RECOGNIZING that learning outside the classroom is an essential part of the learning process and personal development for students, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) on Friday still reminded higher education institutions (HEIs) to ensure the safety of their students during educational tours and field trips.
Lawyer Julito Vitriolo, CHEd executive director, said private and public colleges and universities should observe the policies and guidelines on out-of-school trips as stated in CHEd Memorandum Order 17 Series of 2012 (CMO 17).
Vitriolo made the reminder in the wake of the death of seven students from Bulacan State University who drowned in a river in San Miguel town in Bulacan province during a school-sanctioned trip on Tuesday.
“Sa mga magko-conduct ng educational tours and field trips, kung maaari ‘wag na nila ituloy kung wala naman matututunan mga estudyante at kung mas marami risks kaysa sa benefits [Those who plan to conduct educational tours and field trips, if possible, don’t push it if students would not learn from them and if risks outweigh benefits from such exercises],” he told this reporter in a text interview.
“[And we hope that school administrators would fully comply with] CHEd regulations to ensure the safety and security of the students,” Vitriolo said.
The fatalities were identified as Helena Marcelo, Michelle Ann Rose Bonzo, Sean Alejo, Mickel Alcantara, Madel Navarro and Janet Rivera. A seventh victim was found early Thursday morning. Reports said the seventh body recovered on Thursday could be that of Maiko Bartolome, a former member of EB Babes, a popular dance group.
Vitriolo, however, clarified that CHEd would not ban school field trips as these contribute to “curriculum enhancement and would help broaden the students’ learning opportunities and feel of the real world.”
Aside from ensuring the safety of the students, outdoor field trips should not be undertaken far from school, the CHEd official said.
Vitriolo also reminded schools to conduct a risk assessment of the trip, to get an accredited chartered bus and to never force the students to join the activity. Those who cannot or will not join the trip should be given a parallel activity, he added.
Vitriolo said students should have a written consent from their parents or guardians before they are allowed to join the trip.
But waivers, according to the CHEd official, are not absolute as these do not guarantee insurance coverage of injuries and accidental death.
“Under Article 2180 of the Civil Code and other pertinent provisions, school authorities are liable if they fail to exercise the due diligence of a good father of a family,” he said.
According to CHEd CMO 17, all higher education institutions shall provide quality educational tours and field trips relevant to the acquisition of the necessary knowledge, skills and values for student welfare and development as required in the HEIs’ program requirement embodied in the approved curriculum.
CMO 17 defines educational tours as “extended educational activities involving the travel of students and supervising faculty outside the school campus,” usually lasting for more than a day. Field trips, meanwhile, are out-of-school activities usually lasting for only a day or less.
Schools found guilty of violating CMO 17 will be subjected to varying sanctions, ranging from written warning to disapproval of application for new fees, revocation of permits and filing of criminal charges.