US pubic schools should never have a longer school year. However, it is best to understand in brief about the education system of USA and then analyze the pros and cons of both sides before arriving at a conclusion in the context of having a longer school year. It is the public sector that, for the most part, provides for edification in America and the educational standards are determined by the state governments. Education comprises of three levels – elementary, middle and high or secondary education. The education following secondary stage is college education and is governed separately. Schools are the basics of human development and the equilibrium would be disrupted if US pubic schools have a longer school year.
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The reading literacy rate of America is 98% for those above 15 years. It ranks below in science and mathematics compared to other developed nation. This poor performance has led to the focus on education by both the public and private sectors (Lamb 29-30). Generally the elementary and the secondary school’s session last for 36 weeks. In southern states it begins in August but in the northern parts it does not begin before September. The summer holidays run for three months. The long summer holidays would be cut short if the government has its say to keep the children in school for longer periods of time to give a boost to their achievements. The concern is that the American students are “at a competitive disadvantage” because the school year is shorted than that of nations like China and India (Lamb 44). However, attending extra classed would only make a student displeased and would soon lose interest in schools and thus the results would automatically decline.
Considering the poor performance of American children in comparison to its peer countries, the suggestion of cutting down holidays and extending school sessions is being strongly recommended but it is the wrong approach. Those advocating think that school-going should be taken as a full time job preventing the youngsters from enjoying the temptations of too much leisure during the holidays. The school going habit gets broken after the holidays. According to them, many teachers find it difficult to cope with the children when they come in immediately after the summer orgy. With mothers also working there is hardly anyone to look after the youngsters who are on a loose end during these holidays. However, expansion of the school years would only compound problems and not eradicate it.
One of the arguments rightly put forward against lengthening of school year is that it is during the holidays that the youngsters get a chance to be creative and develop their inner selves without being boxed in by the school curriculum. Rather summer classes and other opportunities as options may be offered to them. For instance there could be interim courses on subjects the students choose like drama, engineering or foreign languages. Students could be taken on study-travel trips but it should on no account be foisted on young minds.
During regular school sessions the children have to study subjects like grammar, essay writing, reading, mathematics, science, history etc. There is hardly any scope for them to get out of this confined circle. But it is during the holidays that they can stretch their wings and try it out. These are additional learning experiences – vital for development. The summer camps are of various types – language camps, sea camps and even horse camps, band camps and math camps. These allow the children to learn hands on – something impossible within the walls of a conventional school. They make new friends and memories that are often remain like mementos all through life. So, this is overall development and longer school year would only hamper this development.
The holidays are great bonding times with the family. They can go together to other parts of the country or catch up with relations and friends living elsewhere. Even within the community there are many events with children participating in theatre programs, swimming lessons, sports and other fun filled creative stimulating activities. These few free months can be great for the child to catch up on reading, practicing music and in short running away with their imagination free from the restrictive bindings of school curriculum. Children need physical activity and fresh air away from school desks. That too is development and US pubic schools never have a longer school year.
During the holidays the teens get the opportunity to pick up the responsibilities of taking on a job – something part time for the few months that will help them in the future. It should be noted that learning is not complete only by sitting behind a desk. That part is there – it is essential but it should not be overdone. The young have a great need to stretch their legs and be independent for sometime prior to the final years of full adulthood. This is the essence of life and a stretched school schedule should never interfere.
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The NEA and AFT teacher’s unions are lobbying against lengthening the school year. The crux of the problem is that many do not understand what is going on within the confines of the school year. Those connected are the teachers, students and the tourism. The old schools are being constantly pulled down and new unnecessary innovations are made at huge expenses. Trimming these down to realistic levels with the scheduling of quality time will go a long way to improving the quality of education without stretching it unnecessarily. Thus, it is logical not to support longer school years and this approach is strongly disagreeable.
Lamb, Davis. Education System: Options for Future. Auckland: BPL Press, 2008.