The Department of Education (DepEd), by Order No. 034, Series of 2022, has set the start of classes on August 22 to end on July 7, 2023. There will be 203 school days, or whichever which may be determined by additional issue(s) in case of changes in the school calendar due to unforeseen circumstances (deped.gov.ph/2022/07/12).
Option schools must organize face-to-face courses (face-to-face or F2F) five times a week; or use blended learning (a combination F2F and online); or going totally online (full distance learning) will only be until October 31. From November 2, 2022, all public and private schools must be moved to five days of in-person classes. No school is permitted to implement purely distance learning or blended learning except those implementing alternative modes of delivery as provided in DO 21, s. 2019 (Policy Guidelines on the K to 12 Basic Education Program) and DO 01, art. 2022 (Revised Homeschooling Program Guidelines).
Last week, on August 15, the Colegio de San Lorenzo de Manila (CDSL) announced its abrupt closure, the day before the scheduled opening of classes. “We have suffered from financial instability and a lack of financial sustainability brought on by the ongoing pandemic and exacerbated by continued low enrollment,” the school said in an official statement.
“We are sorry for the sudden announcement, but it is better late than never. We could not survive because our finances will no longer allow us to operate such as paying the salaries of our teaching and non-teaching staff,” added the college (ucanews.comAugust 18, 2022).
More than 860 of the 14,000 private schools in the predominantly Catholic nation have closed since the pandemic hit two years ago, according to the Department of Education. The closures affected 58,327 students and 4,488 teachers. The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines reported that almost 85%, or more than 700, of the schools that closed were Catholic schools (ibid.).
During the strict closures at the start of the pandemic, schools closed because they had no enrolments. As COVID-19 restrictions eased and tightened, registrants were still in short supply. Then-Deputy Secretary Leonor Briones noted in 2020 that more than 398,000 private school students transferred to public schools, primarily due to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on student incomes. families.
The Higher Education Commissionucation (CHED) President J. Prospero de Vera bristles at Colegio de San Lorenzo’s failure to comply with the 60-day notice and failure to submit various documents to justify the closure decision, which should include a financial report audited report for citing financial loss as reason for closure. He cited possible “deception” due to the collection of tuition and other fees (a contractual agreement) and then “arbitrarily” decided not to open. Mr. De Vera ordered the Colegio de San Lorenzo to reimburse tuition fees and all other fees collected from enrollees (The Philippine Star, August 16, 2022). Out of sympathy for the displaced students, many schools have spontaneously offered to accept transferees. UST Angelicum, a private Catholic basic and higher education school run by the Dominican order, was one of the first to offer assistance under very considerate conditions to more than 717 students from kindergarten to grade 12, and 652 students, including 172 graduate students, impacted by the closure of the CDSL (inquirerdotnet, August 18, 2022). CDSL teaching and non-teaching staff will be referred to the QC public employment service office for possible financial assistance or employment (pna.gov.phAugust 16, 2022).
The Colegio de San Lorenzo is not the first school to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the 109-year-old College of the Holy Spirit School Manila (CHSM) announced it would cease operations after the 2021-2022 academic year, citing enrollment difficulties that were compounded by the coronavirus pandemic (ABS-CBN News, November 22, 2022).
“Private education has faced an increasingly difficult environment resulting from (i) government K-12 policies; (ii) free tuition at state colleges and universities, local universities and colleges, and state-run technical and vocational institutions; and (iii) the significant increase in the salaries of public school teachers compared to their private school counterparts,” said Sr. Carmelita Victoria, Provincial of the Mission Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit, the order that led the school (Ibid.) .
“The recent COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation. Reduced or lost family income, mobility restrictions and social distancing requirements, and new distance learning requirements have hurt enrollment not only at SMHC but also at most schools. private,” said Sr. Victoria (Ibid.).
Holy Spirit College has planned the phasing out schedule that would allow the school “to graduate from its current Grade 11 and 3rd College students…So 12th and 4th gradee Year College will be operational, but K levels through Grade 11 and 1st at 3rd Year College will not be open for the AY (academic year) 2021-2022,” the school said at the time. A good “lesson plan”, in the tradition and professionalism of true academics. Inspired by the Holy Spirit!
The closures of the College of the Holy Spirit and the Colegio de San Lorenzo have provided valuable lessons.
We must first emphasize the responsibility and accountability that inseparably accompany the position and power over others in society, more particularly marked by the ascendancy over young people and their future – such as that of a school. A school needs to take a closer look at its financial situation and operational viability, before causing more concern with the sudden dislocation of students and staff and the fracture of the education system. Perhaps planning is difficult with the unstable assumptions in the long-running COVID-19 situation, but here alternative courses of action must prioritize human concerns before reducing business losses. Commitment to contract and service delivery are paramount in the noble calling of a school.
Another lesson learned is that beyond contemplative appreciation and commitment to mission and role, the school must attend to its real and practical needs towards that mission. The College of the Holy Spirit and the Colegio de San Lorenzo cited their financial losses due to the changing environment of the COVID-19 pandemic which has fundamentally upended the traditional administration and management paradigms of most businesses in the society. The insistence on introducing new technologies into the workplace cannot be ignored by schools, such as the now necessary “Learning Management System” (LMS) identified by CHSM as part of the “new requirements of the ‘distance education’ which have affected financial sustainability. One-time setup fees for a cloud-based LMS are $4,000 to $7,000, while a self-hosted LMS may require fees of up to $25,000 depending on elearningindustry.com, “The true cost of a learning management system.” Add to that the high, recurring costs of full-time or part-time IT staff, or outsourcing agencies to help administer the LMS and automated systems. Most small schools, especially family-owned ones, cannot afford the expensive upgrades to new technology for administration and operations.
Schools that have migrated to automation and high technology enjoy clear advantages in ease and efficiency of operations, while delivering content and materials to students faster and with more control, including metrics (tests) and assessments (grades). Students and faculty generally prefer hybrid learning/teaching (a combination of in-person and online classes) to attending in-person classes ordered by DepEd on November 2, 2022.
Perhaps the DepEd can carefully review and improve school policies and procedures in the New Now. Closer and more regular monitoring of the operational and financial situation of schools can reveal early warning signs of possible closures which, if any, should be removed with less pain for society.
Amelia HC Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.