THE Department of Education is considering Senator Grace Poe’s suggestion that schools close two weeks earlier for the coming Christmas break to help ease usually horrendous traffic during the holiday season, an official said Saturday.
Assistant Secretary Tonecito Umali said Education Secretary Leonor Briones has already taken up the matter with the department’s Executive Committee last and it is already studying the proposal’s impact on official school calendar as set by Department Order No. 23 of 2016.
“We must ensure we don’t go lower than 180 days” of contact time, Umali said in a radio interview, noting that DO23 requires a total of 202 class days with 180 days of required teacher-student contact.
The order also specifies that Christmas break begins on Dec. 22 so Poe’s proposal would mean a loss of two weeks of contact time in December and that must be compensated after the holidays.
DO23 was issued in accordance with Republic Act No. 7797 which also allows private schools to start the school year not later than Aug. 31 and such schools are also expected to complete the calendar at a later time but Umali did not specify how many schools opened later than public schools.
Umali said the summer break is scheduled for April 7 and that may also be postponed because of the earlier Christmas break.
However, the official said the DepEd has also provided an allowance from which lost contact time can be drawn but the DepEd has yet to determine if the early Christmas break could be implemented with affecting summer classes that normally run from mid-April to end-May.
Moreover, the education secretary can also authorize the holding of Saturday classes for elementary and secondary levels for public and private schools.
Poe’s suggestion was the second time officials blamed schools for Metro Manila’s traffic problems.
In 2014, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority suggested cutting the school week to four days, similar to many areas in the United States but educators opposed the idea and said the education of children will be made to suffer because of the government’s inability to enforce rules.
The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations argued that students should not be made to suffer if enforcers cannot make people obey traffic rules or phase out old vehicles.
But the Commission on Higher Education said a four-day school week is “an interesting possibility” in higher education but the proposal has to be studied carefully.