EDITORIAL - Rest period

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Rest period

As extreme heat disrupts onsite classes nationwide, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte says returning to the old academic calendar cannot be rushed, explaining that teachers and learners need a “rest period” between school years.

But now teachers themselves are proposing to speed up the return to the pre-pandemic calendar, for example by reducing the number of school days for the academic year. President Marcos also recently said that “as much as possible,” his administration would work to return to the old academic calendar, with classes held from June to March followed by two months of vacation at the height of the Philippine summer.

Lockdowns and the forced shift to distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic led to a rescheduling of the academic calendar for face-to-face classes. The adjusted schoolyear saw classes continuing through the summer and going on the annual two-month break during the monsoon and typhoon season.

With climate change and the impact of a strong El Niño, temperatures have soared this summer. Most public schools are not air-conditioned and lack sufficient ventilation for such high temperatures. The heat has forced the suspension of onsite classes and a shift to asynchronous and hybrid learning modes.

All studies have shown that two years of hybrid or distance learning during the pandemic had a negative impact on formal education, for learners and teachers alike. The suspension of face-to-face classes also took a heavy toll on the economy. The full resumption of onsite classes, even with students still wearing masks to prevent COVID infection, was a welcome development.

Some quarters have pushed for making the shift permanent, saying it would be closer to the academic calendar in countries such as the United States. But the seasons are different in the northern hemisphere. The proponents also argue that classes are often suspended anyway during the typhoon season. The suggestion, however, ignores the main function of school breaks, which is to give students, teachers and school administrators an enjoyable rest period. This promotes physical and mental rejuvenation and overall health.

This cannot happen when the school break takes place during monsoon season. If you can’t even step out of your house because of torrential rain and flooding, how can you enjoy the school vacation? Instead of rest, you’ll experience stress. At least during summer, people can escape the heat by going to the beach or taking cool mountain hikes. Such activities are also healthy for tourism and the general economy.

Like the rest of the world, the country is on the road to recovery from the devastating pandemic. For formal education, the return to normalcy will be completed when the country reverts to the pre-pandemic school calendar ASAP.

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