DepEd urged: Start planning return to June school opening
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to start preparing a plan reverting to the old school calendar that starts classes in June, citing the sentiments of various education stakeholders favoring the shift.
At the hearing of the Senate committee on basic education, Gatchalian said DepEd could make that adjustment in two to three years without having to reduce the required number of school days per year.
“My recommendation to DepEd is that we now revert to the original academic calendar. But let’s do it gradually, maybe in one or two years, at most three. Let’s already start (preparing) the transition plan,” said the senator, who also chairs the committee.
Wednesday’s hearing sought to tackle issues concerning the opening of classes in public schools on Aug. 29, such as the perennial shortage of classrooms and teachers. But it was the proposal to revert to the old school calendar that piqued the interest of the resource persons.
Under the previous system, classes start in June and end in March, while students and teachers enjoy a two-month summer break before a new school year begins.
Gatchalian and the invited resource persons cited the dilemma faced by policymakers under the current school calendar, wherein students are supposedly spared from the hazards of torrential rains during the onset of the wet season but are also forced to hold classes under the extreme heat of the summer months.
“In short, we only have two options: either the children will soak in the rain or bathe in sweat,” he said. The senator also expressed concern over the possible impact of the current school calendar on the students’ emotional state, as their break now coincides with the rainy season.
“I remember that during summer break (in the old school calendar), students have the opportunity to take other courses in school, learn other skills or socialize with other kids,” he said.
Gatchalian said the proposal enjoyed the “overwhelming” support of Filipinos, citing a Pulse Asia survey which showed that 80 percent were in favor of having school openings again moved to June.
He also cited the pronouncement of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) on the increasing intensity of weather disturbances in the country.
“The weather alone—there are more issues of tropical cyclones, rains, (and it is) very difficult to move around because of the rains. I think that presentation (by Pagasa) is telling us that it’s much more complicated for our learners to go out of their homes when the rainy season arrives,” he added.
How kids can cope
The proposal to revert to the old school calendar was also welcomed by the National Parent-Teachers Associations (NPTA) – Philippines.
Ma. Corazon Regina Sibal, NPTA vice president for communications, called on the DepEd to put in place measures that would allow students to cope with their lessons amid the health problems and other inconveniences caused by the weather.
“There should be mechanisms that will be put in place to consider the weather, such as the prevention of dengue, or installation of more electric fans in classrooms and hydration facilities for students during summer,” she said.
Rommel Bautista, treasurer of the Philippine Association of School Superintendents, echoed the desire of teachers to have the school opening moved back to June.
“(Teachers are saying) we can endure the rain more than the heat of the summer inside the classroom. It is more difficult for our students to focus because of extreme heat during the months of March. April, and May,” Bautista said.
“We are willing to have this shift if the missed summer break will be converted into leave credits,” added Olivia De Guzman, national vice chairperson of the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition.