Is it time to end the long summer break and move to year-round schooling?
On Cross Country Checkup: year-round schooling
Those long, languorous summer breaks are fast approaching ...but the fact is most children learn better with year-round schooling and British Columbia would like to make it more common.
What do you think? Is year-round schooling a better way to go?
With guest host Lorna Dueck, Sunday on Cross Country Checkup.
Toll-free number 1-888-416-8333 (works only during the broadcast)
Summer holidays are fast approaching and the prospect of two whole months of unbroken free time surely has many school children fidgeting in their seats. But not all are looking at two months of summer bliss ...some will take just one month off, and then it's back to school again in August. They are the ones whose parents have opted for what they call a 'balanced calendar' approach to schooling, where their children go to school year-round but take several long breaks throughout the year ...none of them as long as the traditional summer vacation.
The idea of year-round schooling has been around for a long time and the numbers of schools who have switched has been steadily growing. It is more popular in the U.S. where there are over 3-thousand year-round schools. In Canada there are about a hundred schools who have switched to a 'balanced calendar" schedule ...but that number might be about to go up.
British Columbia is proposing to end the mandatory standard school year, thus freeing school boards to go their own way. The move is creating quite a buzz there ...but this discussion is not confined to that province. Supporters of the year-round approach can be found right across the country.
They say that kids forget too much over a long summer break and time is wasted in September bringing them back up to speed. They say that disadvantaged children do not have access to summer camps and courses and more often than not many children spend their time sitting staring at screens ...TV, computer and video games. So, the long summer often means a long period of boredom and retrenchment.
Proponents of keeping the traditional summer break insist children need more than just structured and programmed activities ...that they benefit from the freedom to do other non-school things ...and that they even benefit from being bored occasionally, saying it can spur creativity. That has certainly been my experience. I loved summer's off and choose my own jobs based on that flexibility. Anything that could allow children to spend more time with parents seemed like a good idea.
A simple change in the school year has effects that go further than just the needs of students. Teachers are often split on whether a two-month summer is a better antidote to burnout in a demanding profession. Just try holding the attention of 20 some kids for a few hours a day, molding them to actually learn something, having your chalk board compete with their online attention span brevity - and you must admit, teaching has never been harder. Perhaps too for parenting. Parents sometimes struggle to synchronize the schedules for their different kids in different schools and match them with their own work schedules. Businesses and organizations who cater to children on summer breaks face a very different year once those children start taking their breaks throughout the year.
Lots of things to consider here. We want to know what you think. If you are a student, a parent, a teacher or anyone who might be affected by the growing interest in year-round schooling, give us a call. Maybe your school has already switched ...we want to hear how that transition went ...and what you think of it now?
Do you think children lose too much learning during the long summer break? Or, do you think they need a long break to discover other things? What about the idea of having longer breaks throughout the year in different seasons ...that must appeal to families who work all summer and are not able to take time off?
Our question today: "Is it time to end the long summer break and move to year-round schooling?"
I'm Lorna Dueck ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.
- George Abbott
BC Minister of Education.
- Neeta Kumar-Britten
Highschool teacher at Sydney Academy, Sydney, NS.
- Joan Hamilton
Principal, Roberta Bondar Public School, Brampton, Ont.
- Kate Tennier
Former elementary school teacher in public and separate schools; education activist and freelance writer.
- B.C. opens way to year-round schooling
- B.C. schools could adopt year-round schedules
- Students may sacrifice summers off
- Push for year-round classes gets mixed marks
- Full Comment Forum: Could Canada cope with a 12-month school year?
Globe and Mail
- B.C. school boards handed control over calendars
- It's time to change our outdated school calendar, by Carolyn Shields
- Students in Year Round Schools do Better, study shows
Victoria Times Colonist
- Year-Round Schools Don't Boost Learning, Study Finds (Aug. 11, 2007)
British Columbia Teachers Federation
Northern News Service (serving Nunavut and Northwest Territories)
- Class Time: Year-Round Schools Help or Hurt Poorer Kids?
