New summer breaks

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By Gabby Fernandez

Of Snapshots & Zeitgeists

Thursday, July 24, 2014


LATELY I’ve been giving much thought to the government’s move to push back the start of the school year from June to August. I am not aware of its legal and formal status (if the move is already legal and binding or on a voluntary basis).

What I do know though is that the University of the Philippines has already implemented the new school calendar, at least for its main campus – UP Diliman. Ateneo and De La Salle University are reportedly supposed to follow the same calendar by next year.

The reason behind this move certainly seems logical. First, it will synchronize our school calendar with that of the academic world globally. Second, though far more subjective, is that it will lead to a lot less cancelled school days due the typhoons and monsoon rains that come with the rainy season.

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This interests me not only from an educator’s point-of-view but more so, from a cultural point of view. Though I am well-aware that nostalgia has no place in discussions of this sort, one has to think: what then will “summers” be like for the generations of children to come?

All of you who are reading this have childhood memories of summers spent out in the sun, of vacations in mountain towns, of family outings in the many wonderful beaches that dot the Negros landscape. Even without those oh-so-middle-class cliches of summers, one remembers with warm memories (figuratively or literally, take your pick) of summer afternoons playing out in basketball courts or playgrounds, of meeting up with friends in malls to escape the heat, of planning family get-togethers during long summer holidays certain that these plans will not be derailed by the rains.

One thing is certain when schools begin in August: the cultural and social experience of the succeeding generations of children will change drastically. On an ironic, and perhaps silly level, can one even call summer, “summer”, when it is not summer?

Opinions are always subjective as is mine, I know that my reflections about this reflect that of my generation. For all one knows the kids who will be subject to this change might not even care, what with their PS3s and Xboxes, their Internet and streaming videos. I know for a fact that many parents complain how their children no longer play actual physical games out in the yards or public grounds but rather choose to stay indoors and play games on their latest tech gadgets.

Putting aside the summer experience of outdoors, what about the numerous traditional Philippine fiestas and community celebrations that are held during April and May? I can’t yet put my hands around the idea of thinking of those months and saying: “The kids can’t go, they have classes.”

As a parallel but important note, those who are against this change in the school calendar have one extremely valid reason: But it won’t really synch our academic calendar with that of the rest of the world, will it? No it won’t. The rest of the academic world begins in September and not in August. So why don’t we move it to September instead? I have not confirmed the answer to this from a legal point of view but if what I heard is true, then the arguments for moving the start of the school to August is silly.

A highly placed academician whispered to me (literally whispered to me as if this was some conspiracy he was talking about) that the government can not do that because of an outdated law that states that schools have the leeway to move the opening of classes but must begin by August. So that means we won’t really be able to synchronize with the educational calendars by which most of the world goes by.

Whatever one says about the matter, it seems the change is inevitable and is in fact already being implemented. From hereon, the experience of summer will change for all our kids. Junes and Julys? They won’t be the same. Or rather when we talk to the succeeding generations about Junes and Julys, we will be talking about them from totally different perspectives.

The world is changing. The seasons are passing us by. It has always been true and will always be true. But sometimes, a move such as this makes all of these changes so marked and clear, concretizing what often is an abstract thought: the perennial march of time and the constant changes that mark our cultures.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 24, 2014.

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