With a little creativity and innovation, schools can ensure that students’ learning may not be reduced or disrupted during this uncharted situation created by the deadly COVID-19 virus through some changes they can implement effectively.
Among these include rescheduling of the academic calendar, a transition to online learning, and work-from-home schemes for employees.
The country’s premiere learning provider and pioneer in distance and online learning, has been spreading information and other materials to schools to help them cope with the impact of the crisis on their students, teachers, stakeholders, and more so business continuity. One of their partner-resource speakers, lawyer Joseph Noel Estrada, author of the Education Act and a managing partner of the Estrada & Aquino Law Office, enumerates five aspects that schools should consider changing if they are to remain agile, and emerge successfully from the crisis.
Currently, most basic education programs end in March or April, while the higher education academic year usually ends July or August depending on their date of opening the previous year. Estrada said schools’ academic calendars should be agile and adjustable enough to make up for the cancellations during the quarantine period. Schools should likewise be allowed to postpone their graduation ceremonies at the appropriate time in compliance with government regulations on COVID-19. “Venues, especially government properties, should waive cancellation fees to schools who moved their schedule due to COVID-19.”
Schools can now also look into using different modes of delivery of education. These may include e-learning, the use of the Department of Education’s Open Education Resources that may be used offline, distance education, and other creative ways using online platforms to make sure students can catch up, even with meager resources, for this coming school year. “The DepEd and Commission on Higher Education can perhaps relax the rules applicable for schools who can implement e-learning or blended learning to address the disruption of classes brought about by COVID-19.”
Some local governments proposed an “automatic pass everyone” approach, but many raised eyebrows who don’t see this as the more prudent solution. With a more “flexible” methodology, schools can resort to other means to ensure that students have fully satisfied the requirements for their current academic level. But if the schools have already satisfied the required number of class days, with the remainder left for co-curricular activities, they can perhaps shorten the school calendar and just assess the students based on their present class standing but with fairness and due consideration of the current situation.
Schools should likewise be able to innovate and facilitate alternative activities so their students can complete their required practicum/On the-Job-Training and off-campus duties apart from other school-sponsored activities, like immersion programs, internships, clerkships and hospital duties for students in the medical and allied health programs. Postponement or cancellation of these activities require permission from schools’ partner-institutions and may have some impact on their academics.
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.”
Lastly, to prevent work disruption, schools may opt to implement work-from-home schemes for all employees. “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 (DOLE) for affected teachers and school employees, they should still be paid in accordance with Labor Code provisions, appropriate school policies on employment, employment contracts, and collective bargaining agreements.”
He adds that 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.”
Schools should also be able to exercise discretion when it comes to implementing 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 other issuances in the future.