By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
A bill allowing the Department of Education (DepEd) to shorten the school year and mass-promote students in time of emergencies has been filed in the Senate.
Senate Bill No. 1458, filed by Senator Francis Tolentino last Monday, May 4, seeks to amend Republic Act No. 7977 and authorize the government, during emergencies and calamities, to cut short the school days and give all students a passing mark and promote them to the next academic level.
The law, signed in 1994, lengthened the school calendar to not more than 220 school days, including the days that may be suspended due to natural and man-made calamities.
It also set the opening of the classes to “first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.”
Tolentino said there is a need for such a “humane” measure as he noted the impact of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak to the country’s education system, saying, “our people need to be secure and safe more than
anything else, especially the children.”
“The most humane thing for schools to do is to end the school year and provide students with passing marks or mass promotion,” he said in the bill.
“Ending or shortening the school year may be considered a violation. Hence, there is a need to amend the law,” he explained.
Relatedly, the neophyte senator also joined his colleagues in the Senate in pushing to allow the DepEd to move the opening of classes to a date later than August. He filed a separate bill on the proposal.
DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones earlier said that the opening of school year 2020-2021 has been set on August 24.
But Tolentino said: “There really still no certainty as to when the country will be able to effectively control this contagion and this will certainly put students at risk of contracting the disease as they attend and congregate in schools in the usual opening of classes in June, 2020.”