Academic freeze pushed, rejected

Various quarters continue to push and reject academic freeze weeks before the formal opening of classes in public schools nationwide.

Academic freeze refers to the cancellation of formal schooling amid the COVID-19 crisis in the country.

The so-called academic freezers are urging the government and the Department of Education (DepEd) to cancel the School Year (SY) 2020-2021 in both public and private schools due to the challenges faced by students and parents as they navigate distance learning.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones rejected an academic freeze, reiterating that delaying the school opening further would be very detrimental to children. She also noted that Filipino students will “be left behind” when classes are cancelled this year.

The “persistent matter” on academic freeze was also dismissed altogether by DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan because it does support the direction of the agency for learning continuity.

For DepEd, the call for academic freeze is a “populist position that is not popular.”

As of Sept. 17, DepEd said that the enrollment in both public and private schools for basic education has reached 24.49 million or 88.19 percent of the enrollment in SY 2019-2020. Of this number, 22.33 million students have enrolled in public and 2.10 million in private schools.

Malaluan added that position is also “short-sighted” and “ill-informed” because it does not take into consideration the prolonged interruption in the learning process of children. “It does not take into consideration the adjustments that would have to be made for the succeeding school year if we continue to prolong the already four months of interruption of the learning process for this school year,” he added.

The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), which serves as the unifying voice of private education in the Philippines, is also advocating for continuity of education.

“Ultimately, it is the parents’ decision whether they should continue with the education of their children this year or not, but the government cannot freeze for everyone,” COCOPEA said. “Freeze will only delay the problems and, in fact, would have more compounding effects on children,” it added.

However, dismissing the call for an academic freeze does not sit well with youth group Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan. “In times like this, the masses need a better call towards stopping the rot of the education system, such as an academic freeze,” the group said.

SPARK has been among many organizations and individuals calling for an academic freeze until January to “lift the burden of millions of teachers, students, working class parents who are left unprepared for the reopening of classes.”

“An academic freeze would buy valuable time for the necessary reforms to be made in order for a safe reopening of classes and greater capacity for distance learning methods,” SPARK said, urging President Duterte to declare an academic freeze by issuing an executive order.