CHED, DepEd reject nationwide academic break due to ‘new normal’ learning challenges, storms

Published November 17, 2020, 3:53 PM

by Alexandria Dennise San Juan

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Education (DepEd) are opposing any move to implement a nationwide or Luzon-wide academic break or academic freeze due to struggles in the “new normal” learning amid the pandemic and the recent typhoons that lashed the country.


“No to nationwide academic break because the impact of the typhoon disasters across the country is different, and also no to Luzon-wide academic break because the universities are already deciding on it,” CHED Chairman J. Prospero De Vera III said in an interview.

Instead of academic freeze, DepEd said, it has started implementing “academic ease” measures to assist teachers and students who bore the brunt of the devastation.

“Hindi na po siguro mangyayari ito (This is unlikely to happen),” DepEd Undersecretary Tonisito Umali said in a Teleradyo interview.

“Wala nagka-academic freeze dahil palagay po namin ito ang tamang polisiya, ang magpatuloy. At nakikita po natin with the latest issuance ay maging flexible na lang tayo (There will be no academic freeze because we think this is the right policy – we continue. And we can see with the latest issuance is that we have to be flexible),” he said Under DepEd’s academic ease, Umali said students are given flexible time to submit their requirements in schools.

De Vera added that the decision to suspend classes in universities during disasters would be up to concerned local government units (LGUs) and school authorities as they are in the “best position to determine what is happening on the ground.”

While school officials do not have the authority to suspend the entire semester, De Vera said they have to go to their respective Board of Regents.

However, he added that unilaterally ending the semester is “problematic” as it will affect both students and the faculty who will carry a heavier workload and will also compromise the learning process.

The higher education chief argued that the situation is different in various areas so universities and colleges could instead take a short academic break until things normalize, then extend the semester.

“You discuss this with the Board and open the possibility of extending the semester until January because, without that, the students and the faculty will be severely affected as they are going to squeeze the same amount of learning in a short period of time and that is not a good learning process,” he added.

“There are many ways to continue learning. If there are problems with online connections, you can do asynchronous learning or by modules. The idea that you just stop everything is not based on empirical evidence because there are schools that are doing online or flexible learning that have already completed the semester and the students are doing well,” De Vera said.

Appeal for academic freeze resurfaced following the onslaught of successive typhoons that hit the country in the past weeks to give affected students, as well as faculty members ample time to recover.

Some universities have already suspended the holding of classes for at least a week due to the recent calamities such as the University of the Philippines, University of Sto. Tomas, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, and Ateneo De Manila University.

De Vera assured that the Commission will extend assistance to schools that are severely affected by the past typhoons, adding that he would be meeting with university presidents this week to learn more about the situations on the ground.

“The Commission will help and if the assistance will be an academic break, we will decide on what is the appropriate academic break for individual universities. The CHED will not go into a unilateral decision without discussing with the universities and without knowing what is the actual situation on the grounds first,” De Vera pointed out.

The DepEd said some schools and universities have initiated the suspension of classes to address concerns brought about by the succession of typhoons that left devastation in parts of the country.

The DepEd reported there were 1,190 schools nationwide that incurred damage due to the series of typhoons as of November 15.

Most of the damaged schools were from the Bicol region, with 428 schools, Umali said.

This was followed by Central Luzon with 412, and Calabarzon with 121. Some 91 schools in Cagayan Valley, 53 in the Ilocos region, 41 in the Cordillera Administrative Region, 15 in Mimaropa, and nine schools in Metro Manila, were also destroyed.

Umali said that a total of 430 schools with 14,844 classrooms are now serving as evacuation centers for 1,935 displaced families.