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Foster-Allen: Vital learning skills lost during summer

Published:Friday | June 26, 2020 | 12:24 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Elaine Foster-Allen.
Elaine Foster-Allen.

Summer is generally an exciting time for students, but can also be hazardous for their educational growth owing to a lack of learning new material and not reviewing the old.

Former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Elaine Foster-Allen, has asserted that literacy and mathematics skills are traditionally lost during the summer holidays.

The loss is concentrated in children who do not have access to reading books or who do not read as a hobby.

“Children who spend inordinate amounts of time watching TV or playing games – uninterrupted by adults asking questions, pointing out fact from fiction – are also said to lose out,” she added.

She also explained that there are other losses associated with social and learning skills, such as working with others, concentrating, and working on one’s own.

As part of the COVID-19 pandemic-containment measures, schools were ordered closed in early March and are scheduled to reopen in September.

There have been no indications yet about allowing schools to open for holiday classes.

“It is held by some researchers that the loss over the summer holidays of approximately eight weeks, is about one month of schooling or 20 teaching/learning days. With COVID-19, the other issues of fear, loss of the familiar, and loss of teaching time would have exacerbated the learning loss for many children,” the former head of Shortwood Teachers’ College told The Gleaner.

She noted that summer school is helpful in the transition process for students moving to another phase of education; for example, from early childhood to primary school, and whether academic, sports or culturally based, they offer a service to parents, especially working parents.

“If parents have been engaged in working with their children over this period of COVID-19, it would be useful for them to continue,” Foster-Allen encouraged parents.

At Holy Family Primary and Infant School, at least 50 per cent of grade-one students usually attend summer classes.

Principal of the school, Christopher Wright, said the weeks of student-teacher interactions are beneficial and chief among the benefits is acclimatisation.

“The teachers get to know the students, the students get to know the teachers, and they get accustomed to the environment. Also, the teachers assess where the students are academically so they can plan for them, come September,” he said, adding that it reduces time spent on assessment and planning at the start of the term.

At a recent press conference, Education Minister Karl Samuda noted that the period September 7 to 30 will be used for a refresher and assessment programme.


Meanwhile, principal of Mona Heights Primary School Fabion Mahabeer shared that summer school is usually mandatory for grade-one students and the turnout is close to 100 per cent.

“Not much academic work is done during the summer. We use the time to develop and embrace the social graces and allow students to become au fait with the rules of the school,” the principal said.

The plan for reopening in September 2020 has not yet been revealed, but Wright said it is likely to mirror the current system being used in secondary schools for exam-refresher classes, where students attend on a shift basis.

“It is going to be a very unique situation. We could have a cohort of 30 children in a grade-one class and they really don’t know their classmates for the first month, or the first term, because of the schedule,” he said.