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Fun & learning

An ideal summer programme fills the critical gap of spending summer vacations in a more productive manner and developing skills that would make children future-ready, says Antonius Raghubansie

Albert Einstein famously said: “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one learns in school.”

Summer holidays are the time for fun but they can also be the time when children pick up important life lessons. Some of the most important 21st century skills such as teamwork and negotiation, public speaking and writing etiquettes will be learnt during (but not limited to) the summer holidays when children are not weighed down by the demands of formal education. These crucial skills will lay the foundations on which children will build their later academic and professional development. 

With summer holidays just around the corner, parents also need to be conscious of the summer slide, or the phenomenon of the loss of academic skills and knowledge during the break from school. Summer slide has interested educators since 1906; it is a well-documented fact that children score lower on standardised tests after the summer holidays are over, than they do at the beginning of the holidays. A survey from the National Summer Learning Association of America confirms that teachers have to spend time re-teaching material from earlier classes due to summer slide.

Research shows that on an average, students’ achievement scores decline by one month’s worth of school year learning. Secondly, the declines were sharper for math than reading and thirdly, the loss was higher for older children. Research further shows that summer slide for students is estimated on an average as about one-two months in reading achievements and 2.6 months of grade level equivalency loss in Mathematics. The exact amount of summer slide is a function of age, subject matter and family income.

Therefore, there is a twofold need for parents to help their children utilise their summer holidays to the fullest combating the lull in learning and helping children develop 21st century core skills — such as writing etiquettes, negotiation and working within groups, leadership and public speaking — by keeping their youngsters involved and active in an engaging manner, during their vacations.

Children view their holidays as downtime from their hectic school days and will resist formal educational programmes or tuitions. In such a scenario, one of the most effective ways for parents to combat summer slide are short programmes which encourage children to exercise and build on the cognitive skills learnt during school months in a less formal, more enjoyable environment. An ideal summer programme fills the critical need gap of spending summer vacations in a more productive manner and developing skills that would make children future-ready.

There are several parameters which parents can use to judge an ideal summer programme. Firstly, what is the philosophy of the programme and what are the values they try to inculcate in children?

Secondly, is it an inclusive programme that creates a sense of community and integration? Thirdly, how well trained is the staff? Fourth, is it giving children the skills to transform themselves? Fifth and last, what is the history and how many years has the organisation been running educational programmes successfully?

Ideally, a summer programme encourages children to discover their inner creativity through a mixture of games, projects and activities, improving their confidence and imbibing them with 21st century skills that they can use later in life for their professional and personal development.

Other things parents can do is to engage their children in activities that require research, planning and strategising, such as planning part of a family vacation. This will enhance higher thinking abilities and also build children’s confidence as they contribute meaningfully to family activities.

Caregivers should help children hone a talent or interest they naturally enjoy, either in a structured manner by enrolling children in classes or engaging professional tutors. Older children who have an interest or hobby should be provided with the basic materials and a conducive environment that allows them to pursue their interests. If the child is weak in a particular skill, the summer can be an excellent and long enough time period to hone a cognitive skill.

Schools can also play a part in combatting summer slide by assigning relevant but fun homework, which ensures children use the knowledge and skills they have learnt in their curriculum, but in a less intense and more flexible manner. The assignments need to be spaced at regular intervals, to make sure that children don’t rush to finish the assignment on the last day of the holidays, because this defeats the very purpose of getting children to regularly exercise their minds throughout the time off from school.

Summer holidays is the time for children to engage in the serious business of fun. But it need not mean a time-off from learning.

The writer is the head, teaching centres and libraries, British Council India.

 
 
 
 
 

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