Various educational institutions including De La Salle University, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, and Polytechnic University of the Philippines have announced class suspensions for the week of January 10 to 15, 2022 in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country, especially in Metro Manila.
This January 9, the Philippines has reported 28,707 additional COVID-19 cases and a positivity rate of 44% – both all-time highs most likely driven by the local transmission of the highly-contagious omicron variant. According to the Department of Health, they expect the fifth wave of COVID-19 to peak by end-January.
As of late Sunday night, students nationwide have turned to social media to express their appeal for a genuine academic ease from their respective school administrators. This is not surprising given that a lot of students have fallen ill because of COVID and other seasonal respiratory conditions. There are also those with relatives who are currently sick. Not to mention, families in large parts of Visayas and Mindanao are still recovering from the devastation caused by super typhoon “Odette” last month.
Despite the worsening health crisis, some institutions have been slow and half-hearted in their response. University of the Philippines Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo, for example, extended the deadline for the submission of grades by merely three days. Hence, a group of UP students have launched a petition via Change.org to clamor for what they describe as “genuine” academic ease for students and teachers alike.
But, what exactly does “academic ease” mean? It can mean the following:
1) Suspension of classes and related academic activities – This can be helpful especially in schools where a significant number of teachers and students have gotten COVID-19. All stakeholders need to prioritize their physical, emotional, and mental health over classes and school requirements at this time.
2) Reducing the study load for students – In other words, abbreviating the lessons that needs to be covered throughout the term.
3) Reducing the work load for both students and teachers – This can be done by lessening the class requirements for students and paperworks to accomplish for teachers.
4) Adjusting the deadlines for grades submission – While teachers and professors have the power to adjust the deadlines for the requirements that their students need to submit up to the latest possible time, they are still bound to abide by the deadline for grades submissions set by their respective institutions. If the deadline for grades submission can be pushed back by a week or two, then teachers and professors can be more flexible toward their students.
5) Adjusting the academic calendar – Academic calendars for school year 2021-2022 should not be treated as if it’s set in stone come hell or high water. When those were deliberated upon last year, who would have thought that we’ll have another COVID-19 surge and that significant parts of the country will be devastated by a super typhoon? School administrations should be willing to make adjustments to it as necessitated by circumstances.