Singapore — A mother wrote to The Straits Times shortly before Christmas, saying that the year-end holidays are too long, sparking discussion among many concerning the length of the December break.
The Ministry of Education says in response that the scheduling of a long year-end break is important for students and teachers.
In a Forum letter in straitstimes.com on Dec 24, Ms Joy Lee Yi Xuan had said the lengthy year-end holidays are unnecessary. Children get restless and parents have to schedule activities for them.
She added that children tend to forget what they learned after a six-week school break, citing reading and writing Chinese as an example. She suggested that the ministry “transfer” two weeks from the year-end holidays to the break either in March or September.
In a reply in straitstimes.com and in the paper’s print edition on Jan 6, a ministry spokesman says: “The school holidays are important for our students and teachers to rest and recharge.” However, schools could use part of the break to come up with optional enrichment and supplementary programmes.
The spokesman added: “Aside from providing an optimal pacing of the school curriculum and students’ school experience, the timing of the school terms also takes into consideration national examinations, their administration, results release and postings.”
An educator and former principal, Mr Zainal Sapari, a Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, is quoted as saying that transferring two weeks from the year-end holiday to March or September would mean that students would have less time to get ready for the N- and O-Level examinations, which are held at the end of the school year.
The MP said: “Based on my experience, a longer December break is preferred because all school work for the year would have been completed by then… It also allows parents to plan holidays over a longer period, rather than having to confine trips within a shorter time frame.”
Many netizens have pointed out that the long year-end break is beneficial not only to students, but to teachers as well. Most teachers do not actually have a six-week break at the end of the year, Mrs Shidah Khan wrote. This is because part of this time is allotted to preparing for the next academic term.
Others agreed with her and pointed out that teachers are required to report to work one week before and after the students go on their break.
One person even suggested a role swap between parents and teachers, just to give parents an idea of how much work teachers do, in the hope that they would be more considerate of the latter’s needs.
Another netizen feels that the long break allows children free time, which gives them balance.