With the Ateneo de Manila University and the University of the Philippines system announcing simultaneously their shift of their academic calendar from August to May, instead of the June to March calendar followed by most colleges and universities, the time may have come to determine if everyone should follow suit.
Earlier, it was also reported that De La Salle University and the University of Santo Tomas were likewise mulling over the shift.
Considering that the four are seen as the Philippines’ top universities, perhaps the change may indeed be a wise move.
It has long been proposed that the country revise its school year, which as all parents and students know begins at the onset of the rainy season. School days are usually lost whenever a typhoon or heavy flooding causes the public transport system to go awry.
Ateneo and the UP system – not necessarily including UP Diliman – cite another reason for the change. The new schedule aligns them with their overseas partners, guaranteeing that their graduates will have a global outlook.
Offhand, it would seem that there are already two valid reasons why Filipino students should begin their school year in August. Yet there was never any urgent need to change what had been the practice since the pre-war years.
The Philippines and Filipinos had gotten used to the June to March school year, and the latter had become by tradition Graduation Month for all.
Now, the change appears to be forthcoming, with the Catholic Educators Association of the Philippines (CEAP) inclined to make the new schedule mandatory for its members.
There are some considerations worth noting.
For one, the schedules of elementary, high school and college should ideally be in sync.
Previously, the country had a Department of Education, Culture and Sports, so any revision could be implemented simultaneously at all levels. Today, however, we have a Department of Education (DepEd) that acts separately and independently from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
The first takes care of elementary and secondary schools, while the latter takes care of collegiate levels and up.
Wise view of DepEd Secretary
It would be wise at this stage to listen to what Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro has to say on the matter. For now, CHED has aired some concerns, without necessarily ruling against the shift.
Since DepEd handles the greater number of students, any permanent change should consider the needs of the school children, who are all minors.
Last December, Sec. Luistro spoke about this matter. He said coordinating the calendars for basic education among countries was not as necessary as it is in higher education. He pointed out that even just among member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) the school calendars for basic education were not the same.
He also gave a reminder of the variance in weather in our archipelago. A Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pag-ASA) study shows that heavy rains didn’t always come in June and July in most parts of the country and regions had different rainy months. It worried him that if children were made to go to school during the summer months, they would suffer from the intense heat and end up not being able to study.
That is why DepEd will stick to the original June to April school year.
Most Filipino students reach legal adulthood when they are in college, and are thus able to think for themselves.
While nothing can stop the Ateneo and UP system from beginning their school year two months later than usual, it behooves all parties concerned to come up with a united front. The choice must be made on what is practical for the overwhelming majority, befitting the democratic principles that we adhere to.
It may or may not be an idea whose time has come. If it is, then it cannot be stopped. But if it is an experiment that could fail, then it should not be adopted at all, as too many young people will be affected.
We love our kids. We do not want them to be experimented on needlessly. We want them to maximize their learning, and the school calendar is a factor here, whether we like it or not.