Arguments have been made both for and against shorter school holidays in recent years. In this edition of the Minisport blog, we will examine the benefits and setbacks of school holidays- both from the standpoint of the individual child and the family as a whole.
Family & Relationships
Families are increasingly spread across the globe - an issue not specific to, but certainly applicable to, Hong Kong. These breaks in the school schedule offer a unique opportunity for families to unite, which is an undeniable benefit for children. The opportunity to spend more time with siblings and parents should not be underestimated. Strong links have been made between parent/child quality time and enhanced self-esteem, communication skills, as well as stronger bonds between the two.
I personally look back fondly on holidays spent in the company of my parents, brother and sister - inventing games and letting the day unfold without much of a plan. We would also spend summers alongside a whole gang of cousins, many of whom I am still in close contact. These are precious memories that we will always share throughout adulthood and hopefully pass on to our own children one day.
From an educational perspective, holidays spent both at home or abroad offer an opportunity for children to experience other cultures, learn valuable languages, history, and social skills. Many school projects at the start of term focus on reinforcing these learning experiences in the weeks following the school holidays.
Long school holidays can also be backed by the notion that many schools have become overly academic and too exam-focused in recent years. Many argue that such academic intensity requires a considerably longer holiday break to “recharge” children’s stamina for the coming term. Many psychologists stress the central importance of play in developing fully rounded individuals. Allowing children to engage in activities that would otherwise be hard to schedule during holiday periods is therefore another argument in favour of longer holidays.
At the heart of many families and cultures lies religious occasions and celebrations. By catering for this in the school year, schools are promoting close family bonds and an inclusive, considerate community.
A Chance to Make New Friends
School holidays can be a unique period of time whereby children make new friends that they would otherwise not be in contact with. This can be particularly beneficial to children who struggle at school either socially or academically. Placing them in a non academic environment with new faces can have considerable benefits.
On the flipside, there are other not so favourable factors to consider...
It is difficult to disengage the current generation of tech savvy children from devices at the best of times, and the lack of structure that holidays can bring often means longer periods of sedentary behaviour and a deviation from daily, constructive routines.
Widening Gaps- Both Socially & Academically
Key academic skills also require daily reinforcement that the modern parent simply may not have the time to execute. Children who face adverse home conditions or environments are also deprived from this during the holidays, meaning the longer the holiday, the more the child falls behind.
A style of parenting labelled “concerted cultivation”, attributed to Annett Laruea, has been referred to frequently in arguments surrounding school holidays. This is a style that is marked by a parent’s attempts to foster his or her child’s talents by incorporating organised activities into their child’s lives. The approach is also characterised by consciously developing language use and the ability to interact in social scenarios.
A child that has experienced such cultivation is said to express greater social confidence due to their involvement in organised clubs, sports, musical groups as well as increased experience with adults and power structure. Negative associations to this approach, however, have included an overburdened sense of entitlement, potentially disrespectful behaviour toward authority figures, lack of creativity, and the inability to play or relax.
This has been addressed by research at the John Hopkins University, and was summed up well by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers”- “‘ For its poorest students, America doesn’t have a school problem. It has a summer-vacation problem.’ So how to close the gap between rich and poor students? Get rid of summer vacation in inner-city schools.’”
There may be issues here that have been missed, and we would be glad to hear them in the comments section below.
Nevertheless, our takeaway from listing the potential benefits of long school holidays is that the word “opportunity” was frequently used. This is what school holidays essentially are - opportunities to expand the mind, opportunities to form bonds, and opportunities to be creative. Don’t waste yours!