I asked around and many a woman is perturbed by the suggestion mooted by the government that the school week be reduced to four days. No perturbation if this was consensual among principals and parents with the Department of Education taking the final decision on the advice of educationists and child psychologists. The perturbation and the desire to write (though those in power hardly give eye or ear to public opinion) is because the shortening of the school week and consequent prolongation of the weekend is not for the good of the child but a prop to national economizing.
The government wants to reduce oil consumption on transport so it’s a sacrifice of the lambs. The easiest way out. Instead of curtailing its own stupendous expenditure on petrol and diesel by cutting down on use by government VIPs being speed-driven around with a phalanx of gas guzzling vehicles in tow, children are to be given new routines with no by your leave of parents, principals and teachers.
They continue to have it good
We read in the papers that the gas quota for minister’s secretaries or whoever is to be increased. Someone told me DPL persons were to be given gas at subsidized rates. Mihin Air which guzzled gas and ran up a huge debt with the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation is going to be lifted up by a massive loan from the Bank of Ceylon. It will surely crash again, and continue holding the world record of being the only airline without a flying ‘plane. Might take Sri Lankan down to bankruptcy with it. Luxury cars are being imported for the use of ministers, MPs and top government officials. Helicopters are commissioned to bring to Colombo a toe injured MP.
Doesn’t one‘s blood boil and senses steam, huff and puff like a diesel driven vehicle at all these brash transgressions?
No to a four day week
We do hope the minister and the government will not reduce the school week to four days, as suggested. We read in the newspapers that this proposition among others was being presented to the cabinet. No decision to do so seems to have been taken. Thank goodness!
My voice may come from the remotest wilderness and not heard. Never are our voices heard by the powers that be. But protest and suggest, we must, albeit with no hope they will register with persons who take decisions and make policy. (Unless we mass strike!!)
It is UNTHINKABLE that schools be conducted only on four days of the week. Already our government schools seem to be sending out kids who cannot pass exams; who cannot read and write intelligently and legibly. Growing children must be kept occupied both mentally and physically with schools shouldering the responsibility. Cutting down on school days will make kids lazy and upset routines.
Catching up lost hours by making the four days longer is counter-productive. How much can a child absorb with limited attention spans and often with bad teachers and in poor school conditions? Hungry too. Principals can add two extra periods a day on timetables with the stroke of a pen, but will proper teaching and concentrated learning be done during these extra periods?
Many a mother holds a job because her child/children are in school while she is at work and the kids need looking after only for a couple of hours till she returns home. This couple of hours child minding can be arranged and often one sees kids in their mother’s work places after school. Not the best thing, but at least better than adding an entire day to worry about, or having a kid in the parent’s office for a full working day.
Are kids being guinea pigged as the most convenient target for economizing? Taxes invariably are increased on cigarettes and alcoholic drinks. Are kids being substituted in the saving plans? Ministers must cut down their expenses; government servants too. Those in power should read the Island editorial of Wednesday June 11th titled Needed: an austerity drive, where, with the usual spot on pertinence, the Editor has spotlighted the utter waste of money indulged in by swaggering, traveling Ministers of State and their cohorts.
Once, in response to the increase in price of petroleum products or its shortage, (in the 1970s?) schools were shifted from two sessions to one session. Thus a more leisurely start of school at 8.00 or 8.30 was changed to 7.30 a m. A fairly long break was given, but not a lunch interval and most kids and teachers had their rice-curry lunch after 2.00
p m. This curtailing of school hours had an adverse effect on extra-curricular activities but the decision we trusted was taken after discussion, and was, in the end, found not to be too bad. Positives balanced negatives.
But in the case of the school week being reduced to four days, the pros and cons will not balance each other. The negatives, some of which were highlighted earlier, will outweigh any benefits, the chief being a longer weekend. Do children need more than two days of rest in a seven day week?
Teachers and students opine
Opinions expressed were mixed though the majority questioned were against the proposal. A Sri Lankan woman returned from the Netherlands said secondary schools, particularly at senior level, had staggered hours in that country. This happens even here when senior students select subjects for examinations. They spend their free time socializing but may read in the library. Grades 3 through 10 however, should have a five day week of five to six hours per day.
A senior teacher with many years teaching experience had this to say: "In the Sri Lanka of today, let there be at least a semblance of normalcy for our children. A set routine is very important for kids, and the basic routine is a five day school week."
Many others consulted echoed the reasons I have given above. If I’d asked the disgracefully striking teachers, they may have said: "Erase anomalies, increase salaries and cut down the teaching week to two days." That’s the breed of pedagogues of today, not all, but certainly some. Three or four decades ago no leave was taken, even for personal or family sicknesses, unless it was absolutely necessary. And there was no talk about salaries, truly. Bravo that the minister took the wind out of the sails of the sick note sending teachers by closing schools this last Wednesday and Thursday. Proper salaries could be agitated for, but through negotiation, not further disrupting schools which are chaotic as they are.
An A/Level student reasoned thus: "It must be a five day week. Syllabuses are so heavy for both local and London A/Ls. Instead of reducing the number of days, they could increase to six days a week with school closing at 12.00 noon each day."
Another: "Hell, a four day week sucks! It will eat into our games and swimming if the school day is made longer. We’ll finish our tuition at midnight! No way!!"
Middle school girls were ambivalent. One laid back boy said he was all for a longer weekend, and promised to sleep during the additional periods per day. Another: "They’ll cheesecake us! Plomp, they’ll land us with more homework to be done during the three day weekend. No thanks. No lessening of school days!"