Education For Life

09 Sep

I read an article in the Times comparing the number of school days for children in the USA against the number of school days in other countries such as Korea, Japan, china, India, Australia etc. No surprises there – US ranks amongst the lowest in the world. Now thanks to the fuel escalation problems, a few schools are contemplating the move of reducing the week to have more hours per school day for 4 days, and reduce the totals number of school days from 5 to 4 per week. I am not sure I could stop with just outlining a few problems with this approach, but I’ll try not to ramble on…

1) Regardless of the number of hours spent in school, children are still left with one whole day apart from the week-end twiddling their thumbs and thinking of “recreational activities”. I have my serious doubts whether the studious teenagers would dedicate their unsupervised time and energy to finishing up their homework or additional research.
Holiday Homework
Every vacation, we left school with the familiar brown coloured sheets detailing our holiday homework. The holidays would start, and the holiday homework would find itself buried in my room and mind. In my mind, it would raise its head every now and then reminding me about the unfinished work as the holidays went slipping by. My intentions were good, but there was just not enough time! I had to pick berries, gather materials for our toy-house construction, cycle all over campus, read Enid Blytons and cook up adventures in my mind to solve. Before you knew it, it was the last week, and I was scrambling to complete my holiday homework. Countries may be different, but I am guessing children universally would dilly-dally till the last moment to do any work. I very much doubt that children would spend Friday toiling over their schoolwork while their parents are at work. My guess is it would still be done only on Sunday night afer giving considerable strain to parental nerves!

2) The parents would have to arrange for care for the children on this day. Companies are not giving us 4 day work weeks, they would still expect employees to be present on Fridays.

3) This point is the most jarring one. In a separate study comparing vacation times among US, Britain, Australia, France and Japan, US ranked the lowest. The number of Paid time off in the USA seems to be close to the lowest in the developed world! I am uncomfortable with this. I thought Education and schooling was meant to prepare you for life! This model teaches children to expect a lackadaisical 4 day work week, and then when they start working – BAM! We strap them to their jobs and whip them without a vacation!


Posted by on September 9, 2008 in From AM-KICKING blog, Informative


7 responses to “Education For Life

  1. BrainWaves

    September 10, 2008 at 8:33 am

    For the “developed” country, US really does not have seem to have good long term strategy/vision.
    I know I know.. I am generalizing.

    The same vision issue comes in foreign policy, resources management, CEO pay etc.

    Coming back to this problem. Public schools assume/expect one of the parents to be at home. How else will you explain a 3 hr class from 11.30-2.30 for KG?

    On a slightly unrelated topic, Don’t get me started on how schools (primarily) makes girls think it is uncool to study science/math. I don’t have any stats, but I don’t have any “American” women engineer in my 1000 engineer company. 😦
    (Another blog waiting to happen huh?!)

  2. Mindframes

    September 11, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    @saumya: While I agree with you on the practical nuances that arise out of a 4 day school week, I do not know if there is a study that says that a 5 day school week makes a kid any smarter over a long time than a 4 day school week. Assuming a kid can be channeled into extra curricular activities during the extra time off, it might end up being a good thing. I still remember the days when I had to go to school 6 days a week (excluding 2nd saturdays) which left me with very little time for any other activity… Not that I had much activity other than play cricket with my friends in hot sun..;)

    @brainwaves: You hit the nail right on… I have always wondered about the same thing. Forget about engineering, what is cool? To not do anything?! I cannot think of any field where american women are represented in great numbers (except receptionists and secretaries..)…

  3. Saumya

    September 11, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Mindframes: the article I talked about that in Time, compared the number of school days in a year also correlated the performance of children in Maths, Science and IQ tests, and concluded the more time children spent in school, the better they performed at Maths.

  4. Saumya

    September 11, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Mindframes: the article I talked about that in Time, compared the number of school days in a year also correlated the performance of children in Maths, Science and IQ tests, and concluded the more time children spent in school, the better they performed at Maths and IQ tests.

    While I am all for extra curricular activities, the key is to identify and streamline such activities. Giving a weekday off, when caregivers are at work, and arranging for extra curricular activities is practically difficult. I don’t deny that a small percentage of children will use this time to pursue other interests, but overall, I think it will be a bad move.

  5. Mindframes

    September 11, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    @saumya: Sorry for the oversight.. I didnt go through the Time article… And, by the way, I definitely see your point about the problems involved in taking care of a child during the extra day, when both parents are working. My following points assume that there is someone at home to take care of the child and other ideal conditions that will support my view…:)

    Having gone through the Times article now, I have the following observations

    (i) If the number of hours spent in the school remains unchanged, a 4 day school week still takes up the same time. At least, as per South Dakota’s change to the 4 day system indicates that the standardized test scores haven’t shown any difference. In fact, their claim is that the 4 day school week is better and they wouldn’t revert back… So, number of hours spent in school remains unchanged in the new system…
    (ii) As a whole, if we compare the total time spent by a student in US versus the rest of the countries, it is definitely less. And, the study says that, it correlates well with improved performance in IQ and math tests by other countries. I personally wouldn’t categorize it as a problem or an issue necessarily. A person being good at math and IQ and a zero in other activities may not be good either. Obviously, there is a trade-off when it comes to spending time on different skill sets. I am not trying to imply that US students are any better when it comes to overall achievements (studies/sports/arts/etc.,). I am just stating that, higher IQ and math scores alone are not good indicators…

    I can only speak for myself. Having taken courses in at least 2 grad schools and couple of community colleges and university extensions, I think the mode/standard of teaching is much better here in US than in India. While I cannot make the same comparison for high schools, from the way kids speak and think here, I can definitely say that they are really “learning” a lot more. While I spent 6 days of my week in school back in India and possibly did well in my math and IQ tests, I would have preferred to be in a system that exists here…

  6. Survivor

    September 11, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    If the parents think education is the main ingredient in their child’s life, then maybe it is a bad idea,but if they want them to concentrate on some other activity, it is a good idea ,infact, might help some kids too.
    As you said, it will be a problem if the caretakers don’t have the free time to chauffeur them.

  7. sdpal

    October 7, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    If it happens, for kids every weekend is a long weekend.. They wouldnt even enjoy the real-one when the parents get one..


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