The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said on Friday, August 14, that colleges and universities are not covered by RA 11480, the law that moved the school opening for basic education students from August 24 to October 5.
RA 11480 was the law that gave President Rodrigo Duterte the power to move the school opening past August because of calamities or upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Education.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones said she proposed to delay the school opening as early as August 6 due to logistical limitations caused by the imposition of a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila and in the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna.
Her proposal was approved by the President.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, CHED Chairman Prospero de Vera III said that higher education institutions follow the CHED law.
"The operative law that covers the opening of classes in higher education is the CHED law or the RA 7722. Sa batas na 'yan (Under this law), CHED issues guidelines, guide the universities when they open classes, in the exercise of academic freedom," De Vera said.
De Vera said that colleges and universities open their school year as approved by their board, depending on the way they structure their semesters.
"School year structure is determined by individual universities in the exercise of academic freedom which is a constitutional guarantee for higher education," De Vera said.
According to De Vera, this is the reason why the government coronavirus task force approved a "rolling opening of classes" depending on the delivery mode of teaching.
"Binibigyan natin sila ng kapangyarihan o authority na magbukas, sangayon sa mga pangangailangan at kalagayan ng mga pamantasan. So hindi kailangan ng bagong policy sa higher [education]. Kasi 'yung policy na 'yun, pinapayagan na magbukas sila sa anumang buwan na sila ay handa," De Vera said.
(We give them the authority to decide when to open, depending on their needs and condition of universities. That's why there is no need for a new policy in the higher education. That policy allows them to open classes any month they are ready.)
De Vera added: "So there is no need for a new policy because as I've said, some universities are actually opening [in] October."
In July, De Vera said that schools were ready to open classes using the flexible learning approach even if the country is still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
"Flexible learning" for higher education institutions involves a combination of digital and non-digital technology, which CHED says doesn't necessarily require connectivity to the internet. (READ: During pandemic, student climbs a mountain to send class requirement)
According to De Vera, universities and colleges have the freedom to choose what mode would be effective for them.
Some of them would be using pure online, pure modular, while others are combination of the two, De Vera said.
But the story on the ground is different.
Many students and groups have also called for an "academic freeze" as the country fights the pandemic. They pointed out that the coronavirus lockdown affected household finances, and many Filipinos don't even have access to a computer or the internet.
Students are seeking help on social media so they could buy laptops or gadgets needed for their online mode of learning. (READ: #PisoParaSaLaptop: Students seek help for online learning)