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Monday 10 December 2018
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The Education System: What have they done wrong this holiday?

Every single year, every six or so weeks, every child in the UK will be released for a term break. It is the highlight of many children’s school year, in which they can spend one, two, close to three, or six weeks sleeping in and doing minimal work. Most younger children, in asking them what they had done over the holiday, would not state that they read a whole book every day, or studied, or carried out research into a matter that concerns them, or worked on a topic they did not understand at school. When, however, a child reaches their GCSE years, a holiday would, or should, then entail all of the above.

All of the way through my school life, from as far as I can recall to this present day, on the last day of every term, I am told to “rest” and “relax” and “have some fun”, making sure that you’re “refreshed” for the new term. Yes, of course, that’s all good. But until this very day, I was told something incredibly different: “Your first GCSE examination is in 46 days, hence we expect you to go through paper x and y, finish task a,b,c, revise z and be prepared for a topic test on topics n,m,o,p (N.B. A letter is a general term for the name of a task!) There is no problem in letting me know that I have just over a month before my exams begin. On the other hand, I do have a problem with the fact that no one has stressed the importance of such free time till now- when it is too late to sort anything out- if that is what you may need to do. Thankfully, I had a good support network from when I was very young, and I have been taught that holidays are not at all for play; but for revising, work, extensive knowledge acquisition, and enriching activities. Now, this means that revising in my “break” is not an issue and is not too different from what I do every holiday. It does, however, make me think about my peers and how they groan in despair at the piles of pre-GCSE-preparation work that they must complete.

As a reader, if you have a child, it may be interesting to ask them about what their teacher told them to do during their holiday. Most will most likely reply that they were, maybe, told to read a book or two but to relax and enjoy themselves, maybe even to go somewhere nice for a week or so. The issue, therefore, is quite clearly laid out for us. From so early on, as a generation, young people are told to sit back and rest in a holiday. Sadly, they are not told about how to properly use a holiday’s time.

In the Victorian times, school holidays were used to allow children time for manual labor- to help out with their families as, at such a time, although an Industrial Revolution was taking place, work was still centered around agriculture. Working and lower class children would have to use their holiday time to work and slave in the fields and factories. Thankfully, that is not expected of children in this day and age, or at least that it isn’t legal in the UK. What, then, is wrong with asking children to work (as in studying work) in their holidays? Is it that we are afraid to go back to tradition? Has our education system gone backward and dismissed the value in the precious time that the holiday can provide for extensive learning? That may be the case.

As the Easter Holidays are fast approaching, it may be time to change your holiday activity schedule. Instead of binge-watching any Netflix drama that you find, or re-watching old episodes from a show that you liked, you could try volunteering at a local care-home or a charity store. Do all of your homework, but do not do it so that you can go out afterward; do it to learn, take your time, and maybe read up on the topic online by scholars that know what they’re talking about. If you’re so desperate to turn on your television, watch a documentary on modern day politics or the environment. You may even be inspired!

Of course, the point of this short article was not to tell you to pull endless study shifts and completely abandon the things that you love to do! Instead, it is about managing your time properly and, instead of relaxing as we’ve been told to do by our teachers, study and help yourself a little more.

It is important to remember or to note, that the hardest transitions in school life are the ones from a holiday into a school shift. That’s mostly due to how the holidays are spent, inadequately preparing students for the new term. It’s all about discipline and practice.

So, this Easter holiday, enjoy yourself, yes. But do not forget, as a student, about what each new term entails. Try to get ahead of your peers and teachers, expand your thinking, do something new that will help you in the future. The same goes for parents, encourage your child’s holiday learning. Other adults, there is still so much that you can do! Learn a new skill, try out a set of activities that may reward you with a promotion at work! And, finally, teachers, It is important to stress how useful holidays can truly be. Encourage and ask your students to do extra revision and learning, not just for your job’s sake, but for their own. Persuade them to learn more for their own enrichment. If they choose not to, at least that you know that you tried and their grades are at their own stake. It’s all about using your time wisely.

Happy Easter!