For School Year (SY) 2019-2020, the Department of Education (DepEd) set the school year between 3 June 2019 and 3 April 2020, which is 306 calendar days or (with weekends and Christmas break removed), 204 weekdays available for schooling.
Class suspensions further reduce this number due to natural calamities (floods, typhoons, volcanic eruptions), national and local holidays proclaimed, and other disruptions, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Number of National Holidays, DepEd Celebrations, and Other Observances, SY 2019-2020
There are four major national co-curricular programs for schools‘ participation that take time from the formal curriculum: The National Sports Program (Palarong Pambansa), the National Schools Press Conference (NSPC), the National Science and Technology Fair (NSTF), and the National Festival of Talents (NFOT).
At the school level, local programs and clubs supplement classroom learning through individual and collaborative activities. However, these are initiated by various offices and agencies and are ad hoc rather than mandated by a harmonized co-curricular and extra-curricular framework.
These programs may potentially take up a considerable portion of the academic year. Although they provide additional socio-emotional and life skills for students, there is no measure of their effectiveness in contributing to overall learning outcomes.
The important factor is the reduced number of formal school days that puts significant pressure on the teachers to cover the mandated curriculum and on the students to master a large number of competencies in the time remaining.
OECD research from TALIS and PISA studies also shows that most effective schools (in terms of better student learning outcomes) have school leaders who spend more time on ‘instructional leadership” with their teachers instead of “administrative leadership” demands.
No available data maps this time disaggregation in Philippines schools, but several regional directors agreed that the administrative load for Philippines school heads is excessive. Research on school heads’ time on various tasks will clarify their important role.