education in the Philippines

Baguio colleges, universities heed students’ call for academic break

Sherwin de Vera
Baguio colleges, universities heed students’ call for academic break

DIALOGUE. Mayor Benjamin Magalong facilitates between the student council representatives and school administrators in Baguio City on November 2, 2021.

Photo courtesy of Nordis

Other higher education institutions have also announced rest periods for their students

Baguio students’ call for a break from their online classes and other academic activities has created a ripple effect in the city and the adjacent town of La Trinidad.

Other higher education institutions (HEIs) have also announced rest periods for their students aside from Saint Louis University (SLU), the University of Baguio (UB), University of the Cordilleras (UC), and the University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB), whose student council signed the letter asking for a city-wide academic break.

On November 2, city officials led by Mayor Benjamin Magalong facilitated a dialogue between the student council representatives and school administrators from the four universities. Also present were Baguio Representative Mark Go, Sangguniang Kabataan Federation president Levy Orcales, and officials from other tertiary schools, and the Commission on Higher Education Cordillera Regional office.

Students and school administrators agreed to sit down and develop a mutually acceptable schedule for school breaks and to ease academic loads.

Pines City College is the latest HEI to implement an academic break for faculty and students. On November 4, the school announced a one-week break from November 11 to 17, suspending all online classes and other school-related activities during the period with no required academic submissions after the break.

On the same day, the Benguet State University Supreme Student Council (BSU-SSC) informed their constituents that school administrators approved their request for an academic break. The university ordered the suspension of online classes and the postponement of deadlines and activities from November 8 to 13.

“In place, faculty members are expected to perform other tasks. It is the administration’s plea for all faculty members to consciously assist and lessen the burden of this new mode of learning and view the entirety of the requirements for all the subjects given to a single student,” BSU-SSC said in its post

“Incidentally, this academic break would not mean compressing what needs to be accomplished in two weeks in a week as the same would defeat the purpose of the academic break,” it added.

The UB administration is considering the student council’s request for an academic break from November 25 to 30. While the parties have yet to conclude their talks on the dates, they agreed to continue working towards a favorable learning condition for students and the faculty.

The UC administration promised to ease academic requirements as the first of its three semestral periods is nearing its end. But university officials assured the city government and students that they will schedule a dialogue to work on institutionalizing academic breaks in the university’s academic calendar.

Earlier, UP Baguio announced two additional days on top of the one-week system-wide reading break on November 2 to 8, to allow students to experience a “genuine wellness break.” On October 30, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Rosemary Gutierrez released a memorandum directing all college deans to suspend student requirements and postpone the scheduled exams on November 9 to 10.

SLU, where the uproar started, also promised to institute breaks and lighter academic loads. The university has yet to announce its scheduled break.

SLU-SSC president Mystica Rose Bucad said they constantly discuss the matter with the administration through their adviser and moderator. After the dialogue, officers of the different colleges are also in touch with their respective deans and assistant deans.

She said differences in academic activities and the needs of the different courses are the main factors why the student body and the administration have not set the final schedule.

“As we are pushing forward to ‘Walang Iwanan Louisian (No Louisian left behind),’ we see to it that every case is considered,” the student council said.

On October 30, around 400 students staged a candle-lighting protest in front of SLU’s main gate, asking the university to grant students an academic break. This quickly escalated to student councils urging city officials for a one-week Baguio-wide academic break.

“After finalizing the academic break, we will push through it alongside an academic ease for the semester. Then we will negotiate on how we can consider the break and ease for the next semester and eventually institutionalize the break to the academic calendar,” Bucad added.

The National Union of Students of the Philippines Baguio-Benguet welcomed the decision of schools to implement an academic break. The group also appreciated the school administrators’ openness to institutionalizing the breaks and easing of loads.

“We should celebrate the successive announcement of academic breaks and easing in Metro Baguio colleges and universities. This is what we have been asking for since the start of the pandemic,” said NUSP BB’s Hannah Añonuevo.

“We hope the administrators will uphold their commitments during the November 2 dialogue. This is just the start but a significant win for us. It brings hope that we can attain more victory towards attaining our call for academic ease and the campaign for the safe opening of schools,” she added. – Rappler.com

Sherwin de Vera is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.