Make the summer break count

SUMMER break approaches and parents, students and teachers are understandably exhausted. This vacation from school is a long-cherished tradition associated with play, sports, sleeping in and relaxation. For some, it may be a period of boredom and might even be a stressful time to parents trying to figure out what to do with their children being at home.

We must acknowledge the COVID-19 learning interruptions that have taken place. A significant decline in learning occurred during the pandemic with some students totally lost to the system. This coupled with the usual summer learning loss will have devastating effects on our students. Ignoring the summer break wastes incredible opportunities for catching up and moving ahead with academics. Therefore, we must find ways to better utilise the time available during the summer.

It is a fact that there are large achievement gaps between disadvantaged and advantaged students especially in areas such as mathematics and science. This is troubling as it comports with the resulting inequities in educational achievement and certification. In the absence of practice and reinforcement, skills and knowledge learnt at school diminishes and decays.

It may appear cruel to suggest that children be asked to give up their summer break, but we must realise that this is for their ultimate benefit. I am not suggesting that students return to school full time. I do believe that students require time to recoup and recover from the rigours of full-time schooling.

I am suggesting a compromise where students are offered some amount of time for academic strengthening as well as personal development. This might be two to three hours per day for three days a week. All students ought to be provided with these opportunities for continuous learning.

It is concerning that many parents cannot afford the cost for summer programmes. I, therefore, suggest that our local organisations, businesses and foundations come together to provide occasions for learning for all students. The disparity among our student population due to socio-economics must end. Summer school should not be a luxury afforded only to advantaged students.

Summer classes should be of smaller sizes with high quality instructors capable of engagement and multi-sensory modes of teaching. This is also a time where students could embark on personal skills training such as leadership training, learning strategies and study skills. This will help to create the holistic student capable of emotion regulation and conflict resolution which is dramatically absent from our general student population.

Summer school should not just be for remedial work but must also aim at enrichment and acceleration. Much research has decisively shown that summer school significantly improves academic performance especially when students focus on upcoming subject matters in advance of the school year. By already having that background and experience, students can noticeably boost their grades. I cannot overemphasise the benefits of summer school.

At the same time, it is not only our students that can benefit from summer learning. This is the perfect time for professional development of our educators. School administrators should consider workshops which enhance creative teaching and which educate our teachers on identification and solutions for learning challenges faced by many of our students. Teachers can also brush up and improve instructional techniques. It is also a time to improve technology competence among our teachers.

The aim is always to have our students succeed, so let us not waste the summer. Let us make up for lost time and compensate for inadequacies in the education sector. Summer learning is not incidental, rather it is an essential ingredient in student success.

So while the school bell may stop ringing, learning continues. Let us create an active community of summer learners and support our students year round.

DR KARLA HYLTON

Dr Karla Hylton is the Founder and CEO of Your Empowerment Solutions (YES) Institute, offering a host of workshops and science tutoring services. She is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, e-mail ceo@yes-institute.com, or visit www.yes-institute.com, www.khylton.com.

Dr Karla Hylton

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