Does summer break lead to learning loss?

119

Summer learning loss doesn’t necessarily have great relevance in UAE as children learn from other experiences

[Image Credit: Agencies]
It’s a concept that is concurrent with the long school summer break. Known as the phenomenon of summer learning loss, it has been detailed in a number of studies over the last 50 years, most notably by psychology and neuroscience professor, Dr Harris Cooper. 


In a 1996 study, the Duke University professor reported that test scores among students in the United States were, on average, at least one month lower when students returned to school than when they left.

Over the decades, many experts in the field of education have voiced their opinion for, and against, a long summer break. 
Gulf News speaks to educators and parents in the UAE to see where they stand on this issue.

According to Alison Schofield, author and consultant at Ingenious Ed, an education consultancy, a long summer break may appear to provide ample opportunities for learning loss, but this ignores the fact that formal academics and education are only one of several important domains of learning in a child’s life.

In fact, holidays are particularly beneficial because they allow children access to a different set of “educational experiences”, said Schofield.

“These varied contexts, including family interactions, novel environments, visits in the community, and cultural activities, give children a chance to apply the skills they have learned in school in unique ways,” she said.

She feels there is a need to understand a broader definition of learning. “There is sometimes too much emphasis on formal education being the only contributor to a child’s learning,” Schofield said.

For example, a child might bake with their parent, applying their mathematics skills, or they might use their foreign language skills during a trip abroad.

Regarding the validity of ‘summer learning loss’, Schofield said, “A great deal of research has shown over the years is that it is children from impoverished backgrounds [who] are often impacted the most from summer learning loss. They may not get enough stimulation [by being exposed to] diverse settings and through interaction with others.



 The kinds of experiences most UAE families have during the summer contribute to children’s ongoing language development and vocabulary.”

 – Alison Schofield, Consultant


“In contrast, the kinds of experiences most UAE families have during the summer contribute to children’s ongoing development of language and vocabulary, and this in turn has a positive impact on their language development and critical thinking,” Schofield explained.

However there is one area that deserves concern, she said. Children who are struggling at school can be at risk of summer learning loss.

“Children [who] are not yet solid in their independent reading, writing or mathematics skills are most at risk, and we often recommend to parents of these children that they engage them in daily reading activities and keep up a holiday diary to continue to build fluency with a range of writing skills,” she advised.

The UAE has a unique need for a long summer break because of its large expat population.

“[They] have a vested interest in returning to their home countries to visit family and friends, and I do think longer holidays are justified. But in saying that, parents should also consider whether [their children] would benefit from additional practice with academics over the break, particularly if they have struggled with the foundational skills like reading, writing and math during the year,” Schofield suggested.

Schofield also said that too much academic stress can be detrimental.

“Children do need balance in their lives, and rest, play and physical activity are great antidotes for children and adults alike,” she added.

In this way, the summer break can become a good opportunity for children to solidify skills they have been struggling with instead of contributing to learning loss.

Schofield also said that too much academic stress can be detrimental.

“Children do need balance in their lives, and rest, play and physical activity are great antidotes for children and adults alike,” she added.

Source: Gulf News