Words by Alex Delis
Unresolved issues on blended learning aside, UPLB students are confronted with yet another challenge: finals week.
Finals week for the first semester of AY 2022-2023 was set from January 4 to 11, just two days after the Christmas vacation. In those two days, many students struggled with the lack of genuine rest and their eventual return to campus.
In an exclusive interview with the UPLB Perspective, Senior student Teodore Dave Comentan shared how his Christmas break was spoiled by his need to accomplish his academic requirements.
“I could say na ‘di siya genuine break. Kasi if it was, dapat wala akong iniisip na academic requirements, diba? It was not an uninterrupted [Christmas] break kasi ‘yun nga, may mga sumisingit na requirements”, Comentan said.
(I could say that it wasn’t a genuine break. Because if it was, I should not be thinking about my academic requirements, right? It was not an uninterrupted [Christmas] break since there were interfering requirements.)
He emphasized that instead of focusing on themselves and their families, students allot more time in studying for exams and doing remaining requirements.
The blended learning set-up remained a burden to students, as most are still adjusting to the new mode of learning. On top of heavy workloads, students also raised concerns on Internet connection and lack of student spaces (READ: Upon return to campus, students raise concerns on Internet connection, limited spaces for blended learning).
Just before the current semester, University-wide academic ease policies were lifted through OVPAA Memorandum No. 2022-127, stating that the University is committed to ensure every student possesses “competence, grit, and agility to overcome adversities”.
(RELATED STORY: UPLB students demand inclusive acad policies amid blended learning woes).
Cost and effect
Students were also met with problems in transportation and living expenses as they returned to the University.
J-nelle Avila, a freshie from Surigao del Sur, narrated how costly and hassling it is to return to the campus. She went back immediately after this holiday break for her face-to-face examination.
“Bumalik ako ng LB [Los Baños] last January 3, and honestly, sobrang hassle talaga isipin na bumalik pa ako para lang sa isang exam. Aside sa malayo ‘yung biyahe ko, ang gastos niya talaga. ‘Yung two-way [plane] ticket ko nga umabot ng 10k, how much more if later ko pa siya [plane ticket] ibo-book?”, Avila shared in the interview.
(I returned to LB last January 3, and honestly, it is really a hassle to think that I went back here for just a single exam. Aside from having a long trip, it is very costly. My two-way [plane] ticket costs 10k, how much more if I booked it [plane ticket] late?)
Freshie Kenneth Ibardeloza also shared his experience in long commutes despite living in a province near Laguna. He said, “Noong bumalik ako sa LB noong January 2, hindi ko inaasahang kakaunti lamang ang mga pampasaherong tricycle at jeep kung kaya’t nahirapan din akong makasakay nang maaga. Noong araw ng aking pagbalik [sa campus], inabot pa ng six hours ang aking biyahe dahil sa traffic.”
(When I went back to LB last January 2, I did not expect that there would be only a few public tricycles and jeepneys so I struggled in commuting early. During the day I went back to the campus, my trip took six hours due to the traffic).
Assistant to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (VCSA) Jickerson Lado said that this case occurred long before the current semester. He confirmed that there were also difficulties with returning to campus, as well as issues on housing matters for students who live from far regions.
A better calendar
Due to these challenges they experienced, students amplified calls to modify the academic calendar for the succeeding semesters. Instead of setting the finals week after the Christmas vacation, they assert to end the semester before the said break.
“It’s better if tapusin na talaga lahat [ng requirements at exams] para genuine na break na. Kasi like what happened to me, ang dami ko pang iniisip na requirements kahit Christmas, kahit New Year. I think pakinggan rin [ng admin] ‘yung side ng students na nahihirapan nga kapag ginawang finals week is sa January pa,” Comentan reiterated.
(It’s better to end all the requirements and exams to achieve a genuine break. Because like what happened to me, I was still thinking about my requirements even during Christmas and New Year. I think the admin should listen to the side of the students who struggle on the scheduled finals week in January.)
Avila also suggested that in situations like this, students who live in places far from Los Baños should be allowed to take their examinations online.
Prof. Lado gave his sentiments on this matter. He stressed, “It will be more beneficial for our students if hanggang December lang ang finals [week] and grade-making. Or, kahit ‘yung finals week ay December then January ang grade-making. Sana matugunan natin ito sa susunod na academic year”.
(It will be more beneficial for our students if the finals [week] and grade-making is until December only. Or, even if the finals week is in December, then January is for grade-making. Hoping that this concern will be heeded for the next academic year).
Meanwhile, Ibardeloza also stressed another challenge to be faced by the students for the next semester. “Pagkatapos naman ng finals week na ito, may karagdagan na namang iisipin ang mga estudyante para sa second semester. Sasabak na naman ang bawat isa sa laban ng pagkuha ng complete units sa SAIS [Student Academic Information System] o AMIS [Academic Management Information System],” he said.
(After this finals week, the students will face another problem for the next semester. Each of us will once again grapple with obtaining complete units in SAIS or AMIS).
The Second Semester of AY 2022-2023 will start on February 13. Since only Models 2 and 3 are to be implemented, this means that all students will have their limited face-to-face classes in the campus next semester.
To clarify the reason for the current set-up of the calendar, UPLB Perspective tried to get a response from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (OVCAA). The academic calendar was set system-wide by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA). As of press time, OVCAA is yet to respond. [P]
Photo from UPLB LRC