- Do Kids Really Need Summers Off?
- Year-Round Schooling: Healthy or Not? Fevered debate: How much would dropping summer vacation lower teacher stress and sick days?
Year-round schooling would be beneficial if it was put in to get back to balancing the curriculum to include more activities and subjects that foster creative, kinesthetic and social intelligences. Education is still highly skewed towards logical/linguistic intelligences (language and math) with the fine arts as well as hands-on lifestyle learning (like shop, fixing things, planting gardens, farming etc.) still taking much of a back seat to the overall ten-month schedule that currently exists. Education needs to be more holistic and currently offering another 12 months of education that primarily takes place within four walls of a classroom setting is only a means to more, but not better, education.
While I don't nescessarily subscribe to schooling year round, I do agree with the basic arguement. I would also add that, as an adult, most of us get two to four weeks holidays, so why not school for 11 of the 12 months of the year allowing a month off for fun and family time which is also important? This will provide traing for adult life where, realistically, one will not have such a lax schedule and hopefully have a positive effect on the work ethic which, in my humble opinion, is sorely lacking in today's society.
Conception Bay South, Newfoundland
We went to the Moon, invented computers, microwaves, the Internet... Everything we have was invented by people who went to school from September to June. We are making the human race dumber by rushing to make eveyone equal at the bottom of the scale. If some kids fall behind and need extra work, so be it. We are not all equal and we do not have equal potential. If we did then Wayne Gretzy, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates would not be known as we all would be the same. School should be based on what the majority of students can do. Those outside of the average should be treated as individuals.
Fort McMurray, Alberta
When you reference the move in British Columbia to remove the so-called "bookends" to the school year, and allow school boards to change their calendars, you need to know this is not a move to amend the school calendar. It is actually a move to strip hours of work and other working conditions out of the collective agreements that exist between school boards and their teachers.
I teach in one of the few year-round schools mentioned by Mr. Abbott, which has been on a three-months on, one-month off schedule since it opened in 1994. The terms and conditions of employment were negotiated between the local teachers' association and the local school board, in order to ensure the working conditions of were not different from others teaching in conventional schools. This recent legislation in B.C. is not the same thing as collective bargaining over working conditions.
Maple Ridge, British Columbia
I am a student in Edmonton Alberta. I have always enjoyed the long summer break. It is a time for all kids to enjoy time to blossom there creativity. Including the fact that all generations before us have had this time to enjoy as well. So the fairness of it seems a bit vague. If it is in the best interest of that student to have summer classes, then that student should be enrolled in those classes, separate from the main influence of society.
I am a former B.C. School Trustee now living in Alberta. After reviewing many articles and much research on this topic, and after listening to rural parents in North Central B.C. and teachers who work in districts that already use the balanced school year, I am very much in favour.
This approach allows districts to schedule longer school holidays to coincide with natural breaks in the parents' work schedule, for example, break-up in the logging, oil and mining exploration industries. Most parents do not get two months off in the summer to plan family vacations.
Another benefit is the savings on heating and lighting costs for northern districts that accrue when a longer break occurs during winter months.
The argument about kids camps and other industries that typically cater to student vacations is, I think, specious, as these industries will be able to schedule these activities over a longer work year and potentially serve a larger clientele than was possible in the traditional school year.
The school system is already stressed with financial issues, bullying, and sickness. These are reasons for a summer break. The vitamin D available in the summer months is a benefit to health and the break is restorative in my opinion. What is the old saying about all work and no play?
I have a problem with talking about teacher "burn out". There are many other professions where people suffer from burn out, without the benefit of a two-month break. I wish teachers would stop whining about the burn out. They are not alone. Besides, I am sure many teachers chose their profession for two reasons: July and August. I can see them being upset with the year around schooling.
