How Summer Puts Us All Just A Little Behind…
Okay, so I have to admit it: when I was a kid, from the time my feet hit the hallway of my school in September and throughout the rest of the academic year, all I would ever do is count down the days until it was summer. C’mon, you did it too. Don’t deny it. From September through to June, my head was filled with functions and formulas from Math classes, symbolism and sentence structure from English classed, and places and people from History classes…I couldn’t wait until I could just take a break.
Well, apparently, all of those summer breaks weren’t good for me. As it turns out, taking time off from school in the summer is one of the largest causes of underachievement in schools (or, so says The New York Times). I have to admit, when I first read that article, I peered over the title and scoffed at it and, to be honest, got a little annoyed as well. I mean, I had every summer off as a child and throughout university (which I loved because it wasn’t just 2 months away from school but 4!), and I think I turned out alright. Not only that, but so did every other North American my age and older, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of keeping the world from tipping off its axle. “Who cares what The New York Times has to say”, I thought, “What do they know anyway?”
And then I realised just how stupid that sounded and thought that perhaps they were right and I should enroll in some summer classes immediately as it’s only July and, clearly, I’ve already become stupider than I was in May.
After reading through the article, I became a bit of a believer. But, just to be sure that it was something real, I checked Wikipedia…because unless there’s a definition on Wikipedia, something can’t be trusted as a real thing, right? Turns out that summer learning loss is a real thing. It has a Wikipedia definition and everything.
There have been decades of research that has proven that summer holidays are the main contributing factor to underachievement through learning loss. Learning loss happens when a student walks away from his/her studies for a period of time and, subsequently, forgets large amounts of knowledge that was previously learned. When you think of the amount of knowledge a student gains throughout the academic year, the idea of losing even a small portion of it over the summer is, somewhat, disconcerting. The author of the New York Times’ article, Jeff Smink, puts it this way: “We cannot afford to spend nearly 10 months of every year devoting enormous amounts of intellect, energy, and money to promoting student learning and achievement, and then walk away from that investment every summer”.
Some of you may now be thinking, “Yeah, but is summer learning loss really such a big deal? I mean, come ON…let the kids have their summers off!” Well, to a certain extent, I agree with you, but then statistics have shown that “…learning loss is cumulative, summer to summer. It has a tremendous impact on students’ success, including high school completion, post secondary education, and workforce preparedness”. Kind of sounds like a bit of a big deal to me.
So, how do we prevent summer learning loss?
Well, several suggestions have been toyed with over the years, including eliminating summer breaks and spreading out those weeks of vacation throughout the entire year, but I’m not too sure that I like that idea. I mean, just stop for a minute and think about how that would feel…knowing that you will be in school continuously for the next 12 years of your life without a summer break. It sounds awful. However, if you replace the word “school” with “camp”, it suddenly becomes more do-able.
Many people are able to extend the school year for their children with educational camps, such as math camp, space camp, etc. (I have to be honest, I’m not sure I’d want to go to math camp, but space camp sounds pretty awesome). While I think these parents are wonderful for giving their children a bit of an edge for the coming academic year, I can’t help but think of the parents that do not have the funds to send their children to these camps in the summer. Studies have proven that children who continue their education throughout the year have a slight advantage over those who do not.
When I was in university, each year, I couldn’t wait until April – it was the end of our academic year, and all of our exams were complete. It meant that I could relax for the next 4 months until it started all over again. At our college, we run classes that are year-round, which means that you are submersed in intense study for a significant period of time, yes, but you also graduate much sooner than most other students, thereby enabling you to become employed faster, which means you advance your career at a more significant rate, which means you are further ahead than most other students your age will be (we have obviously put a lot of thought into this in order to give our students the greatest advantage).
So, I have to ask: do you think that summer learning loss is worth it? Would you rather get further and further behind in your education each year but have your summers free, or would you rather study throughout the year to gain the most of your education and actually end up further along in life and your career at a younger age than the rest of your peers?
Filed under: Education | 27 Comments
Tags: academic, College, Education, holiday, New York Times, school, summer, vacation