Youth legislator seeks probe on class suspension policies during calamities
With many schools announcing class suspensions in the past weeks due to the inclement weather, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino has called on the Congress to probe on the effectivity and impact of existing guidelines on the cancellation of classes during calamities.
“Due to the trifocalization of the education system in the Philippines, the Department of Education (DepED) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) have separate guidelines for class suspension for students. However, the typhoons and the rains brought by the southwest monsoon in the past weeks have shown weak points in these guidelines. It is high time to study if a better alternative is possible,” Palatino said.
The youth solon filed on Wednesday House Resolution No. 2692, directing the House Committees on Basic Education and Culture, and Higher and Technical Education, to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the effectivity and impact of existing guidelines on the cancellation or suspension of classes during storms, floods and other calamities.
Elementary and secondary students are currently covered by DepEd Order No. 28, series of 2005, which states that classes in all private and public preschools are automatically suspended or cancelled without having to wait for any announcement once the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) raises Storm Signal No. 1.
Meanwhile, elementary and secondary school classes are automatically suspended in areas where PAGASA raises Storm Signal No. 2.
College students are covered by CHED Memorandum Order 15, series of 2012, which automatically suspends classes in higher education in areas where PAGASA raises Storm Signal No. 3.
However, the existing guidelines have been proven to have certain weaknesses, Palatino said. For instance, PAGASA did not raise any storm signal during the incessant rains brought by the southwest monsoon recently. In the absence of storm signals, both CHED and DepEd allow local government units and school heads to announce “localized” school suspensions.
“While some schools were able to suspend classes on time, there are some instances wherein students are already in school when class suspension was announced,” Palatino explained.
“There are two major problems with this system – first, localized school suspensions are usually announced based on the condition of the vicinity wherein a particular school is located, notwithstanding the fact that there are students from far-flung areas that might be affected by flooding or heavy rains,” Palatino said.
“Second, there is the issue of information dissemination. While many localized school suspensions are announced fervently by various media outfits, there is still a need to strengthen our public information dissemination system, especially in times of disaster,” Palatino added, explaining that even the government’s synchronized hashtag #walangpasok campaign would not help if affected areas do not have electricity, much less internet access.
“Late suspension or cancellation of classes and the varying policies on automatic class suspension endanger the students’ rights and welfare, as they are exposed to various illnesses and dangers due to weak government policies,” Palatino said.
“While for now, the existing government policies on class suspension may work for some schools, we have to study these guidelines, and propose legislations that would result to the improvement of the current system for the benefit of students and schools in times of disaster,” Palatino said.###