The proposed shift in the academic calendar of Philippine schools—from a June to a September school opening—will not have any real advantage for Filipino students. Neither will it improve the quality of education in the country. It is only the schools, particularly the private colleges and universities, who stand to benefit from this new school calendar.
According to Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations (Cocopea), an umbrella organization of private schools, there’s a need to synchronize the country’s school calendar with that of other Asean countries in light of the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.
We’ve read the AEC Blueprint and there’s nothing in it that remotely relates to educational institutions. In fact, the education sector was not even included among the “priority integration sectors” whose policies are being standardized or harmonized with other Asean countries.
Proponents of the change in the country’s school calendar also claim that the shift will supposedly provide Filipino students more opportunities to participate in international conferences, mostly scheduled in July or August.
But how many Filipino families can actually afford to send their kids to international conferences abroad?
Shift to ramp up enrolment
Truth is, the move to change the school calendar is really meant to boost the enrolment numbers in private colleges and universities. All that talk about sparing Filipino students from the hardships of floods and typhoons is pure hogwash.
With the K-12 education system predicted to adversely affect college enrolment in 2016, many private colleges and universities are apparently feeling the pressure to shift their academic calendar in order to lure foreign students who can easily afford their tuition fees.
Already, it has been reported that Adamson University would begin the next school year this coming August so as to make it easier for students to enroll from overseas institutions. The university’s president was even quoted by media as saying that “many of [their]foreign students could only enroll in the second semester after graduating overseas because it’s too late for the first semester.”
These pronouncements seem to show that the real motive for the academic calendar shift is economic, not altruistic.
Of course, changing the school opening is easier said than done.
A major stumbling block to shifting to a September opening is the current law mandating the start of the school year for all schools, whether elementary, high school or college.
Under RA 7797 known as An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from Two Hundred (200) Days to not more than Two Hundred Twenty (220) Class Days, “the school year shall start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.”
This means even colleges and universities granted “autonomous status” by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) cannot unilaterally shift their school year outside the time frame prescribed by law.
What is also left unsaid is that the proposed shift will negatively impact many rural families whose children are often tasked to help with planting or harvesting during the annual school break from late March to early June.
Moreover, most countries around the world end their school year in the summertime, although the actual months may vary depending on which part of the globe they’re at. That’s why it’s universally known as a “summer vacation.” Duh?!
Shifting to a September school opening will make the country a global oddity in that students’ “summer break” isn’t in the summer but during the typhoon season. That will certainly make for a lot of unhappy and worse, unmotivated students.
Besides, we’re sure most parents (this columnist included) would prefer an annual family vacation basking in the sun instead of getting soaked in the rain.
Psalm’s “secret” auction
We recently read a news item that the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (Psalm) was auctioning off the 850-megawatt decommissioned Sucat oil-fired thermal power plant in Muntinlupa City and that nine firms (six Filipino and three foreign firms) had complied with the initial bidding requirements.
What caught our attention about this Psalm auction, however, was that aside from the submission of letters of interest and the payment of the P100,000 participation fee (which are usual), the bidders were also being asked to execute a “confidentiality agreement.”
Since the auction simply involves the sale and disposal of presumably vintage and outdated equipment and structures, we’re a bit curious as to why the bidders are being required to keep certain information secret.
Why the need for a confidentiality agreement? Is there something Psalm doesn’t want the public to know?
And by its very nature, aren’t public auctions of government property supposed to be open and transparent?
The auction rules set by Psalm President and Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel R. Ledesma Jr. clearly flies in the face of PNoy’s promise to institute full transparency in government transactions.