CHED: Academic calendar adjustments due to pandemic might remove breaks

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Malabon City (CNN Philippines, September 11) - The head of the Philippines' tertiary education commission believes there may no longer be summer breaks or weekends off for students as colleges and universities adjust their academic calendars due to the pandemic. 

Commission on Higher Education chairperson Prospero de Vera reiterated that colleges and universities have the free hand to implement changes to their schedules even if it means removing breaks such as summer breaks, which usually happen from March to May, or Christmas breaks during December, or having classes on weekends.

"Yung (The) Christmas break after the second week of December, you put a Christmas break because students have to go home, they're not going home. They're already at home," De Vera told reporters in an ambush interview after inspecting Malabon City's coronavirus response Friday afternoon.

He added, "Isa pa kasing worry ng mga schools is yung may summer break. Eh di, tanggalin mo yung summer break, mag 2 semesters ka ng school year, no more summer."

[TRANSLATION: Schools worry about the summer break. One suggestion which can be done is to have two straight semesters of the school year no more summer.]

When asked if he is in favor of universities and colleges having class days on weekends including Sundays, De Vera agreed. "Kasi nga, flexible ka. Hindi ka naman every day, 8-9 a-attend ng klase. Yung iba, twice a week lang magme-meet because everything now is done on a flexible manner."

[TRANSLATION: This is because universities are flexible. It's not every day that one attends and 8-to-9 class. Some only meet twice a week because everything is now done in a flexible manner.]

These comments came from a latest call from students to "ease" the academic year, owing to the need for students to adjust to learning from home.

The Education Department earlier brushed the thought of "freezing" the academic year meaning halting the school year until the spread of COVID-19 in the country is brought under control.

READ: Calls to 'ease' distance learning implementation trends on Twitter after DepEd opposes 'academic freeze'

"The danger of coming up with a one-size-fits-all-policy is that it does not respond to the conditions on the ground," De Vera said of the proposal for an academic freeze.

He also said universities are already implementing some sort of easing student burdens, such as delaying the opening of the first semester, pass-all systems, and extended submission times for requirements.

"The universities are already doing that. We have already given them instructions to be flexible," De Vera said.

He also reiterated his directive to universities not to open the semster to students unless they are ready to make the shift to online learning. "Sabi ko sa mga schools, if you are not ready, wag magbukas. Several schools need another round of consultation, and they moved the opening of their classes."

[TRANSLATION: I told schools, if they are not ready, then don't open. Several schools need another round of consultation, and they moved the opening of their classes.]

The CHED previously said some schools used flexible learning and teaching methods from June to August, while other higher education institutions will open their academic year this month and in October. De Vera said, these institutions can open as late as November so long as students are teachers are not put at a disadvantage.