Questions of college students from the different parts of the Philippines, including from USC, regarding the so-called and trending “calendar shift” have been hanging around even before this academic year began. Some of us want our university to adopt it, some also think that the opposite would be better, and some just do not care at all. However, here is the thing: what makes this ‘June-to-August’ transition seem so and not-so-important? We may have a few ideas in mind right now, but as of the moment, perhaps it would be more comprehensive to give an explanation on what it is going on.
What really got our attention was that the University of the Philippines (UP), Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), De La Salle University (DLSU) and University of Santo Tomas (UST), which happen to be the country’s only universities to make it to the QS World University Rankings, have already moved their academic calendars by one or two months. Thus, does this mean that running a system parallel to them would make USC more prestigious?
For us to have a clearer perception on this, let us talk about its pros and cons: among its great benefits are internationalization of the universities in line with the ASEAN Economic Community Integration for this year; synchronization of the academic calendar with ASEAN and other countries, opening more programs with partner universities; increased openness to inbound and outbound exchanges; increased research opportunities; alignment of lessons and curriculum with foreign countries; opportunities for students to grow in a more international landscape; students in the agricultural sector having more time to help during harvest season; opportunities for foreign faculty members and professors to teach in our schools; bridging programs for incoming freshmen, who may take additional or supplementary classes to better prepare them for college; and improved rankings in inter-country university assessments.
Looking at the other side of the picture, one might be surprised by the number of counter-statements, which agree with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED)’s advice and our Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA)’s decision: Schedule of licensure exams will have to be adjusted; classes will coincide with the “hot season”; possible tuition fee increase for universities to align with international standards; less opportunity for local students to enter chosen universities since slots will have to be allotted to foreign students; graduating high school students will go through a five to six-month break before their first college semester; Holy week will have to be celebrated during the semester, while semestral breaks will fall during the Christmas break; moving summer break will affect businesses which attract the most visitors during the summer season; breaks of college students will not coincide with primary and secondary education students; term break classes will coincide with rainy season, which shows greater possibility of class suspensions; and that there are not enough concrete reasons that a calendar shift is necessary, and more studies and research must be carried out before it can be proven to be effective.
Now, zooming to a smaller scale, Fr. Anthony S. Salas, SVD, MM revealed all the major reasons why, as of now, Carolinians should not expect experiencing the calendar shift. His first point is the prioritization of foreign transferees over domestic students. According to him, there is no need to “serve” an average of 300 incoming foreign students over the hundreds other Filipino learners. His second point is that there is a huge possibility of a fewer number of enrollees in the university for the next academic year due to local causes.
“Here in Cebu, you could actually see mothers almost carrying their students to schools, atat na ma-enroll ilang mga anak. So, if we have this calendar shift, we will expect them to bring their children to other schools and not in San Carlos,” said Fr. Salas.
Moreover, he emphasized his third point: that we are not serving international students, but Filipino students. He also added that we have to look at the economic conditions of students, especially in rural areas. Taking into consideration the usual harvest that occurs in the month of April, money comes in June, and by the time August comes, the money is gone and there is none left for tuition fees. This is exactly the thought that Atty. Julito Vitriolo, executive director of CHED, also stated on a weekender report.
Fr. Salas also pointed out that not everyone knows about those other countries which begin their classes in January and still perform excellently both locally and internationally. He specifically mentioned Cambodia, which starts its classes at the month of October, but other examples include Australia and Brazil, which begin their classes in January and February, respectively.
“What the students need is learning. Everyone is striving hard to earn the quality of education that USC has. We [the admin] have actually already talked about that during our previous meetings, but as of this moment, we couldn’t see any reasons why we should move our classes from June to August,” he further explained.
2018, however, will not see a calendar shift, but the welcoming of a new breed of individuals through the portals of USC who are already a cut apart from the usual freshmen because of the K-12 curriculum, which would harness their vision toward what they really want to become and want to do in the future. Even now, schools are being urged to give attention to other possible ways to become integrated, like adapting a trimestral or a quarterly system.
Though CHED says that autonomous higher education institutions have the option to move the start of their school year as long as it is within the law, the final say always lies in the hands of the authority. What we students are left to do is to abide with it and exercise productivity in every way we can.
This could be good or bad news, but for the time being, our status quo ain’t topsy-turvy at all, and it seems it shall remain that way.