Summer learning loss


Parents are often worried about a decline in their child’s academic ability after long school holidays. Recently, I received an email from a concerned parent requesting a change in the academic calendar; she feared that her child would forget all her lessons by the time she joins school after the long summer break.

Without precautions or steps to facilitate learning, children can experience learning loss or brain drain even if the dates for commencing the academic year are revised. In India, such losses can also happen over long festive breaks; students forget what they learn as they disengage from learning or stop reviewing the lessons.

As long holidays break the rhythm of instruction, they affect students’ achieve- ments and academic performance. For instance, I have noticed that upon re- joining schools, some children lose their English speaking fluency as they typical use their mother-tongue outside classrooms. Learning loss also tends to be more pro- nounced in math and spelling as compared to other areas of learning.

Entwisle, Alexander, and Olson’s ‘faucet theory’ draws a comparison to explain the learning loss. The teaching-learning pro- cesses of a school are compared to a faucet. As the resource faucet remains turned on when the school is in session, children gain from it. When the school is not in session, the resource faucet is turned off and learn- ing stops.

Gary Huggins, CEO of the National Summer Learning Association points out in Summer Learning Can Be a Game Changer that children lose as much as two to three months of math and reading skills over the summer, with the losses being more marked among lower-income kids.

How can you beat summer learning loss?

Extended school days

Cooper mentions in ERIC Digest that students in Japan spend 240 days in school. As per the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act), schools in India are expected to work 200 days at primary school level [grades 1 to 5] and 220 days at middle school level [grades 6 to 8], which is still lower than countries like Japan.

Cooper quotes Hazleton et al’s study in 1992 that concludes that 35 extra days in school could bring an evident change in education outcomes. But, there are coun- ter-arguments that extra classes can cause fatigue in students, have cost implications for the school, or stretched work hours for teachers. Thus education systems need to examine such concerns before making deci- sions on changing the number of working days in an academic year.

40 TEACHER 12(4) 2018

Many short vacations throughout the year

Based on the location of the school, most Indian schools have summer vacations along with festive breaks. The three common ones are – summer vacation, Diwali/Dassera holi- days, and Christmas break. These vacations are spread through the school year and can be one way of reducing learning loss if not eliminating it altogether.

Learning during the holidays

It is important to keep students engaged during the holiday break. However, this does not mean that children are given vast quantities of holiday homework. Various activity-based and child-friendly learning methods can help them develop their knowl- edge and skills.

Many schools and private institutes offer a number of curricular and co-curricular activities for students. Enrolling in these activities can help students to learn even during summer breaks.

Parents have a critical role in encourag- ing their children to participate in activities that promote learning. For instance, while travelling in a vehicle, parents can check their children’s knowledge by asking them to calculate speed or distance or time. This could be the speed of a bus, car, a bicycle or even the speed of walking.

If parents take their children to new places during holidays, it becomes an expo- sure trip where children learn about new cuisines or a new language. They could be encouraged to write a travelogue, make a scrapbook and so on.

These days, televisions are found practi- cally in every home. In India, cricket is a game which is followed avidly. Children can be asked to calculate the average score per over in a cricket match, or questions on the speed of the ball. With a little imagination, one could even predict the trajectory on the field while playing cricket. To extend this

further – tie a ball in a sock, hang it in an open space, and let the child practice hitting it. A good way to train how to hit the ball and control the shot!

If the child is a pre-schooler, the child can be asked to read numbers of vehicles, identify the odd and even numbers on the number plates, recognise colours of vehicles, or read billboards. This kind of activity can be done even as one is traveling from one place to another.

Parents and children in rural India may however, lack access to extra-curricular activities, technology, or the opportunity for vacations. For them, a walk around the vil- lage is an opportunity to learn about angles and directions. A village fair is a place where the child can be exposed to many concepts. For instance, the centripetal force of a Ferris wheel or a giant wheel as it is called in India, the centrifugal force of a merry go around, the kaleidoscope and principles of reflection, or the food value of a deep-fried samosa ver- sus a shallow fried vegetable cutlet! The list is endless.

Parents and teachers can join hands to reduce summer learning loss. We need a ‘thinking mind’ to keep children actively engaged in different learning activities that build upon their prior knowledge.

Read with them. Read to them. Get creative by focusing on ‘do it yourself’ crafts and activities.

Dr Pramila Kudva is the Principal of Pawar Public School Kandivali in Mumbai. She is a PhD in Education from Mumbai University and is a recipient of a D.Litt from University of South America, USA.

Cooper, H. (2003). Summer Learning Loss: The Problem and Some Solutions. ERIC Digest. Available at https://eric.
David M. Q. and Morgan P. (2017). Sum- mer learning loss: What is it, and what can we do about it. Brookings. Available at summer-learning-loss-what-is-it-and- what-can-we-do-about-it/
Doris R.E. et al. (2001). Keep the Faucet Flowing. American-educator. Available at educator/fall-2001/keep-faucet-flowing Gary H. (2018). Summer Learn-
ing Can Be a Game Changer. Edu-
cation Week. Jan15, 2013 Avail-
able at articles/2013/01/16/17huggins.h32.html Nancy K. (1985). Should We Lengthen the School Term? Educational Researcher. 4 (6): 9-15.
Valerie S. (2009). ‘Summer Brain Drain’ Robs Some Students of Skills Gained During School Year. Washington Post. Available at http://www.washingtonpost. com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/14/ AR2009061402427.html?noredirect=on

Photo © 123RF


Published by Dr. Pramila Kudva

I am a teacher educator currently worrking as a Principal of a reputed school in North Mumbai, have more than 30 years of experience, with several publications to my credit and have authored a book -"From chalk to Talk The Art of Teaching.

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