Pisay campuses set temporary academic breaks after students’ pleas go viral

Various campuses of the Philippine Science High School (PSHS) System have set academic breaks after students expressed their struggles with the heavy curricular workload.

Hoping to be heard, several Pisay scholars called on their school administration to heed their academic-related grievances, causing hashtag #PisayGiveUsABreak to go viral on Twitter on October 19. 

Through the hashtag, students called for the system to give students time to rest and evaluate the school’s remote learning workload. (READ: FAST FACTS: Philippine Science High School)

Following the boom of the viral hashtag, an online petition calling for a system-wide break was also made on the same day. It has at least 1,700 signatories as of Thursday, October 22.

The efforts spurred at least 10 out of 16 campuses to announce school breaks following the calls of students, as of Thursday, October 22. These campuses include the Bicol Region Campus, the Calabarzon Campus, the Central Luzon Campus, the Central Visayas Campus, the Cordillera Administrative Region Campus, the Eastern Visayas Campus, the Ilocos Region Campus, the Main Campus, the Southern Mindanao Campus, and the Western Visayas Campus, according to official memorandums circulated by the administrators, student governments, and student publications. 

While dates vary, most of the scheduled breaks fall in the first week of November and range between 4 to 9 days including weekends and holidays. For instance, the Ilocos Region Campus will be on a break from October 29 to November 6. 

'Give us a break'

Prior to the viral hashtag, Pisay students had been airing their concerns to their teachers and the administration about the heavy academic workload and unrealistic expectations for module completion of the different subjects.

In a bid to put pressure on the administration to act on the matter, 10th grader Vyan Abella from the PSHS Main Campus started #PisayGiveUsABreak. Vyan is currently taking up 10 subjects, which she said have varying levels of difficulty and pacing.  

While the students have a recommended class schedule, Vyan shared that the subjects’ modules don’t fit within the allotted period because there are “either too many modules or each one takes too long to fully understand.”

Modules are usually designed to be done in 30 minutes. This is considerably shorter compared to classes prior to the pandemic, which ran for 50 minutes.

With the PSHS shifting to a remote learning setup, all learning guides are now done asynchronously through the completion of modules for at least 9 subjects. With the release of new sets of material every week, some find it difficult to keep up, especially since students are expected to digest the lessons and finish the requirements independently.

Maria*, a Grade 8 student from PSHS Central Visayas Campus (CVisC), said almost all of the subjects she’s taking give out two modules that need to be accomplished within the week. She’s currently taking up 13 subjects, meaning she has at most 26 modules that need to be done for every school week. For her, balancing multiple modules for 13 subjects has taken a toll on her and her classmates’ dispositions. 

Vyan shared that there are multiple assessments for modules: formative assessments like seatworks and quizzes, alternative assessments such as projects and essays, and summative assessments like long tests and periodic exams. These different assessments add more to the students’ workload, according to Vyan.

“Some subjects had too many modules and requirements... We also have multiple assessments, so some subjects have rather unnecessary requirements as well,” Vyan added. 

According to Vyan and Maria, synchronous class sessions just serve as check-ins, with a session lasting for 15 minutes for teachers to gauge progress and address any concerns with the modules. They added that teachers have the discretion to conduct a full 50-minute lecture if needed. As a result, students are mainly left to learn the materials on their own.

Chain effect

Ahead of the viral hashtag, the PSHS Central Visayas had already been eyeing back in early October to implement a break for their campus to “give teachers and students time to rest after the first quarter examinations.” 

The campus’ Curriculum and Instruction Division eventually decided to suspend “synchronous or asynchronous classes, assignments, and assessments” from November 2 to 6.

“All of us teachers noticed that the students have a lot of tasks to do in this remote learning delivery through the submission of requirements in our Learning Management System,” said Joseph Hortezuela, chief of the Curriculum and Instruction Division for PSHS CVisC. 

While students celebrated the announcements of breaks for most of the campuses online, several of those using the hashtag #PisayGiveUsABreak still wish for a system-wide resolution. 

PSHS Executive Director Lilia Habacon told Rappler that students’ calls for a system-wide overhaul of academic requirements were noted.

“The #PisayGiveUsABreak is an expression of our students' freedom of expression. The PSHS System respects the opinion of Pisay students and acknowledges their vulnerability to the challenges of education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Measures are already being done to address their sentiments on their academic load, along with a survey on specific subject areas that need regulation without compromising the quality of learning and their well-being,” Habacon told Rappler. – Rappler.com

*Name has been changed for privacy.

Liana Apostol

Liana Apostol is a Rappler volunteer from University of the Philippines Diliman. She's a journalism sophomore at the College of Mass Communication.

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