BY JESSE DOCTOR AND MARIE UY
One semester after it was implemented, the academic calendar shift is still plagued by blames and complaints.
Since the University of the Philippines (UP) administration eyed the possible calendar shift in 2013, the respective university council of each campus has discussed the change. One by one, they agreed to move the opening of classes in August from the original June, with the flagship campus UP Diliman (UPD) as the last man standing.
Finally, UPD joined the bandwagon on March 28 after the Board of Regents, the university’s highest policy-making body, decided to adopt the new calendar despite protests from students and faculty members.
UP President Alfredo Pascual said the rationale behind the debated change is the university’s mandate to “serve as a regional and global university in cooperation with international and scientific unions, networks of universities…in the Asia Pacific Region and around the world”, and also in preparation for the 2015 Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Integration.
ASEAN countries are supposed to fully achieve the action plan of the ASEAN Economic Cooperation that boosts among its member countries free flow of goods, as well as services.
Half of the academic year passed; the new calendar brought visible changes not just in the university’s schedule and activities but also to the students’ lifestyle as well.
After the 4-month vacation from April to July, the students lost the usual semestral break in October-November. Also, instead of the two-week Christmas break, it became a month-long vacation which was kicked-off by the annual Lantern Parade last Dec. 15. Meanwhile, the registration period for the second semester will start on Jan. 12.
Instead of the second semester requirements, students took home the anxiety of waiting for their grades during the holiday break. And for some students (and parents) dubbed as “grade conscious,” waiting for the dreaded numbers to appear on Computerized Registration System can cause distress as the deadline for the submission of grades was moved to Jan. 5.
“My Christmas is not ‘merry’ because my parents have been asking for my grades and I do not know what to answer,” broadcast communication student Arvin Sicat said in Filipino.
The weather conditions also affected the new schedule, as storms made a full circle in causing inconvenience to students both during the enrollment and the final exams. In August there was Typhoon Jose (Halong) and recently, Super Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) caused cancellation of some final exams, prompting the administration to move the interrupted dates to a Sunday and the date of the lantern parade.
One thing students may or may not look forward to in the upcoming semester is the mandatory summer classes, as the sem’s duration is from the cold months of January up to the scorching heat of May. It can be noted that a number of classrooms in Diliman, at the very least, is not well-ventilated, especially in the commonly-used Palma Hall.
Nonetheless, whether or not the atmospheric conditions are detrimental to the students’ learning may only be observed after the second semester. Back in 1963, then Education Secretary Alejandro Roces also tried to change the academic year to September rather than the usual June. However, it was plagued by complaints from the public, saying the schools would be held amid the hottest months of the year.
The following year, Senators Ramon Diokno, Lorenzo Sumulong, Lorenzo Tañada, Francisco Soc Rodrigo, Estanislao Fernandez and Maria Kalaw Katigbak legislated Senate Bill 652, which restricted the school opening between June 1 and July 31.
Also, 2015 graduates may have a hard time looking for jobs in the academe. Karen Tecson, who graduated from the College of Education last April, had to wait for July before her job started in Ateneo de Manila High School since their academic calendar also shifted. “It is really a hassle for me to wait but I have no choice,” Tecson said.
The same fate could be experienced by 2015 graduates, as not all academic institutions changed their academic calendars.
Furthermore, students under degree programs requiring internships or on-the-job trainings must also adjust to the new mid-year break. Internships are usually held during the summer semester, formerly on April and May. It was replaced by the midyear semester, which is on June and July.
Despite the continuous complaints regarding the shift, it may be too early to tell whether or not it is beneficial to the university’s stakeholders. However, these complaints can not be ignored, as they reflect the assessment of those who truly are affected by this drastic change.