75 school heads oppose ‘mass promotion’ of students
MANILA, Philippines —The presidents and heads of 75 local colleges and universities around the country on Wednesday said they were opposed to the mass promotion of students and recommended a novel way of allowing them to continue fulfilling their academic requirements despite the lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis.
In a “joint advisory,” the 33 members of the Association of Local Colleges and Universities (Alcu) and the Association of Local Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (Alcucoa), said they wanted to “preserve academic integrity of all courses particularly board-based programs and OJT (on-the-job training) where quality and content cannot be compromised.”
They were joined by 42 other school heads who also supported the statement.
“We are against the mass promotion, which means the semester will not be finished, everybody will just pass,” Albert Madrigal, Alcu director, told Inquirer.net.
Alcucoa suggested what it called a seamless-blended-digital (SBD) program that would take into account, among other things, the different levels that towns and cities are exposed to the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the degree of community quarantine being imposed.
Raymund Arcega, president and executive director of Alcucoa, said the SBD program was already being implemented by several colleges and universities in the country, but he could not immediately provide a list.
One school that has decided on mass promotion is Ateneo de Manila University, which shortened the second semester to May 8 and gave eligible nongraduating students passing marks instead of letter grades.
The board of regents of the University of the Philippines (UP) also shortened the second semester to April 30 from May 13. The faculty are to give all students a deferred grade and allow them to complete any additional requirements to pass their courses within a year.
On Wednesday, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) announced that it would give its students passing marks for the second semester “in recognition of the serious impact of [the] coronavirus disease” on the academe.
In a memorandum, PLM president Emmanuel Leyco said the passing mark for all enrolled students would not form part of their cumulative general weighted average.
The final thesis of graduating students should be approved by their advisers although they would no longer be required to present their research before a panel.
Graduate studies students enrolled in thesis writing would be given an extension of one academic year to complete their requirements.
Leyco told reporters that the university provided a “compassionate” approach as students were dealing with the lockdown.
Arcega said the proposed SBD program involved three teaching modes, depending on the capability of the university and the classification of their students.
In the “seamless” mode, local governments can help deliver physical learning materials to students—particularly those who do not have access to the internet or any digital device.
“When you say seamless, this is not just between the students, the faculty and the management of the school. The institutions can tap the stakeholders and the community in trying to bring delivery of instructions because there are students who do not have internet, who do not have a way but to bring to their homes the study materials,” Arcega told Inquirer.net.
“Blended” learning is a combination of online and traditional place-based classroom methods, he said.
Classes will be held online and from time to time, when possible, students will be asked to go to their schools to submit their outputs or take the assessment tests but follow health protocols.
“There are some areas that have no COVID-19. But if the government lifts [the lockdown] and they are not under community quarantine and allowed by their local college, students can still come and exercise what the government [calls] social distancing,” Arcega said.
The “digital” mode entails the transformation of digital media, such as videos into electronic books and other electronic learning materials.
Lectures are converted into digitized materials and copies are given to students at the beginning of the semester.
Finding the best fit
Arcega said several colleges and universities were “surveying” the capability of local colleges and universities to implement the program. “That will serve as basis in determining redefined academic program to cater to the needs of students,” he said.
Based on the classification of students—particularly their access to internet and digital devices—the local colleges and universities can identify the best-fit teaching mode that they will implement.
Arcega said local colleges had the “academic freedom” to adapt their own respective grading system to the new learning mode. “They have to redefine it again and they have to be lenient to align it to the changes in the delivery system,” he said.
Alcu is offering free web seminars to local colleges and universities in implementing the program, Arcega added.
In pushing for the alternative teaching and learning modes, Arcega said the implementation of the program could also serve as a test in utilizing technology in education beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is the new normal. We can’t get away anymore. We have to really integrate technology in the delivery of instruction,” he said. “Let it be an opportunity now for everyone to start embracing information technology and online delivery of instruction.”
Prospero de Vera, chair of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), said colleges and universities could decide to use flexible and alternative learning modes during the period of extended enhanced community quarantine, including the mass promotion.
But the CHEd said the schools’ discretion “must be reasonable, transparent and outcomes-based validated.”
In a teleconference on April 14, De Vera said colleges and universities which are using the new academic calendar of August to July, including the University of the Philipines, Ateneo, De La Salle University and University of Santo Tomas, were allowed to extend their semester for a maximum of one month after the lifting of the enhanced community quarantine.
Schools which are using the old academic calendar, he said, were authorized to finish their current semester, trimester, quarter or equivalent academic period by “utilizing a combination of flexible learning options that reflect the best assessment of their students’ outcomes.”
—WITH REPORTS FROM NIKKA G. VALENZUELA AND MARIEJO S. RAMOS
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