Why holiday tuition does not improve learning outcomes

Classroom door with posters detailing KPSEA rules and regulations. [David Gichuru, Standard]

A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary - Thomas Carruthers.

At the close of first and second term in a school calendar, some teachers request principals to allow them conduct holiday tuition in school.

They claim holiday tuition will enable them cover syllabus and do revision. The assumptions are that additional time will enable them adequately prepare learners for the national examinations, two, three and four years hence.

Intriguingly, some teachers who make this request are relatively newly employed who, five years back, were students complaining about holiday tuition. Hidden in this request are assumptions that should concern the education sector.

The first concern is teachers who want schools to allow holiday tuition brazenly disregard the fact that the public school system operates under established educational policy, standards and curricula.

They think head teachers have the power to extend the school calendar, beyond the one the Cabinet Secretary for Education has stipulated. The truth is that the administration and operations of the school are done under the laws, regulations and rules stipulated by the Education Cabinet Secretary.

The second concern is that the teachers may not be aware of the inescapable connection between a school calendar and syllabus coverage. A school calendar provides time on task or allocated time - when students are expected to be actively engaged in learning. Allocated time is the education lingo for total time available for teaching and learning.

In principle, there should be a strong link between the school calendar (allocated time) and the planning at subject, departmental and finally, at school level. The school calendar is not a renewable resource. It is limited. Knowing that allocated time or school calendar is limited, every minute, counts - to plan, teach and deliver a series of lessons.

This requires that teachers and learners are always punctual for the task of teaching and learning. The net result of all this mindfulness of the nexus between the school calendar and the syllabus coverage is, quality coverage of syllabus happens. Inevitably, holiday tuition is an unwarranted extension of the amount of time allocated for instruction.

The third concern is that conducting holiday tuition—the two or so weeks every April and August in a school calendar—alienates learners as well as teachers, from interacting with the larger world. A school environment has a limited purpose: to impart knowledge for use in the real world.

The fourth concern is that holiday tuition is an additional burden to parents and guardians. The parents and guardians of children in day schools must pay for transport to and from school. They must also pay for lunch. Those in boarding schools must pay for the extended expenses. Both sets of students - day as well as those in boarding schools - must also pay for extra tuition. When all is said and done, teachers are not philanthropists.

The fifth concern is the teachers who want to hold holiday tuition don’t seem to care about the need to let learners rest from the demanding mental work that learning entails. An educational system worth its salt such as ours provides for half terms and school holiday to break the monotony.

Students need mental breaks from the pressing study schedules. The teachers need it also. The mental breaks provide room for “cooling of minds and nerves”, the rigour of the curriculum and the quality in its implementation occasions.

-The writer is Communications Officer at the Ministry of Education