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OSR reports possible plans for upcoming semester and midyear

The Office of the Student Regent (OSR) reported what came out of the 1355th Board of Regents meeting last October 29. In their November 2 update, they announced that the UP system will be extending the upcoming second semester for A.Y. 2020-2021 and Midyear 2021.

Other updates for the coming semester and midyear included minimal physical classes and considering the postponement of the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT), the university’s college entrance exam.

The adjusted academic calendar also specified a period for course pack distribution and class pre-orientation, and reading break.

The reading break was added to the academic calendar only later into the semester after the OSR and student councils system-wide called for academic ease.

The second semester will formally start on February 1 and end on May 15, 2021. Pre-class orientation and course pack distribution is scheduled from January 25 to 30, a week before classes start, while the reading break is scheduled from March 25 to 31. 

Meanwhile, for Midyear 2021, classes will start on June 7 and end on July 24, 2021. June 3 to 6 will be devoted to class pre-orientation and course pack distribution while the reading break is scheduled from July 1 to 3. 

Finals period for both the second semester and midyear was slated from May 17 to 26 and from July 26 to 28, respectively.

Limited physical classes for the second semester

If given the approval of endorsement by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), the upcoming second semester and midyear will also be offering limited physical classes or “blended learning.” These would feature a blend of face-to-face and remote delivery, especially for subjects required for graduation or for certain curricula where no alternative can be taken. 

When UP academic units redesigned the course programs in preparation for Academic Year 2020-2021, laboratory courses had been moved to the second semester in anticipation of UP system’s transition to limited physical classes or blended learning by then.  

The Office of the Vice President of Academic Affairs (OVPAA) maintains that despite the lower record of daily COVID-19 cases, the UP administration still exercises caution in transitioning from remote learning to limited physical classes. 

“While the overall daily COVID-19 cases is lower, the trajectory of the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is still uncertain. The cases are rising in some parts of the country. Moreover, a second wave occurring in the Second Semester AY 2020-2021 remains a possibility,” the OVPAA explained. 

Considering the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, the OVPAA further said that UP academic units will have to reassess whether there are still remote learning alternatives for these laboratory courses. 

“Since UP’s academic units redesigned their programs in such a way that laboratory courses were moved to the Second Semester AY 2020-2021, the same units will have to determine whether there are alternatives to these courses,” the OVPAA further stated. 

However, the office mentioned that if no alternative is determined, these classes should obtain necessary permits and clearances by mid-December in order to proceed with the blended learning mode of course delivery. 

Meanwhile, the OSR continues to uphold student demands and concerns, especially regarding the ongoing semester of remote learning. 

“We need academic and workload ease for our constituents due to the burnout massively experienced by so many due to the remote learning set-up insisted by UP. The safety of the students who will participate in on-ground classes should be given utmost importance where our facilities and campuses shall be ready with health protocols in place,” the OSR wrote in their statement.

No consensus yet on UPCAT 

Meanwhile, the BOR has not yet arrived at a final decision regarding the college admission process for A.Y. 2021-2022. Another meeting will be conducted in the coming weeks to further discuss the matter. 

Earlier, the OVPAA and UP Office of Admissions presented options and developments for UPCAT 2021. In the said report, the University Councils, the highest academic bodies in their respective units across the UP System, voted to cancel the exam component of the UPCAT for the next academic year mainly due to risks in health and safety of personnel, challenges in manpower, insurance, and hazard pays, among others. 

Instead, the OVPAA and UP Office of Admissions proposed a revised admission system. The  new scoring model aims to be based on the high school academic performance of applicants, have an additional layer of assessment at the department/institute level, and must take into account equity, inclusivity and diversity. 

The OSR said that the proposed system is not yet final and still needs to be further discussed by the concerned UP units and officials. 

In an online meeting held last October 20, the UP Office of Admissions presented five options for administering the UPCAT during the pandemic after various consultations with UP experts and stakeholders. 

Options included the traditional paper-and-pen examination subject to the approval of the IATF-EID and in compliance with COVID-19 protocols of local government units (LGUs), conducting the test through online means, a mix between the paper-and-pen and online means, having no UPCAT at all and instead will derive the University Predicted Grade (UPG) from the applicants’ high school records, or temporarily ceasing freshman admissions.  [P]

Photo by Dianne Sanchez

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