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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Student safety comes first

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A FIELD trip can be a rewarding and exciting learning experience, but for 14 students of Bestlink College of the Philippines in Quezon City this week, a school-sanctioned outing to a resort in Tanay, Rizal, proved fatal.

The 14 students died, while 44 others were injured—some critically—after the tourist bus they were riding lost its brakes on a downhill slope and crashed into an electric post along the highway to Tanay.

Disaster officials said 10 of the students died on the spot, while four others died while being treated in nearby hospitals. The driver also died.

The bus was among nine hired by the school to go to a camping activity as part of its National Service Training Program. The eight other buses had already arrived safely at the resort when the fatal accident took place.

In the aftermath of the Tanay tragedy, Commissioner Prospero de Vera of the Commission on Higher Education called for a suspension of field trips and educational tours while the bus crash is under investigation.

The suspension will cover all field trips and educational tours in all colleges and universities until the investigation is completed.

De Vera said it must also be determined if universities and colleges comply with safety guidelines and whether policies on school trips give adequate protection to the students.

“The Tanay tragedy is a reminder that we must be very strict in regulating the use of public transport for school-sponsored trips,” the CHED commissioner said.

He added that while field trips are essential for students to learn, their safety must always be ensured.

The steps announced by De Vera make sense and suggest several avenues for reassessment.

1) What, if any, liabilities should the schools assume? Are the waivers they make parents sign sufficient and fair? Should schools be made to take out insurance on each student who goes on a field trip?

2) Should schools be allowed to make field trips—and the additional expenses they entail for parents—compulsory?

3) The CHED covers only universities and colleges. What is the Department of Education doing to ensure the safety of students in schools in the lower levels?

4) Are the field trips truly essential? Should schools not be made to justify a field trip to ascertain that it is beneficial to students?

5) From the point of view of the Transportation Department, what is being done to accredit public transport companies to ensure passenger safety?

In theory, field trips can help students see how what they are learning is applied in the real world. They also give students an opportunity to learn outside the classroom to break the monotony of their daily routine. The Tanay tragedy, however, brings home the point that none of this matters if we don’t put student safety first.


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