by MART D. SAMBALUD
DAVAO CITY — The announcement of two top universities to shift its school calendar from August to May this year was met by skepticism from some educators and students.
The University of the Philippines and the Ateneo de Davao University announced their decisions following meetings with their respective administrators last week.
Both universities explained the shift is part of efforts to become part of the global partnership that is in line with the academic calendars of countries under the Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) communities.
“The decision to shift the academic calendar is part of the continuing efforts of UP to develop into a regional and global university and to maximize the opportunities offered by ASEAN integration and global educational partnerships,” UP President Alfredo Pascual said in the statement.
The ADMU in its memorandum said “(t)his landmark change is in line with our strategic direction to become a more global university. This shift is envisaged to effectively enable productive engagements with top universities overseas that will advance academic excellence to the next level and instill a deeper sense of global citizenship within the Ateneo community.”
The memo also said they are aligning their calendar to 70% of universities overseas.
But members of the UP and Ateneo community opposed this new policy.
Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, President of Ateneo de Davao University and vice president of the Catholic Educators Association of the Philippines (CEAP), said he is not keen to have Ateneo shift by itself to the academic calendar without the order of the Department of Education.
“I am not yet convinced, as of the moment, that the shifting of the academic calendar is the way to go for university, especially if DepEd is not considering the same to implement the shifting of academic calendar,” Tabora said.
Unlike its Manila counterpart, Tabora said that AdDu is unlikely to change its academic calendar.
Faculty members of the UP Diliman Campus have organized the Concerned UP Faculty against Calendar Change to express their opposition to the shifting of the calendar.
The group in a statement warned the calendar shift will have a “de-synchronization” with other private and public high schools that may reduce enrollment and admission of students and will negate the gains of attracting more students from Southeast Asia.
“Who are we really supposed to serve? Are not these still primarily Filipino youth and students? Why should UP bend over backwards to attract foreign students when it should instead be going the extra mile in filling up slots with students from underprivileged and marginalized backgrounds?,” the group asked.
Catholic universities and colleges under the umbrella of Davao Association of Catholic Schools (DACS) have not went for the shifting as they are waiting for directives from the government.
DACS Executive Director Jimmy-Loe dela Vega told Davao Today that only colleges and universities which are credited autonomous status by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) are allowed to determine to change their calendar.
But dela Vega said DACS will likely follow the shift soon.
“It is just a matter of time for it to be implemented since some big private and public universities in the National Capital Region have already announced change of school calendar.”
A news report said CHED Region 11 will conduct dialogues with local schools witth regards to this shifting.
The youth activist group Anakbayan also criticized the UP administration on what they said as the “railroading” of the academic calendar shift without consulting the faculty and the students.
“It clashes with UP’s supposedly democratic traditions,” said Anakbayan Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo.
But the UP website quoted UP vice president for public affairs Prospero de Vera that most of UP campuses except for Diliman have approved of the academic calendar shift.
Crisostomo also shared the UP faculty’s sentiment that the move will push students from the lower class away from UP.
“It will not solve the most pressing problems of the Philippine education system, whether those in the college level or those in general…. the main problem continues to be inaccessibility due to expensive tuition and other fees, and the lack of funding for state universities, with only around 10% of college freshmen able to graduate,” Crisostomo said.
Kabataan Youth Partylist Representative Teddy Ridon also expressed concern that the shift will pave the way for what he called “education tourism” that may lead to high tuition fees.
“If education becomes another tourist attraction, then we foresee that tuition rates would also come at tourist prices,” Ridon said.
Ridon noted that foreign students have been entering the country and would possibly rise with the coming ASEAN integration on 2015.
But Crisostomo said the ASEAN integration may be detrimental to local graduates.
Crisostomo said : “It will force Filipino graduates to compete with those from other ASEAN nations for the few jobs in our country, effectively forcing us to accept lower wages, less benefits, and less worker rights.” (Mart D. Sambalud/davaotoday.com)academic calendar, Academic Calendar shift, ateneo, davao city, davao del norte, Education, philippines, Univestiy of the Philippines, UP