MIDWAY : Bad breaks

Summer is upon us, and for millions of schoolchildren this means just one thing: freedom. But, despite its large fan base, the summer holiday (or any extended holiday for that matter) is one of the worst innovations in the history of education. It is a pernicious beast that must be slain immediately to preclude intellectual dumbing down of our children. Holidays cripple educational development. It’s not easy to retain information for such a long stretch without reinforcement of some sort, which means the first few weeks of the school year are wasted going over old work. In the United States at least, according to Slate.com, students score substantially worse on the same tests in autumn than they do in late spring. Does not need a rocket scientist to figure out why!

The long holiday is also deeply unfair to the economically disadvantaged groups. Wealthy parents can afford to send their children to camps, or pay tutors to plug the summer-long information loss. In a nutshell, the holiday exacerbates the inequalities that already exist beyond the school gate.

Years of research confirm that during the school year, rich and poor students tend to improve at comparable rates.

But the Centre for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University has found that, during the

holidays, the reading comprehension scores of students at the bottom end of the socio-economic spectrum actually declined, while their wealthier peers continued to improve. The best thing to do would hence be to redistribute holiday time over the course of the year to maximise retention and minimise the costs of inequality. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The best argument against abolishing summer holiday is that to do so would be expensive. Yet it’s also true that keeping schools closed is a waste of public infrastructure. Every day students spend out of class is a day when public buildings go unused and parents have to restructure their lives. They shouldn’t have to.

Schoolchildren and college-goers seem to think their lives depend on the break, but there is no reason why that should be the case. Why should abolishing summer and letting youth blossom be mutually exclusive?