SCHOOLS can be creative and innovative in making sure the learning of students is reduced or not disrupted, as everyone makes their way clear through the unfamiliar situation created by COVID-19. Some of the changes they can implement effectively are a rescheduling of the academic calendar, a transition to online learning, and work-from-home schemes for employees.
Rex, the premiere learning provider of the country and a pioneer in distance and online learning, has been disseminating information and other materials to schools to help them cope with the impact of the crisis on their students, teachers, stakeholders, and business continuity. One of their partner-resource speakers Atty. Joseph Noel M. Estrada, enumerates five aspects that schools should consider changing if they are to remain agile, and emerge successfully from the crisis. Estrada is the author of the Education Act and a managing partner of the Estrada & Aquino Law Office.
First, schools should be able to adjust their academic calendar to make up for the cancellations. Most basic education programs end in March or April, and the higher education academic year usually ends by July or August this year, depending on their date of opening (June to August last year). Schools should likewise be allowed to postpone their graduation ceremonies at the appropriate time in consideration of the appropriate government regulations on COVID-19. Estrada also advises, “ Venues, especially government properties like the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), should waive cancellation fees to schools who moved their schedule due to COVID-19.”
E-learning and other modes
Second, schools may use different modes of delivery of education for the remainder of the academic year. These may include e-learning, the use of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Open Education Resources (OERs) that may be used offline, distance education, and other creative ways using online platforms to make sure students catch up with the last stretch of the academic year. Estrada points out, “The DepEd and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) are expected to relax the rules applicable for schools who can actually implement e-learning or blended learning to address the disruption of classes brought about by COVID-19.”
Automatic pass everyone
Third, adapt a more flexible approach to the “automatic pass everyone” proposed by some local governments, as this may not be the more prudent approach if the schools can still resort to other means to ensure that students have fully satisfied the requirements for their current academic level. However, if the schools have already satisfied the required number of class days for the academic year and that the meetings left are for co-curricular activities, they can shorten the school calendar and just assess the students based on their current class standing but with fairness and due consideration of the current situation.
Off-campus curricular activities
Fourth, schools should likewise be able to innovate and facilitate alternative activities to enable their students to complete their required practicum/OJT and off-campus duties apart from the JS proms and other school-sponsored activities. Postponement or cancellation of these curricular activities require permission from the school’s partner institutions and may have some impact on their academics. These include OJTs and immersion programs, internship, clerkship and hospital duties of students in the medical and allied health programs.
Estrada suggests, “Partner institutions should allow schools to pre-terminate their agreement to deploy students without serious consequences on their students’ academic requirements (e.g., requiring them to repeat the entire program). In the same manner, hospitals should not force students to render their duties against their will or under threat of a failing mark..”
Pay rules for teachers and school employees
Fifth, to prevent disruption of work, schools may opt to implement work-from-home schemes for all employees. Estrada says, “There is no hard and fast rule that schools may resort to during this peculiar situation that affects our school communities. In the absence of separate pay rules from the Department of Labor and Employment for teachers and school employees affected, they should be paid in accordance with the provisions of the Labor Code, appropriate school policies on employment, employment contracts, and collective bargaining agreements.
He adds, “Monthly-paid employees should be able to receive their full pay including the periods covered by the work suspension. If a work-from-home scheme is not applicable, unused leaves may also be applied to cover the work suspension.”
Pursuant to these, schools should be able to exercise discretion to implement extraordinary and swift measures to address the needs of students, employees, and other stakeholders arising from COVID-related issues within the limits provided under Resolution No. 11 issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease, and further issuances.