officially part of the basic education curriculum, teachers struggle to deepen students' understanding of climate-related issues due to lack of resources and training opportunities.  

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