A hot debate is raging in one of the East African Community countries over whether or not students, especially candidates, should go back to school for holiday tuition. The tussle has taken a funny twist with one arm of the government led by the minister of education on one side and the parents and the teachers’ unions on the other.
The government side argues that students and teachers alike need a break while the teachers think that performance of students will dwindle if they do not spend part of the holiday trying to round up the syllabus.
To defend their position, the teachers are now claiming that they do not intend to have holiday tuition. Instead they are planning to have ‘remedial teaching.’
The education minister’s argument on the same issue, adds zest to the debate on top of fastening the grip on his side of the story. He said that if it was about remedial teaching, then the slow learners would still be slow even with the extended teaching. A paraphrase of that would be that, teaching for longer hours cannot impinge on the slow learners’ pace of conceptualising academic materials. True? This is half true and half false. Call it lukewarm.
Having been in the positions of all the pros and cons of the debate apart from being an education minister, I am going to be a judge – a fair one so to speak. Before I sentence anybody to 10 years in prison with hard labour, let me get into the analysis of the professional aspect of the academic breaks or holidays as popularly referred to.
What are the benefits of a school break or holiday? Everyone benefits from a break. As far back as 1885 and 1901 the research is quite clear on this: Both children and adults learn better and more quickly when their efforts are distributed than when concentrated.
More recently, the novelty-arousal theory has suggested that people function better when they have a change of pace. Because young children don’t process most information as effectively as older children (due to the immaturity of their nervous systems and their lack of experience), they can especially benefit from school breaks.
Holidays also increase on task time. When students and workers get a break, they become more on task and less fidgety. Even students with attention deficit disorder become more on task and less fidgety after a break.
In more simple terms, holidays help students to refresh before re-embarking on studies. In a way, it is a form of motivation. Many students start studies with more enthusiasm and focus after holidays and become less and less interested with prolonged stays at school.
The main challenge that teachers face is being unable to cover the syllabus due to a plethora of reasons ranging from having slow learners, a broad curriculum to slackness on their part. These can be resolved on a round table.
The verdict? At least students should have a break of some sort but be kept on top of their academic work.