July 2024-june 2025 Calendar

DepEd eyes ‘aggressive’ return to June-March calendar to escape heat

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Education is eyeing to shorten next year’s school calendar by two months as part of its most aggressive proposal yet to return to a schedule that ends classes before the hot months of April and May.

July  - June  Large Art Poster - Deluxe Wall Academic Calendar
July – June Large Art Poster – Deluxe Wall Academic Calendar

Record-breaking heat driven by climate change in the past month has forced thousands of public schools to suspend in-person classes in the Philippines, sending more than 3.6 million students back to the same remote learning setup that made their education uneven during the COVID-19 pandemic.  At least 15% or over 7,000 public schools out of 47,678 suspended face-to-face instruction on April 25.

DepEd is already following a two-year timeline that aims to gradually shift to a June-March calendar without drastic cuts to students’ or teachers’ vacation days. Currently, according to DepEd Order No. 003, s. 2024, the department sets the start and end of classes for school year 2024-2025 on July 29, 2024 and May 16, 2025.

Split Year Calendars / (July to June) - PDF templates
Split Year Calendars / (July to June) – PDF templates

But amid calls to more immediately avoid holding classes in the sweltering heat, DepEd Assistant Secretary Francis Bringas told a Senate panel on Tuesday that the agency has presented a number of alternative timelines to the Office of the President, “including a more aggressive alternative” of ending classes in March next school year, two months earlier than scheduled.

“In the meantime, we ask the committee to allow the president to study the matter more carefully,” Bringas said.

Calendar - - Yearly Wall Calendar -, July -June ,  .
Calendar – – Yearly Wall Calendar -, July -June , .”x3

Series of compromises

The DepEd official also said they are aware of the impact of “aggressively” shortening the school year to make way for a June-March calendar.

Ending classes earlier in the year will reduce the number of school days, which Bringas said may require schools to conduct alternative delivery modes (remote learning) during weekends to comply with the law requiring DepEd to have a school calendar consisting of at least 180 days.

“We are looking at 165 days of full in-person classes,” Bringas said.

Bringas added that an earlier end to school year 2024-2025 may also shorten teachers’ school break, which may impact their vacation pay.

“There has to be a compromise there,” Bringas said. 

“This year there are already two days compromised in teachers’ [Proportional Vacation Pay], and they have already agreed to that. So we will see how far the compromise can go,” the DepEd official said.

Bringas said that students may also experience an even more compressed academic year in tackling the same number of competencies within a shorter number of school days. 

“That’s why if we have 165 days [of in-person classes,] we have to look for some days to devote to ADM to cover some of the competencies that may not be taken up,” Bringas said, noting that this may fall on weekends and holidays.

“That’s what we are seeing as a compromise if we do this aggressively. We have to sacrifice some hours for the learners and teachers as well,” Bringas added.

Year-round problem

During the Senate hearing, Marcelino Villafuerte, PAGASA’s deputy administrator for research and development, explained that both the old and new academic calendars have their advantages and disadvantages.

Citing a 2017 study, Villafuerte said that the old June-March school calendar may be outside the peak of hot weather, but it coincides with periods of extreme rainfall and tropical cyclone-related cancellation of classes.

Villafuerte has also warned the public of even hotter temperatures in May, which will be followed with the La Niña phenomenon (heavy rainfall). 

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate basic education panel, noted that suspending in-person classes poses a challenge for local government officials and school heads during the dry season as PAGASA’s heat index data is limited to areas where it has equipment.

There is a need for a more location-specific heat index that will help LGUs and school heads to anticipate class suspensions, similar to PAGASA’s bulletins for tropical cyclones, Gatchalian said.

The senator also said that compared to class suspensions caused by tropical cyclones, it is more challenging to deal with the heat “as it is unavoidable … and becomes an unpredictable scenario during activities, like walking to school.”

Villafuerte said that PAGASA “(recognizes) the limitation” of its network of observations, and it is currently developing a system that will estimate the temperature for a particular location without sensors. 

“Currently, some of my colleages in PAGASA are exploring an interactive map where if you can point to a location, you can see what’s being observed at a particular time, and the forecast heat index in the next seven days,” Villafuerte added.

Environmental youth group Stewards and Volunteers for the Earth Philippines (SAVE Philippines) warned in January that extreme weather events have become a year-round threat that makes calendar adjustments ineffective at solving students’ and teachers’ climate-related woes.

RELATED: Climate advocates tell DepEd: Time to solarize schools amid warming world

The climate crisis, caused by the rapid rise of greenhouse emissions, has unleashed a wave of extreme weather events across the globe for several years, from scorching heat waves to floods.

The Philippines, one of the most climate-vulnerable places in Asia, feels the brunt of this increased frequency of extreme weather events. 

While DepEd has made climate change officially part of the curriculum and a topic required to be taught across multiple subjects, lack of resources and an uneven understanding of the topic among teachers has given it a narrow space in classrooms.