Should classes in the Philippines still start in June or should it start on another month instead? Here are some of the things that I’m wondering about if ever the Proposed Shift in the UP Academic Calendar will push through:
- History. What is the reason or origin behind the June class schedule in the Philippines? Isn’t this synchronized with the harvesting and planting season in the Philippines? What are the harvesting/planting seasons of the other countries? What are the climates of the other countries? What are the bases of the start of the academic calendars in other countries?
- Priorities. Does the academic calendar schedule issue have more importance over the intrinsic aspects (e.g. lack of funding for schools, teaching materials and teachers) of the educational system in the Philippines? Are we doing this to please other countries instead of fulfilling the more important needs of the educational system of the country?
- Privileges. Will all students be given equal opportunities for the effects of the academic calendar global synchronization?
- Trimester Option. Instead of having 2 semesters, would it be better to have 3 trimesters? Did the proponents of such proposal try to analyze this scenario as well?
- Enrolment. If the proposal will be pushed, will it be possible for ALL students from ALL colleges to cross-enrol in other countries at the same time? A possible effect will be low enrolment for the university and high enrolment in the universities of other countries.
- Readiness. Will there be a proposed document of policies/rules readily available (e.g. how to credit units taken in another country) if ever the proposal for the shift will be pushed?
- Student Support. Will the university completely support (e.g. financially) the students who want to cross-enrol in other countries?
- External Effects. Are the proponents of the academic shift proposal aware that the effects of the shift will also affect the sectors outside the university? Are all other sectors well-informed of this proposal?
- Awareness. Are all parents, students, or the whole nation informed of this proposal?
- Impact of Disasters. Did the proponents of the proposal also consider the intensity or level of destruction caused by the strongest typhoons? Do they have data showing this per month? This is important because it is possible that there will be typhoons in June-July but the strongest ones will arrive on later months, Sept-October. Based from the entry on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoons_in_the_Philippines#Most_destructive The same thing will happen if the same strong typhoons arrive on the months of September/October. More schools and students will be affected then by the wrath of the typhoons. Note that August is the most active month for tropical cyclones in the Philippines. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoons_in_the_Philippines#Variability_in_activity)
- Quality of Learning Environment. Learning is not effective when the environment is not conducive to learning. Not all colleges have air-conditioned classrooms. Is the university ready and willing to pay for the extra costs for getting more ventilation? In my college, the computer laboratory, Model IT Classroom (MITC), is not well-ventilated due to poor air-condition units. Students have been indicating on their SET responses that the room really needs a better ventilation especially if there are more equipment inside the lab. Now the question is – how about other colleges experiencing the same thing in their non-air-conditioned classrooms? Are they willing to let students experience the heat during summer season and experience the negative consequences of such hot temperature?
- Competency of Educators. Are professors already applying blended learning in their classrooms? This should be used for situations where there will be class suspensions due to strong typhoons. Professors can simply put their lessons online and then apply a semi-flipped classroom model and/or blended learning, while taking every student’s current situation. Sadly, not all professors are willing to apply this method of teaching. Some might not be technology literate, not ready for the next generation of students, the digital natives. Worst, they are not willing to learn and upskill themselves on integrating technology with their teaching. What digital native students need right now are 21st century educators.
- Lecturers’ Concerns. What will happen to part-time educators serving the university? The shift from June to August would mean 4 months of not receiving any honoraria, because lecturers, correct me if I’m wrong, are either not allowed to handle summer classes or they are given lower priorities than full-time professors in getting teaching loads. It would be devastating then if the honoraria they get from teaching is their sole source of funds.
- Practicum Student-Teachers. In the UP College of Education, students usually have practicum as a requirement. What would happen then to situations in which they will have their practicum on schools that are not in-synch with the academic calendar of the university?
- Events. In my college, they celebrate the Educ month on July – are people still willing to hold the same event on the same month if most people are expected to be on vacation (if ever the proposal is approved)? Well, obviously this is just a minor issue.
- Vacation Breaks. If the proposal gets approved, the vacation of students will not be in-synch with the other universities or possibly family-scheduled vacations unless the rest of the sectors will follow the same schedule. This is important if we really value the significance of “family” in the Philippines.
- Health Risks. Studies should be done too. Are communicable diseases more prevalent during hot or rainy season? On what season are such health risks more preventable or controllable?
So, is it possible to be globally competent without having to synchronize the schedule of classes? I believe that this also poses a challenge to all educators – to make their students globally competent. But then again, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Definitely, other countries have more funds allocated for education as compared to our country’s.
Now, what are the rubrics and/or criteria that the proposal will be using? Do we let students experience the heat during their classes just to be “globally competent”? Well, I believe that educators should already integrate global competitiveness whenever they teach in the classroom. In my EDUC 190 classes, I’ve had my students start connecting with educators from all over the world for their webinar activity – and this was and is still possible regardless of the timezones.
UPDATE: Prof. Monsod also wrote via the Philippine Daily Inquirer about the Flawed rational for proposed academic calendar. She raised several good points there that need to be considered before making hasty decisions. Unfortunately, I believe that not everyone is even informed about this shift. Are people also being informed about the possible disadvantages of the change in schedule? I doubt if the ones who are pushing for this shift are willing to discuss the other side of the coin. As of today, I think they already made the decision for the shift even though there are still so many questions and the answers are so few.