MANILA -- A senior official from weather bureau PAGASA described a more "climate-challenged" life for students and teachers under the current school calendar, which starts in August.
During Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate Basic Education Committee, which tackled the schools’ preparedness for this academic year, PAGASA Assistant Weather Chief Rosalina de Guzman presented the agency’s study about the Philippines’ weather pattern.
It noted that the months of June to August as the period with the “most number of tropical cyclones.”
“No month in the Philippines is free from a tropical cyclone... The most active season for tropical cyclone is July to August, September. And in terms of intensity, most parts of the country, in terms of category, there is more typhoon entering the Philippine area of responsibility,” De Guzman reported.
From October to December, stronger tropical cyclones normally pass through Metro Manila, De Guzman said.
De Guzman then presented to the panel the impact of holding classes, including graduation rites, amid the heavy rains.
“Makikita natin na mas maraming wet days during June to July toAugust... Yung peak ng matataas na temperature are experienced during March, April, May, and sometimes, extended to June or August,” she stressed.
May normally registers highest temperature, she added.
“Yung temperature natin is increasing. Meron tayong very hot days in terms of frequency ng hot days natin, and even yung mga increased rainfall,” De Guzman said.
Sen. Win Gatchalian, who is actively pushing for the return to the old school calendar, also took note of the need to carefully study the situation with respect to the scheduling of classes.
“In short we only have two options. Yung mabasa yung bata o mapawisan yung bata... If we maintain our academic calendar now, obviously there’ll be schools during summer time... Our learners will experience extreme heat in some areas not naman nationwide,” Gatchalian noted.
“If we move it to our old academic calendar, the trade off there is they will experience rains, and there will be more class cancellations,” he added.
Gatchalian argued that there is a need to revert to old calendar so children can have their free time again to play during summer months and enjoy time with their family.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION’S TAKE
Reverting to the country’s old school calendar with the month of June as the start of classes will need a 5-year adjustment period, according to Education Assistant Secretary Francis Cesar Bringas.
Bringas explained that adjusting the school opening to its old June schedule will also affect the whole educational system, including the issues of overtime pay or leave credits of teachers.
This, he said, was part of the ongoing study by the agency’s Bureau of Learning Delivery which is in charge to school calendar under the Curriculum and Teaching Strand.
“In their initial study, if ever we are going to go back to a June, and following the provisions of law that we should have 200 to 220 days, and considering also the proportional vacation pay entitlement of our public school teachers, yung traditional 2-month break for our teachers, it will take 5 years, ideally. Five years to revert back to a June opening. But that is a gradual return,” Bringas said.
“So, if we are August this year, next year it will be earlier August. And then we will go to July. And finally, on the 5th year, that will be in June 2028 to 2029, it’s a June 5 opening. But the 2027 to 2028 is a June 21 opening,” the official added.
“Merong budget implication if we immediately go back to a June opening,” Bringas stressed.
Olivia de Guzman, TDC National Vice Chairman, registered the teachers’ readiness to adopt to the reverted schedule if ever.
“Pwede po nating i-consider ang Saturday asynchronous classes to shorten, pero hindi naman mababawasan ang school days ng mga bata. At mababawasan ang summer vacation ng mga teachers pero puwede naman po itong gawing leave credits para sa mga teacher,” De Guzman proposed.
What the DepEd is doing is to commission a “third party” tasked to conduct a study on how can the agency shorten that five year transition period, the official said.
The Education department, Bringas said, also supports the return of the school calendar to its old form, but on a gradual basis.
Bringas meantime reported to the panel that the country still faces more than 159,000 classroom shortage, which include the 440 classrooms totally damaged by the previous typhoons.
Meeting that classroom backlog would require a P397 billion budget, which is a far cry to the agency’s P10 billion fund for this purpose for this year and 2024.
Just like the previous school years, the DepEd will continue to hold three class shifts in public schools based in Metro Manila and other urban areas.
The department will also expand its voucher program where select public school students will be enrolled by DepEd in private schools.
DepEd will also rent some of the already closed private schools, Bringas said.
Gatchalian, meanwhile, reminded Bringas about the situation of the already overworked teachers.
To solve this issue, the DepEd will soon implement the “relocation” of teachers, which means assigning teachers from schools with a surplus of mentors to other schools.
“We are prioritizing schools with high shortage of teachers,” Bringas said.
FEEDING PROGRAM AND OTHER CONCERNS
Meanwhile, part of the agency’s thrust for next year is to increase the current 120-day period nutrition program in public schools to 220 days, Bringas said.
The agency will use its P11 billion budget so children who are poor, undernourished, stunted or wasted, will be covered by the said program, which include giving them milk and nutritious food as they go to school.
The target number of children is 1.678 million, the official said.
Gatchalian, however, noted that the country has around 7 million children – including out-of-school kids – who need proper nourishment.
“We need to employ other out of the box solution, like for example, look for volunteers. My request is for DepEd to submit to the committee the budgetary estimate how much will it cost to have universal meal program,” Gatchalian said.
The country’s problem about children needing free proper education, meantime, was all the more highlighted by the situation in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
In the same hearing, BARMM Director General Abdullah Salik, Jr, directorate-general of Basic Education, appealed for more funding for the region, especially those that concern the construction of more classrooms and learning materials for school children.
The DepEd today only supports the repair of classrooms as part of its “national-funded programs,” but the rest, according to Salik, is already being sourced from the BARMM’s block grant.
“For years we don’t have except for the repair of classrooms. We just rely on our block grant... it is not enough,” Salik told the panel.
Gatchalian on the other hand pointed at the need for the region to continuously encourage BARMM children to consistently go to school.
According to Gatchalian’s data, while the number of kindergarten enrollees remain high, only “1 in every 10” learner remains at school upon reaching the senior high school level.
“Nasan na ang 9? This is quite worrisome. I don’t think classrooms are the problem. We need to get children to school and how do we keep them in school,” Gatchalian pointed out.
Director Johnny Balawag of BARMM’s Bureau of Basic Education said the low turnout of students in their region can be blamed to the issue of poverty, peace and order, infrastructure, and even cultural issues.
There are still 220 school-less barangays in BARMM, which they try to help by building learning centers, the official said.
To date, they have succeeded in building a total of 106 learning centers in their school-less barangays, and is now only left with 104 more pending village, Balawag said.