By AIRA MAE E. SIGUENZA
MANILA — Like living hell.
This is how students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines described the start of the second semester as university administrators implemented the so-called flexible learning set-up, which stopped the easing of academic requirements that were earlier put in place due to the pandemic.
In a memorandum dated April 1, the university’s Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA) amended the easing of academic requirements and grading, saying that the Philippine capital and most provinces in the country are now already at Alert Level 1. This memorandum repealed the Academic Ease Policy or the Memorandum Order No. 6, Series of 2021 that was enacted last year after the PUP students clamor for consideration and humane academic workloads and marks amid the pandemic.
For Dannah Patricia Francia, 20, a second-year working student, this new policy would take a heavy toll on her, particularly now that she is her family’s breadwinner.
“How can I recite while answering the calls of my clients, and review for quizzes when I only borrow our office’s computer because I don’t have my own? Since I am shouldering our family’s bills, rent, and food, I cannot resign from work,” Francia told Bulatlat in an online interview.
What does the removal of the easing of academic requirements mean?
Under this new memorandum, pre-pandemic academic tasks such as quizzes, recitations, midterms, and final examinations, thesis defense, and attendance in classes will be required under the online mode of delivery. The grading system, just like with physical classes before the pandemic, will also be back to 70/60 percent and the midterms and final examinations grading at 30/40 percent.
Students may also be provided with failing marks such as 5.0 or withdrawn (W).
Teachers, on the other hand, are expected to conduct at least nine (9) synchronous classes compared to the six minimum synchronous classes when the academic ease was still in place.
During the pandemic, students faced difficulties with distance learning, citing lack of gadgets, slow internet connection, and lack of conducive environment to study, to name a few. There were also students who were forced to work on the side to make ends meet for their families.
“This policy indicates how the PUP Administration is out-of-reach to their constituents. It does not mean that our socio-economic struggles caused by the pandemic such as electricity bills, gadgets, and internet load are now resolved just because we are under Alert Level 1,” Francia said.
Protests and solidarity
Last week, students held a protest action against the lifting of academic ease. The local colleges’ student councils are also releasing statements of condemnation, manifesto, and sensing forms to know the current situation of the students under the implementation of the policy.
“The calls of the Iskolar ng Bayan are clear: we fight for the Ligtas na Balik-Eskwela. Since the PUP Administration is recognizing the easing of alert levels, they should be focusing on the opening of the university. We should also bring this towards the electoral issues since it is essential to choose pro-people leaders who will forward the demands of the youth such as LBE,” student leader Joshua Aquiler said.
Kabataan Partylist, author of House Resolution No. 1721 or the Academic Easing and No-Fail Policy in the Universities and the House Bill No. 10398 or the Safe School Reopening Bill, expressed their support for the PUP community’s fight.
“We stand with the PUP community in their calls for a pro-student mode of learning amid the pandemic. The PUP admin should focus on the attainment of quality education and act upon the immediate and safe reopening of the campus instead of giving overwhelming amounts of requirements to the studentry,” said Kabataan Partylist First Nominee Raoul Manuel. (JJE, RTS)