Saturday, 4 February 2012

Should the number of working days for school children be reduced?

The following post in the Washington Post on 24/01/2012 reads as follows:Should districts adopt a four-day school week?
A minimum of 292 school districts across the country -- up from an estimated 120 just two years ago -- have switched to a four-day school week to help cut costs and manage budgets, a new survey shows. Districts that adopt the practice often extend instruction during the remaining four days to ensure seat-time requirements are met. Some say, however, the schedule is hard on working families, who must find child care one day each week. The Washington Post (10/28)
This is the result of the impact of recession,  cutting of cost, and managing budgets. What happens in such a case is that the students are made to stay back for a longer period of time to make up for the deficit in the number of hours of learning spent in school. In India Government school follow the six day week, where the number of hours spent in school is less. This is often because as for example in Delhi, the building is shared, so while the first shift is for girls, the second shift is for boys. Public schools are known to follow the five day week, and their students stay on longer to make up for the deficit in the number of teaching hours in place of Saturdays. However, Parent Teacher Meets in Public schools are mostly scheduled for Saturdays.
For a country like India, the implication of having a four day week is quite profound. Where both parents are working parents, and there is a gradual but steady shift from the joint family to the nuclear family, it becomes very difficult to leave the children unattended during the days when school is off. Parents go to work confident that their children are in school safe and sound! On days when school is of it becomes debateable where to send the children where they can be safe and do not cause mischief! In India Government offices generally follow a five day week while private organisations follow a six day week. Parents working in a private organisation thus would be away from home from Monday to Saturday, while a Government Employee, other than a teacher would be away from Monday to Friday. Moreover, for a Country like India having a four day week would cause a disruption in the schedule of students who attend coaching after school. In a country where coaching and tuitions have become the fashion, long hours at school would mean that the time given for coaching would be compromised!
It a well known fact that it is better to keep children occupied in some constructive activity, rather than leave them idle, with nothing to do. What remains to be seen is how the proponents of the four day week in the U.S. plan to make the students utilise the extra free days awarded to them! Just giving students loads of Home Work without any kind of supervision would be rather ineffective in keeping them occupied in their spare time. Another  question that comes to mind is whether or not the gap of three days, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday would not make the students get out of sync. with the educational routine, making them perhaps lethargic, and perhaps slow to warm up to the schedule of work ahead?
The use of technology to keep track of the student working from home, online tests, and other such tools while no doubt effective in an advanced country might not work in a country affected by frequent power cuts and connectivity problems. Longer working hours offset by three days of no work would no doubt become a dangerous trend, detrimental to the very basis of a sound educational system throughout the world!

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