Shift to old school calendar gets teachers’ support
MANILA, Philippines — The three-member Makabayan bloc on Monday filed a bill that would revert the 2024 to 2025 school calendar to the prepandemic schedule of June to March, with students going on break in April and May, following mounting complaints from teachers and students about the difficulty of holding classes during summer.
House Bill (HB) No. 8550 — filed by Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel, Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas and House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list — sought to amend Republic Act (RA) No. 7797, as previously amended by RA 11480, which authorized the president to set a different date for the opening of classes in case of a state of emergency or calamity.
“Under this proposal, the school year will start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August, with a particular proviso for a June opening for the school year 2024 to 2025 which will ensure the urgent return to the prepandemic school calendar,” the lawmakers said in HB 8550’s explanatory note.
They also pushed for the “early” closing of the school year 2023-2024 on the fourth week of May 2024 and the granting of an appropriate number of leave service credits to teachers.
This would reduce by a few days the 180-day “nonnegotiable contact time” set by the Department of Education (DepEd) and “give teachers at least a week of rest in between the two school years,” the lawmakers said.
Public school teachers welcomed the filing of the bill by their party list counterpart with ACT chair Vladimer Quetua calling it “a big deal for us teachers because we don’t want to repeat the intense heat we endured this school year.”
“We call upon our legislators to give high priority to this bill and recognize the urgent need to revert to the prepandemic school calendar that is more suitable and beneficial to education given the detrimental impacts of summer classes [on] education quality and [the] health of learners and teachers,” Quetua said.
In March, ACT’s National Capital Region union reported that based on an online survey it had conducted, 86.7 percent of public school teachers said their students were unable to focus on their lessons because of the intolerable heat in classrooms.
The survey also showed that 37 percent of respondents had said the heat had triggered existing medical conditions among teachers and students while four in 10 teachers reported that more students had been missing classes since the start of summer.
In a statement, Castro said the current August to May school calendar had proven to be “detrimental” and “resulted in decreased productivity, poor student performance, and even health problems.”
Agri sector also hit
She noted that it had also affected the agricultural sector as students who used to help their families with farm work during planting season were now unable to do so.
“The return to the June to March school calendar [would] not only improve the quality of education but [would] also benefit our farmers by allowing students to participate in planting and harvesting activities during the appropriate season,” Castro said.
At the same time, she added that reverting to the previous school calendar should be “implemented in a safe and effective manner, with strict adherence to health protocols and guidelines.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, DepEd moved the opening of the school year 2020-2021 from June to August through a department order issued on May 11, 2020.
The new school calendar was implemented in the next school year and then also adopted by Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte for the school year 2022-2023.
Her order was based on RA 11480 which authorized the DepEd secretary to set the date for the start of the school year, especially during a state of calamity.
For the school year 2022-2023, DepEd issued Order No. 34 which stated that the school year would begin on Aug. 22, 2022, and end on July 7 this year.
The order also said that the school year 2023-2024 would start on Aug. 28 this year and continue until June 28, 2024, while the school year 2024-2025 would be from Aug. 26, 2024, up to June 27, 2025, unless otherwise amended.
In March, DepEd said it had no plans to revert to the old school calendar as proposed by a senator although the following month, Undersecretary Michael Poa, the DepEd spokesperson, said that a group had been created to study the recommendation. —WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH
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