Why some worry about school calendar shift

Posted at 02/12/14 12:33 AM

MANILA -- Some lawmakers are opposing the change in schools' calendar, after some universities in Metro Manila announced that they will move the opening of classes from June to August.

Classes in the University of the Philippines, except for its Diliman campus, will start on August this year, while Ateneo de Manila University will implement the shift in its academic calendar in 2015.

The University of Santo Tomas has also announced that it will move the opening of classes from June to July.

On Tuesday's episode of ANC's "Beyond Politics," Rep. Roman Romulo, chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education, Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list, and Prof. Prospero de Vera, UP vice-president for public affairs, shared their points of view on the shift in the academic calendar.

Romulo said he has a lot of questions about the shift in the calendar, including its benefit for Filipino students.

"Gusto kong malaman kung ano pa ang dahilan para magpalit ng kalendaryo. Madalas yung ASEAN integration, climate change, ang sinasabing dahilan, pero walang binabanggit na benepisyo para sa mag-aaral," he added.

Romulo said it seems that some universities are changing their academic calendar only for the benefit of foreign students.

He also said the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and school administrators should be aware of the consequences of using a new academic calendar, and others sticking with an old one.

For Romulo, what's more important is for the government and educational institutions to ensure Filipino students' access to quality education.

Ridon, on the other hand, believes that a lot need to be clarified and studied on the issue.

"We are not convinced that ASEAN integration and globalization requires changing the academic calendar," he added.

He also said changing the academic calendar can affect graduates, as schedules for licensure exams will not be changed together with the academic calendar.

"Yung Bar exams, September, tapos ga-graduate ka ng June. Paano pa maka-top 10 yung estudyante?"

He said agricultural production, which usually starts around May, may be affected by the new academic calendar, as some students may opt to help out in the farms rather than go to school.

Ridon also fears that changing the academic calendar to accomodate international students may lead to education tourism, and may eventually lead to privatization of public educational institutions.

"Baka maging katulad nung medical tourism, which led to privatization of hospitals. Nagca-cater na sila to tourists at nawawalan na ng access to health services ang mga Filipino."

Just like Romulo, Ridon believes that focusing on improving the quality of education -- and making it more accessible for everyone -- is a more important issue than the academic calendar.

However, both Ridon and Romulo said they are not closing their doors on changing the academic calendar.

Romulo wants to see how changing the calendar can directly benefit Filipino students, while Ridon reiterated the need to prioritize the quality of education, with or without changing the academic calendar.

De Vera, meanwhile, explained that although it may seem like a spur-of-the-moment decision, UP's decision to change the academic calendar has been an ongoing discussion inside the university for quite some time.

He added that it is also stipulated in the University Charter that UP should do its part to be a regional and global university, and shifting the academic calendar is a step towards that direction.

He also clarified that changing the academic calendar does not turn a university into an "international university."

"There is no claim that once you change the calendar, you become an international university, but it helps facilitate linkages. You cannot have joint programs because of different academic calendars."

De Vera said the university has been losing a lot of opportunities for faculty, student, and research exchanges within the region and in other countries of the world because of differences in the academic calendar.

However, he admitted that changing the academic calendar is not for everyone, and it should never be implemented at the expense of the quality of education.

"Nakita kasi namin na kayang pagsabayin ang pagkakaroon ng quality education at pagpapalit ng academic calendar, so it was implemented."

UP's new academic calendar will be implemented this academic year and will be reviewed.

On the issue on why UP Diliman will not implement the new academic calendar yet, De Vera explained that consultation in Diliman is taking longer than in other UP campuses.

"The Board of Regents acted on the request of the seven chancellors. There was no request in Diliman, so there was nothing to act on."

He added that if the consultation in Diliman will be completed within the next couple of months, then the new academic calendar may also be adapted in the Diliman campus.

De Vera also explained that UP is coordinating with the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) for possible changes in schedules of professional licensure examinations.

"Other universities that will change their academic calendars should also talk with the PRC," he said.