Since the start of quarantine back in March when the academic year was ending until now, students have complained about the state of their education. From concerns about access to the gadgets and internet connection needed to be able to participate in online classes to cases of schools refusing to ease academic requirements, digital learning comes with many gaps that add to the burden of students around the country.
So, you can imagine the outcry when Prospero de Vera, the chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) mentioned the possibility of removing breaks in order to be more flexible during the pandemic.
“Yung Christmas break after the second week of December, you put a Christmas break because students have to go home, they’re not going home. They’re already at home,” De Vera said. “Isa pa kasing worry ng mga schools is yung may summer break. Eh di, tanggalin mo yung summer break, mag two semesters ka ng school year, no more summer.”
He also said that, if needed, he was in favor of college students having classes during weekends.
Is this something all schools are required to implement?
De Vera clarified that it wasn’t necessarily something that they were going to implement and that the individual schools have the freedom to decide what’s best for their academic calendar, which includes removing breaks if needed.
With that being said, though, even just entertaining this possibility and saying that schools should and can implement it if it’s what they see fit is already concerning, especially coming from the CHED chairperson.
Why the backlash?
De Vera’s comments were in response to #AcademicEaseNow, which trended on Twitter as after the Department of Education (DepEd) rejected requests for an academic freeze.
Of course, it is obvious why students would be against the possibility of having their breaks taken away. That would be the case in any context. However, this comes after months of disappointment and frustration when it comes to their difficulties with online classes amid this pandemic and the lack of concrete digital learning plans that address those problems.
It’s understandable why students everywhere are complaining about De Vera’s statements. It had been made obvious again and again in these past six months of quarantine the financial, physical, and emotional struggles online learning has posed.
The initial call for an academic freeze, after all, was a result of students burning out in the attempt to juggle increased academic requirements to make up for the lack of face-to-face sessions, the lack of boundary between their learning and home spaces, and the emotional toll that the pandemic has brought. And that’s not even counting the problems with access to online learning that many others experience.
So, is taking away more free time from students and letting them go from one semester to the next without an opportunity to rest really the appropriate response here?