As I listen to this call-in I am wanting to correct the amount of weeks in summer vacation. In Ontario, there are not 12 weeks of vacation in summer. Eight weeks is the total vacation break for summer. Also, year-round schooling does not mean more weeks away from school, but the same amount of vacation spread out and structured differently.
On sevaral occasions, Mr. Abbott referred to ten and 11-week summer breaks. There is no such thing in B.C. I teach from the first Tuesday after Labour Day to the last day of June, each and every year. Summer holidays are eight weeks, sometimes nine. For high school students, they have the last two weeks of June off for exams etc. Teachers are still at school marking and administering.
As well, doing this only for the vulnerable kids does not make sense. They are a small minority of the student population. Other initiatives can be in place. Year-round schooling needs to be better thought out and researched. Canada's hot summers are certainly a consideration. Schools are not air conditioned. I am not against Year round schooling in principle. I think lots of research needs to be done.
Surrey, British Columbia
I am an elementary teacher in B.C. I am confused at the repeated discussion of 12 weeks off. This is completely inaccurate. We finish school June 29th, and return on September 4th. This is nine-and-a-half weeks. High school finishes classes about two weeks ahead of elementary, but they are studying for, and writing exams for those two weeks. I wish your host and callers would get this number of weeks straight. It would be a considerably different situation if it were 12 weeks off.
Delta, British Columbia
This works for those working in the school system who have permanent contracts. What about supply teachers, casual staff and individuals who have non-permanent placement (like teaching assistants on a year-to-year placement)? These are individuals who often have to rely on Employment Insurance during the off months. And with the new EI regulations, where will they be? Going on EI three times a year rather than once, would be a potential financial disaster. And will this mean that they would be considered to be accessing the system more frequently and thus will be penalized?
Fredricton, New Brunswick
As a mum, I loved summer holidays when the kids were young. I didn't feel that the interruption impaired their education, as we read through the summer, and practiced fractions with cooking and sharing. In Canada, we have to run, swim, hike, bike and do all of those great outdoors things during warm weather.
The disrupted learning I am extremely concerned about is the teaching of subjects for only single semesters during highschool. I would vote for year-long highschool subjects in the blink of an eye. Semesters are cheaper and easier for teachers and schoolboards, but having seen both types of courses, I'd say that semesters, with potentially a year off between two math or English classes, are dreadful for the kids.
One of your callers just raised a whole different scenario, and that is where students have teachers as parents. I would think that this group represents a fairly limited number of those interested in your debate. Of course, these families have a tremendous advantage, compared to the general population - no day-care concerns whatsoever, a wonderful opportunity for family vacations & outings, no scheduling conflicts, and so on, and with mom and/or dad at home, there is not likely to be any serious interruption of parental supervision, and obviously, a greater chance that some form of continued education will be upheld. Definitely not the majority.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
My wife and I are B.C. elementary teachers, one in the public system and one in the private system, and we have three children in both systems. Between us we have almost 50 years teaching experience, and we have to comment. One point is that in B.C. we have nine weeks of unpaid vacation in the summer, not eleven (sorry George Abbott, but you are wrong about teachers getting paid through the summer). This budget-motivated initiative will not fly as it is so contrary to tradition. Perhaps the Liberal government should make it a law that parents have to be much more involved with their children during the summer break to get the children active and engaged. Another consideration is the longer winter break means more computer time for students and less outside playing time. The summer weather is another issue. Try sitting inside a hot sauna-like classroom for a full day and get students to work. This topic is worthy of a post-graduate study (probably has been done!) and this message does not even begin to plumb the depths of this educational topic.
Surrey, British Columbia
I do think if there is evidence that it benefits the learning experience for the children I am all for year-round schooling. The opportunity for teachers to recharge is not compelling. Two weeks at Christmas, one weekat March Break and eight weeks in the summer is something no other profession has. I would love to recharge for that length of period but that simply would not happen. And working outside of normal traditional hours is common for many many professions.
For goodness sake, check the calendar! July and August amount to nine weeks and two holidays, not 12 weeks as your math-challenged and affirmed callers are claiming.
