Five-day school week can do wonders | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 25, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:58 PM, June 25, 2019

Five-day school week can do wonders

There can never be enough emphasis given to the importance of education. It’s a well-known fact that children who learn to read, write, add, and subtract provide a much better future for themselves, but even the superlative medicines are best served in adequate beneficial dosages.

While there’s no doubt that schooling is important, life is like an orange and schooling is a mere segment. Too much schooling and there’s no time for children to pursue other equally important activities that fashion and mould their lives for the better. With the combined pressure of school, there’s very little time for children to actually experience the wonders and joys of being what they are—children.

School makes an indelible mark on both teacher and child and should be a place where both want to be. A place where learning (and teaching) are fun and rewarding—a Jamuna Fun Park of sorts. Every day there should be daily rewards, something new to be absorbed… a new joy ride to enjoy... something that makes being at school all the worthwhile that a child (or teacher) doesn’t want to miss.

The chances are they would return to the classroom fully refreshed, fully charged, and in a happy state of mind that would spill over onto the pupils and generate an ideal fun/friendly atmosphere of mutual respect for learning.

The fact is, children (and people in general) learn best when they’re happy, stress-free, and the lessons are delivered in a non-violent multicoloured fun environment.

 I’ve come into contact with many admirable and noble teachers in the city, suburbs and villages. Over the years, these teachers have become accustomed to the five-and-a-half-day school week, but I have yet to meet a single teacher who actually applauds or agrees with it. In these modern, advanced times, the five-and-a-half-day school week just doesn’t make good sense and, in my opinion at least, is counter-productive to the development of Bangladesh.

 The five-and-a-half-day school week is a family-size inconvenience and irritation. It affects not only the teacher and child, but also their entire families. It’s detrimental to the advancement of the nation. Why? Because it causes colossal unnecessary inconvenience and puts senseless strain on teachers, pupils, and their families who need a 48-hour meaningful break to unwind, refresh and recuperate after a stressful week.

A two-day free weekend is powerful, invigorating, and beneficial to body, soul and mind, and allows the individual to be recharged in readiness for the following week. The benefits of a five-and-a-half-day school week as opposed to a five-day week are none!

 In bygone years when there was a high illiteracy rate in Bangladesh, a five-and-a-half-day school week might have been justified—just might—but times have changed. Bangladesh has advanced and systems need to adjust accordingly.

 Teachers, meanwhile, are no different from other government workers who work only five days a week. Teachers, too, want to spend time and relax with their families and friends, participate in their children’s activities, visit their in-laws in distant locations, pursue hobbies and interests and generally clear their minds of the daily hurdles they face trying to teach a classroom of 100 or more pupils (in some cases). In all fairness, they probably need, and deserve, the rest much more than the majority of other government workers.

At present, six days a week, they take the school home with them, perch themselves in dimly-lit corners to correct and grade papers and prepare the following day’s lesson plans. Even when they’re not in school, they’re in school! They get to enjoy diminished quality time with their loved ones (and vice versa) and this can—and does—manifest in frustration, stress and non-intentional corporal punishment of innocent children both in their homes and their classrooms.

 With a two-day free weekend, teachers would get the time to leisurely buy their weekly groceries, attend to their domestic chores, visit friends, visit places of interest, etc. They would have sufficient free time from when they leave school on a Wednesday afternoon to when they return on a Saturday morning to do something worthwhile, beneficial, different and enjoyable in a fresh, relaxed state of mind.

The chances are they would return to the classroom fully refreshed, fully charged, and in a happy state of mind that would spill over onto the pupils and generate an ideal fun/friendly atmosphere of mutual respect for learning. That can’t be achieved if they’re overworked, listless, lacking job satisfaction, frustrated, and pulling out their hair—or, worse, that of the pupils!

 Similarly, if children attend school only five days a week, they would get to spend more time with their friends, family, visiting their grandparents, playing sports, travelling, relaxing and having fun. There would be more time to develop their minds and broaden their education. Their attitude towards school and learning would be measurably more positive and less stressful. Be mindful of the adage, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

With so much of his/her time demanded by school and tutorial activities, it is difficult for a child to enjoy the wonders of childhood nowadays and experience the magnificence and beauty of the greater world... the bigger picture. Childhood is a child’s most precious destination they get to visit only once. Many adults would give all their wealth to experience it again.

There is little to no wisdom in attending school for a half-day, especially during the rainy season. It’s something teachers and pupils do, but they totally resent it. Sitting for a half day in damp-soaked clothing, soggy school shoes, and feeling miserable is not conducive to good learning or good teaching.

In summary, the five-and-a-half-day school week has passed its use-by date and needs to be abolished. It lacks justification, imagination, and vision of what a person’s life could be… what it should be… and screams for change. Overseas they’re moving towards a four-day school week. Bangladesh should take note.

Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, a royal goodwill ambassador, a humanitarian and a foreign non-political friend of Bangladesh.

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