June 14, 2024

The country’s education sector is facing another challenge that unfortunately is adding to the already dismal state of learning in the Philippines – the suspension of in-person classes due to the extreme heat triggered by the El Niño.
The Department of Education has ordered a nationwide suspension of in-person classes in public schools on April 29 and 30 to save the learners, teachers, and school staff members from the adverse effects of the high temperature, which already went as high as 48 degrees Celsius.
To make up for the suspension, schools were directed to implement asynchronous classes to ensure learning will continue.
It must be noted that prior to the nationwide cancellation of classes on April 29 and 30, schools in many parts of the country have implemented and continue to call off in-person classes because of the rising temperature.
It is unfortunate to witness the interruption of class during this time of the year because we are used to a scenario where weather-related class suspensions only happen during the rainy months when typhoons are frequent.
With temperatures hitting the 40-°C mark, which the State weather bureau considers as danger levels as it may cause heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, it is indeed risky to attend classes where an average of 50 learners share a room that is not even equipped with the amenities to ward off the heat.
The challenge now for the DepEd is to implement other measures that will minimize the suspension of in-person classes due to extreme heat. Cancellation of classes is a band-aid solution.
In fact, it is not a remedy at all, even with the adoption of asynchronous or distance learning considering that these modes have not helped in addressing the learning crisis besetting the country.
Experience has shown us that when classes are canceled to protect the learners from the dangers of the high heat index, chances are they are out dipping in the beach or are having fun in the outdoors, which contradicts the very intention of the class suspension.
It is but right for the government to consider moving the school calendar back to the June to March schedule to avoid the summer heat. The rainy months notwithstanding, going back to the June opening of classes is a better alternative to the long periods of class suspension implemented in April and May.
It is also high time for the government to explore other approaches to ensure learning will continue despite the rising temperature. With climate change, we are not expecting the waves of extreme heat to stop. This, along with harsher conditions during the rainy season, is already part of our day-to-day existence.
The government should invest more in classroom building and consider designing or redesigning structures that are resistant to heat and other weather-related disturbances. High-ceiling classrooms with improved ventilation and insulation have proven practical approaches in making structures conducive to learning.
Aside from putting up more heat-resistant classrooms, reducing the number of learners cramped in a room can mitigate the inconvenience suffered by the children and teachers. If DepEd could not implement practical solutions to climate-induced problems suffered by schools, the government must be ready to allocate more funds to equip classrooms with cooling systems such as the installation of more ceiling and stand fans and air conditioning units.
The Filipino learners are already lagging in global learning assessments; let us not make them hit the bottom further by not addressing the incessant cancellation of classes caused by the extreme weather conditions.