School holidays are important for sound learning

Wednesday, February 28th, 2024 09:00 | By
Students queue for Form One admission at a school in Mombasa County. PHOTO/Print

About ten years ago, some parents of children in a private boarding primary school in Kakamega County were unhappy that the school was about to let KCPE candidates go home during the school holidays.
“The school holiday will make them forget what they have learned,” a parent complained.

The headteacher cited the Ministry of Education policy on school calendar which designates April, August and December as school holidays and which all learners, regardless of class, ought to go.

He didn’t, however, give a reason for the school holiday other than dryly invoking the policy on school holiday.
“We can ignore the Ministry and let the children be around for tuition,” she replied, saying the Ministry will not ensure that children don’t forget what they had learned.

The parents and the headteacher couldn’t allow me to contribute to the conversation.
It seems some parents don’t understand the place of school holidays. Unfortunately, many teachers don’t see the value of holidays either. Holidays, and even weekends are seen as disruptive to learning.

They are terribly mistaken. The breaks during the school calendar are aimed at allowing the accumulated stressful period of learning and teaching during the term to cool off. The cooling off period enables students to go back to school when schools reopen with fresh minds ready for new and comparatively more complex learning experiences. It also helps teachers to steam off and they get back to school at the beginning of the term recharged.

The April, August and December holidays has immense educational value for learners. Too much work without sufficient rest, becomes counter-productive. School holiday break provides sufficient rest.
School holidays don’t cause learners to forget what they learned previously. There is no reason why learners should use the knowledge and skills they learned before they go for school holidays or half term.
The idea of forgetting doesn’t arise in a teaching and learning approach that helps learners to assimilate and connect knowledge that is unfamiliar to familiar situations.

Once you get the principles underlying the facts or information of a relevant discipline, you don’t forget. You reason with the facts or information. It means you have a firm understanding of them.

Holiday breaks are important for many reasons. Firstly, they allow learners to rest from too much work.  This resting allows the child to consolidate the things he or she has learned into a connected whole. The learner also gets the opportunity to see what he has learned played out outside the school environment. He or she masters the subject matter even further when he or sees the things they learn in school replicated, affirmed or negated in real life.

School is not the only source of the knowledge, skills and attitudes. Nor are the teachers the only source of the prescribed curriculum. Granted, they have structure, method and disciplinary knowledge they impart or facilitate learners in acquiring the knowledge and skills in schooling is associated with.

However, knowledge, the skills and wisdom are in the heads of adults, peers, books, and homes, libraries. All these things are in the air as it were. Knowledge and its application are almost in every human activity and events that occupy the minds and attention of the people. The knowledge and skills gained in schools should act as the guiding star or the GPS to understand and put in context what they see at every turn.

The welter of information and ideas the learners get during school holidays is not empty stuff. It is actually the stuff the curriculum is ultimately made off.

School holidays are essential in learning. They don’t in any way undermine the acquisition of knowledge and skills the school ought to impart at any time. Nor is mere remembrance of facts and information learning—important as it might be in providing the foundation for analytical, critical thinking and problem solving skills associated with quality education.

—The writer is Communications Officer, Ministry of Education

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