By Constantine Alferos
Aside from the goal of the University of the Philippines (UP) in terms of gaining more academic opportunities, the shift of the academic calendar would also be in line with the planned integration of the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) by 2015. Most importantly, Filipino students and faculty would have a greater chance of expanding their horizons in the ASEAN-member universities.
The policy proposal of changing the academic calendar from June-March to August-May schedule highlighted fewer problems with semester overlaps for students who would pursue exchange programs with universities in the ASEAN, East Asia, Europe and the Americas whose classes start in August, September or October.
It would also allow faculty members to participate in trainings offered by international institutions between June and July—the summer period of the proposed academic calendar.
Of the 30-university members of the ASEAN University Network, only the Philippines starts its academic calendar in June. The country has three university members: UP, Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University.
The three universities are studying the possibility of the change in the academic calendar and the pilot transition schedules to be adopted.
If the proposal of UP will be implemented (see table), sophomore and higher students would be welcomed with a one-time five- to six-month vacation in 2015.
The proposal also addresses the suspension of classes in June and July due to typhoons and the interruption of classes momentum due to the Christmas break in the second semester.
In a report by Interaksyon.com, Vice President for Public Affairs Prospero de Vera III said reaching a final decision is urgent because of the planned integration of the region’s nations into an “ASEAN Community” in 2015.
According to its blueprint, the ASEAN Economic Cooperation (AEC) 2015 is an initial step of the integration process which “aims to develop the 10-member countries of ASEAN into a single market and production base for the free flow of goods, services investment, capital and skilled labor.”
The AEC calls for the internationalization of ASEAN educational institutions through 1) greater student and staff mobility 2) greater demand for quality programs 3) more collaborative research and curricular activities 4) competition for jobs and employment 5) higher employer standards, and 6) race for university ranking.
The proposal said it aims to fully implement the provision of UP’s Charter as the National University to be “a regional and global university in cooperation with international and scientificunions and network of universities.”
Except for Diliman, CUs support academic calendar change
UP constituent units, which include UP Baguio, UP Los Baños, UP Manila, UP Visayas, UP Mindanao, the UP Open University and an autonomous college in Cebu, have expressed their support for the shift in the academic calendar. UP Diliman, the flagship campus with the largest number of constituents, is yet to prepare its stand.
According to University Student Council Chair Alex Castro, the USC was asked by Chancellor Caesar Saloma to conduct a survey for Diliman students regarding the proposal.
Of the 1,600 respondents, 67 percent was for the plan and 21 percent said that there will be no considerable differences if the shift would be implemented. The remaining 18 percent was against the proposal.
Castro said there are two reasons why students oppose the changes to be implemented. First, some respondents said that there would be disconnect with the calendars of most of the institutions here in the Philippines and also in the other universities. Second, students also believe that the change would result to less class suspensions since typhoons occur not only in June and July but during the whole year.
The proposal said UP should consider its relationship with the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education if they will also synchronize their academic calendars with the proposal. It should also make representations to the Professional Regulatory Commission to accommodate UP graduates who would take professional licensure examinations.
Castro, however, said there are more important issues to be addressed first before the change in the academic calendar.
“It [academic calendar change] is second or third in the priorities of UP, and I think that the first and foremost priority should be the budget for education,” she said.
Castro added, UP should focus its resources on the first and foremost, accessibility of our education system, and to find a way to conduct further comprehensive researches to be able to roll back the tuition and to be able to get a full state subsidy.
The UP Board of Regents, the highest policy-making body of the university, will discuss the proposal in its next meeting in January.