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Summer Learning

Researchers say that on average, students lose about a month of progress in maths skills each summer, so many projects are now promoting learning for students during summer holidays.

Canada: Top-up Tuition

While most teenagers spend their summer holidays relaxing, Bobby who is 16, chose to do some extra chemistry classes in Vancouver, Canada. He does three hours of classes every morning. There is lots of homework too, and an exam at the end of the course. But Bobby thinks it is worth it because good marks in chemistry will help him get into university.

In the past, summer school was seen as way for slower pupils to catch up, but now more and more students are using it to get ahead. Since the authorities began funding summer schools in Vancouver, student numbers have jumped from 1,165 students in 2007 to 46,500 this year.

USA: Bitesize Breaks

The US government is debating how to tackle “Summer Learning Loss” – the skills and knowledge that children forget during the summer months, when they are off school. But according to Elisabeth Moje, adding more school days may not be the right answer.

She said: “The more time you practice anything, the better you will be at it. Think about piano playing: if you practice everyday, all year long, many hours a day, you’re going to be a better pianist. But the quality of that practice matters as well.”

She thinks that instead of having one long summer break, it might be better to try a series of shorter breaks from school. In America, many adults remember the long lazy days of summer as a golden time, and want their children to have the same experience. They feel that there’s plenty of time for working all year round once you’re adult.

Cutting up the long summer break and providing educational activities is crucial to tackling Summer Learning Loss and equalising opportunities across all social classes, but would take a sea change in attitudes.

And so the debate goes on: is Summer Learning Loss the end of the world? Or the price we pay for long summer holidays?

Japan: Holiday Homework

Schools in Japan take a 5-week summer break but students go home with a heavy load of compulsory homework. Two brothers, Kenta and Yota go to a special summer school where they get help with their compulsory homework in languages, maths and science. Kenta also goes to sports club and other activities.

The Japanese system encourages all spare time to be spent in formal activities rather than just relaxing.

The idea of not letting time go to waste is central to Japanese culture and Kenta’s mother approves of the system. She thinks her children still have enough time to play and that learning opens new horizons. Kenta wants to become a computer programmer.

But is education just about learning? Or is it also about fulfilling each child’s potential?

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