UP-College of Science faculty and students hold consultations on learning modes, academic calendar

This article is available in Pilipino

Faculty and students in the College of Science at the University of the Philippines have conducted a series of researches and consultations since January to determine the advantages and disadvantages of relying on the conduct of online classes (also called “blended learning” or “remote classes”) during and after the pandemic. Faculty and students held a consultation on their conclusions on April 19.

The Philippines is one of last countries which reverted to classroom (commonly called “face-to-face” or F2F) education during the Covid-19 pandemic. It was only on August 22, 2022 that the Duterte regime declared that all students, in all levels, can return to F2F classes. The prolonged suspension of these classes exacerbated the previous crisis in student learning that has yet to ne resolved.

Worse, the education department and university administrations continue to use the suspension of F2F classes to cover up the deficiencies of the education system such as lack of classrooms, teachers, personnel and others. They very easily suspend classes and return students to “blended learning” during typhoons, extreme heat, suspensions and many others.

In UP, teaching was in a “remote set-up” for more than two years before it the university reverted to face-to-face classes. It returned to very limited face-to-face classes in 2022, almost a full year after universities in other parts of the world brought back “in-person” teaching. (Some cases are even earlier than this.) Even in this limited mode, there are still too many instances where F2F classes were suspended and students were put under remote or blended modes.

Important points that emerged from the consultation include the preference of the faculty and students for F2F classes with equal access to students compared to online where gadgets, space, internet service and many other factors vary. They said that F2F is more democratic because all the students are in the same place.

Teachers and students also agreed that “reading breaks” (temporary breaks of classes in the middle of the semester) are more disruptive than helpful because they cut off students’ learning momentum. They suggest eliminating the reading break, and instead bring back a longer semester break so that teachers and students can truly rest.

In addition, they agreed to further study the return to the schedule of classes in the previous school calendar (academic calendar) which is June-March. Since the implementation of the new August to May calendar, teachers and students have been experiencing unusual levels of heat, especially this year during the El Niño phenomenon. At the elementary and high school levels, teachers, parents and students have clearly called for the return of the old June-March calendar. This is to avoid summer classes, as classrooms and teachers are inadequate, and many buildings do not have adequate ventilation. Extreme heat is a big threat to children’s health.

UP first moved to August for the start of classes in 2014 without considering the summer season and its impact on students and teachers. This “academic shift” is in pursuit of “internationalization” and a high “ranking” in international institutions.

These ambitions are framed within the neoliberal globalization of education and focus on the exchange of graduates and research not for academia but for the global market. In fact, there is widespread criticism of the competition between universities that is said not to measure the quality of an institution’s education.

One of these is the University of Zurich, which has said that such ranking provides false incentives and only pushes universities to prioritize producing more publications, rather than ensuring their quality.

AB: UP-College of Science faculty and students hold consultations on learning modes, academic calendar