PRIVATE colleges and universities should start the school year in August amid a novel coronavirus pandemic, even as they prepare for a flexible learning system months ahead, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said on Monday.

Some universities have moved their school calendar from June even before the outbreak, but those who still use the old calendar should adopt the new schedule, CHED Commissioner Prospero de Vera III told a news briefing.

“For private universities still using the old calendar, they would have to move the opening to August as we roll out flexible learning,” he added.

Mr. de Vera said the commission had ordered universities to submit their preparedness plans for the coming school year before August.

“We are giving them the month of May and June to come up with firm plans approved by their board,” he said.

The CHED chief also said the commission was assessing the preparedness of schools to start classes in August, adding that they were in discussions with private universities.

Mr. de Vera said universities should consider flexible learning programs. The commission earlier issued a memo ordering all tertiary-level schools to train their educators about this.

Under the plan, students will be given school work online apart from physical classes to ensure physical distancing measures meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019.

The amount of online school work will depend on the internet connectivity of students, teachers and the institutions themselves.

Mr. de Vera said the flexible learning system would not compromise the quality of education. “The flexible learning system will not change the learning outcomes and achievements that the students should meet.”

The Department of Education last week said it would move the opening of classes this year to August from June as the country battles a novel coronavirus pandemic.

Classes for school year 2020 to 2021 will start on Aug. 24 and end on April 30 next year, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said.

Not all teachers and students will physically report to schools once classes start due to lockdowns enforced in some areas of the country to contain the coronavirus disease 2019, she said.

The Education chief said various approaches will be used to teach students including technology-based learning through computers and mobile phones, media such as television and radio, and other offline methods.

Students will be made to answer a poll during enrolment about their preferred learning mode and which gadgets they own for technology-based learning.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked down the entire Luzon island on March 17, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the outbreak.

People should stay home except to buy food and other basic goods, he said. Mr. Duterte relaxed the lockdown for some areas of the island starting May 1 and extended the so-called enhanced community quarantine for Metro Manila, some cities and provinces until May 15. — Gillian M. Cortez