Holland Landing, Ontario
I think shorter summers would be disatrious for summer camps. Both for youth and the young people who work there.
Cambridge Narrows, New Brunswick
I have been a teacher for over 20 years. I don't have a problem with year-round school, but I have also taught summer school. Infrastructure is such that many schools have no air conditioning. It is very hard to work in 35 degrees and 100 per cent humidity.
Blind River, Ontario
I was a teacher for 32 years but I speak as a parent and as one who's youth was enhanced by the summer break from school. Children often use the summer as an alternative learning experience. It opens their growth to choices that would otherwise not be gained. I have vivd memories of my summer jobs and they taught me the quality of being committed to your job and to your employer.
I gained training that would have otherwise escaped me. I worked for the CPR for the summers starting at age 14. I then switched to surveying when I turned 16. The training I gained had me as a crew supervisor by the age of 19. That employment gave me the maturity to go on to university and become a teacher. I can not imagine what I would have become without the summer months to have the opportunities that I had.
By the time I was 19 I had surveyed on the construction of roads, bridges, tunnels, snow sheds and avalanche defence systems, all in the rocky mountains.
Let the children of today find similar experiences. Keep the summer break as a chance for them to grow beyond the purely academic.
Kelowna, British Columbia
I am an elementary teacher in Niagara. This topic always makes my blood boil. It is created by adults who forgot what it is like to be a child. Any research for anything always has a corollary that shows the opposite. Education gets carried away with research. Every school, every kid is different. Let's not throw a blanket over everyone. As your current speaker says, education is everywhere and summer is a great time for free, uncontrolled education. Kids learn everywhere all the time, we do not need to control it all. Let the kids enjoy their summer. At the same time, this also comes from people envious of a teacher having a summer off. Let me tell you those two months are needed after all the extra time we spend in the school year. Canada is a tourism-based country. What happens to all the businesses that die because of this? They only have a single month of business instead of two big months. People can't get to things because they're over packed in the summer. Cuts into business big time. This would seriously effect cottage country in Ontario. In the end, listen to the kids. Most would not want it. Let them enjoy and learn by themselves in the summer.
I'm just curious why camps and holidays need to be restricted to summer? Nobody has discussed the value of creating fall, winter or spring camps, vacations, or activities.
Those are to be pitied who have never experienced the ecstasy of bursting out of the school building on the last day of school into the glorious liberty of three months of vacation - months when one learned things never taught in the classroom. All-year school graduating into a life of all-year work, with an interim of post-secondary education for those who can afford it, with vacations filled up with McJobs, if one is fortunate enough to land even one of those and teachers ground down by 12 months of the unrelenting pressure of the classroom? What a lovely society.
I worked in the U.K. for a while, where the school year went to mid-July, with a six-week summer break. I have been a teacher and now do creative writing-enrichment programs in schools and other centres. I have a son who is 32. I think the long summer was based on the need for kids to help on farms, which is no longer so much the case - though high school students do often need and want to work during the summer. I think that the long open summer is good for many people, especially those who can afford recreation or camp programs, for parents who can take long trips with their kids, or who have time to do things at home, or grandparents and other relatives who can get involved. Teachers also welcome the long break. But I think six weeks might be enough for this, and, the teachers needs could be met by longer breaks during the year. I think that, as some callers suggested, the school year itself could be changed to accommodate a new calendar. Work could be done in shorter units, and perhaps the summer session could focus more on creativity, outside activities like field trips, outdoor gym, art, drama, music, volunteer activities and remedial work.
I have asked my son and his partner how they feel about this but haven't heard back yet. We used to go on camping trips in the summer. After my husband and I were separated, when my son was in Grade 4, we would split the summer vacation between us. I think this could be a factor against shorter summer vacations, as each parent might want a month with the children (if they are able to share custody - some parents do not have this option). On the other hand, with longer breaks during the year, the parents could work out the holidays that way and winter or fall might be a better option for parents who do work during the summer.